Police memorial would honor fallen officer on 10th anniversary of his death

Officer Thomas Decker was murdered on November 29, 2012, and the residents of Cold Spring, Minnesota want to make sure his sacrifice is never forgotten


A police memorial is on the horizon in Cold Spring, Minnesota, dedicated to all fallen officers and all of you still hitting the streets. The memorial also remembers one of Cold Spring’s own who fell in the line of duty, Officer Thomas Decker.

Who was Officer Thomas Decker?

Tom Decker as a child

Tommy Decker was raised on the Decker Dairy Farm just outside Cold Spring, Minnesota. According to his mother, Rosella Decker, he was called to law enforcement when as a small child he became separated from his older sister inside the Crossroads Center mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota. While afraid and hopelessly lost, a kind man wearing a badge and a gun took him by the hand, bought him an ice cream cone and sat with him on a bench until his sister came by to reclaim the lost little boy. 

From that moment forward, Tom wanted to grow up to be like that man.  

Officer Tom Decker

This photo was taken by Tom’s mother, Rosella Decker. Tom had just finished working all night, then got dressed for the funeral of a fellow officer. Rosella requested her son get some sleep. She said it would be too hard to stand at attention so long at the funeral of an officer after working all night. Tom’s response was, “They’d do it for me.” Rosella said, “Little did I know that a few months later the funeral would be for him, and he was right. They did do it for him.”
This photo was taken by Tom’s mother, Rosella Decker. Tom had just finished working all night, then got dressed for the funeral of a fellow officer. Rosella requested her son get some sleep. She said it would be too hard to stand at attention so long at the funeral of an officer after working all night. Tom’s response was, “They’d do it for me.” Rosella said, “Little did I know that a few months later the funeral would be for him, and he was right. They did do it for him.” (Photo/Rosella Decker)

Rosella Decker, who says she finds “great comfort” in talking about Tom, now laughed as she recalled, “When he was first sworn in at 20, Tom was too young to buy his own gun, so we had to buy it for him.”

Rosella added that Tom worked for departments in Isle, Watkins and Kimble, before he was finally hired by Cold Spring, his hometown. She said, “He was so happy.”

The current chief of the Cold Spring Police Department, Jason Blum, said, “Tom was my training officer when I started.” He remembered, “Tom was known for his gift to make people laugh under tough circumstances.”

Tom was also described as the best man for the job whenever someone was in the midst of a crisis due to mental illness. As some people are born to build bridges, Tom was born to talk people down off them.

Sadly, such a call would be Officer Decker’s last.

The last call

During the evening shift of November 29, 2012, Tom received a “check welfare” call from a concerned party afraid that a young man who lived in an apartment above Winner’s Sports Bar and Grill in Cold Spring might harm himself. When Officer Decker checked he discovered the man was nowhere around. Tom returned to patrol but was determined to try again.    

Two hours later, Officer Decker returned to Winner’s Sports Bar and Grill and parked his squad to the rear in another attempt to locate the despondent man. As Tom approached on foot two shotgun blasts lit up the darkness. Officer Decker fell after being struck twice. Both rounds hit Tom in areas unprotected by his vest. Tom’s soul took flight.

The investigation

Investigators initially focused on the despondent man as a person of interest but cleared him in short order.

Gradually they shifted their focus to a 31-year-old man named Eric Thomes. Thomes had been fired the day that Officer Decker was ambushed and people who knew his frame of mind after the firing suspected him of killing Officer Decker.

Contact with Thomes

On January 2, 2013, investigators approached Thomes to make contact with him as he walked up the driveway of his girlfriend’s home. Thomes turned and spotted the investigators and instinctively ran into a pole garage on the property. He refused to come out. 

When his girlfriend arrived home hours later, the agents entered the pole garage and discovered Thomes had hung himself.

In the subsequent search, investigators found Thomes’ 20-gauge shotgun and shells, which were eventually forensically linked to the killing. They found a van as well that matched the description of one seen leaving the scene of Officer Decker’s murder. The evidence left no doubt that Thomes had killed Officer Decker, however, his motives he took with him to the grave.

Some speculate that Officer Decker saved lives when his arrival on scene interrupted Thomes on his way to seek revenge on someone inside the bar for his job termination earlier in the day.

The funeral

Thousands of officers and citizens attended Officer Decker’s funeral. The residents of the Greater Cold Spring area lined the streets of the procession to pay their respects. Officer Decker was laid to rest in a quiet Country Cemetery in St. Nicholas, Minnesota. He left behind a grieving wife and four young children.  

A rendering of the memorial that will be dedicated in the memory of Officer Tom Decker, as well as all fallen officers and officers still serving.
A rendering of the memorial that will be dedicated in the memory of Officer Tom Decker, as well as all fallen officers and officers still serving.

The memorial

Cold Spring, Minnesota is a city of 4,500, and home to people whose lawns are neatly manicured and dotted with “We Support Our Police” signs. Chief Blum says his department feels that support and appreciates it greatly.

Now 10 years later, the citizens of Cold Spring wish to erect a substantial police memorial to be dedicated on the tenth anniversary of Tom’s death. The project’s director, Paul Waletzko, said the citizens of the Greater Cold Spring area decided to erect the memorial “for Officer Decker, all the nation’s fallen officers and include a big thank you for all officers currently serving in that role.”

Waletzko, who has been a long-time first responder and former sheriff’s deputy added this personal insight, “I have known first-hand the toll a career in law enforcement often demands of an individual.”

Dreams

Rosella Decker shared a dream that she had after her son’s death.  She said in the dream Tom was at the kitchen table on the family farm with two other officers at his side.  All three were in uniform and they were talking together. Their message was clear and meant for other officers still serving. Tom’s heavenly message was, “We got your back!”

I have to say “Wow!” It makes you wonder if that little voice we hear when danger is imminent is Officer Tom Decker and a whole heavenly host of fallen officers who have risen up as guardian angels trying to keep us safe, strong and positive in this difficult profession to which they gave the last full measure. Certainly, that can’t be proven, but to think of it, “Wow!”

The citizens of the Greater Cold Spring area have a dream as well. That dream is to erect a police memorial in their town. They are over halfway to their goal of raising $60,000 to erect the monument, which will stand in front of the Cold Spring City Hall. Learn more about the planned memorial here and an upcoming fundraising ride here

Conclusion

The citizens of Cold Spring represent the majority of people s around the country who support their local police. Never forget how many there are. Just like Tom and his heavenly partners, they’ve got your back!

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