Family, friends and 2,300 law enforcement officers from all over the region filled St. John’s Abby at University Church in Collegeville, Minn., on Wednedsay, Dec. 5, to remember Tom Decker, the officer killed in the line of duty a week ago.
Decker’s casket was led into the sanctuary by a police honor guard followed by his Cold Spring officers and his family, including his wife and four children.
The children carried white roses with thin blue lines along each petal and a tag hanging from the rose that read "Heroes Live Forever...6402...Never Forgotten." The number is likely Decker’s badge number.
Also in the sanctuary were Gov. Mark Dayton, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann and Sterns County Attorney Janelle Kendall, who is still trying to bring charges against a suspect in Decker’s killing.
The two-hour service was punctuated with a rendition of "Amazing Grace" by the Emeralds Society of Minnesota, a group of 17 bagpipers and heartfelt words spoken by one of Decker’s six siblings, brother Eddie Decker.
Eddie Decker described his brother as a son who always liked to make jokes; a brother who always gave up what he had for his siblings; a husband who would rather spend time with his wife than tinker in the garage and a father who thought his children were his life.
"He understood what is really important in this life," Eddie Decker said. "He cared for others more than he cared forhimself."
Eddie Decker thanked law enforcement members that came to pay their respects, and he assured everyone that in the last moments of his life, Tom Decker "came face to face with Jesus Christ," who said "Well done my good and faithful servant. Well done. Welcome to my Father’s kingdom."
He also said that his brother was a peace officer because he had a calling from it from his heart.
- "Thomas Edward Decker, you are my hero, you are our hero," he said.
The Rev. Cletus Connors, a Benedictine Monk at St. John's and pastor at Tom Decker’s church in Cold Spring, said he knew Decker as a good community member.
He told mourners that it’s still hard to believe that Decker was killed.
"We do not know why Thomas was taken at this early age, and probably will never comprehend this part of it from this side of the grave," said Cletus, who gave the homily.
He said the one lesson people could take from Decker’s passing was that "life is a gift, something very precious, something that each of us must value and cherish."
After the funeral, a long procession began moving from Collegeville and through Cold Spring to St. Nicholas Catholic Cemetary in St. Nicholas, Minn., where Tom Decker will be buried.
- A vigil Tuesday night was organized by Lisa Stukey, who Decker once helped when she feared an intruder was inside her home. The Cold Spring woman organized the candlelight vigil so she could thank the officer "one last time."
Decker, 31, was making a welfare check on a reportedly suicidal man, Ryan Larson, 34, in downtown Cold Spring late Thursday when he was ambushed in an alley, authorities believe, and killed by two blasts from a 20-gauge shotgun.
Larson was arrested an hour later in his nearby apartment but was released Tuesday morning after the Stearns County attorney's office declined to press charges, citing a lack of evidence.