Austin officers attend slain Cold Spring officer’s funeral

Published 1:00pm Thursday, December 6, 2012

More than 2,000 officers, including those from Mower and Freeborn county, joined others in Collegeville on Wednesday to mourn the death of Cold Spring police officer Thomas Decker.

Decker

Decker, who was killed in the line of duty last week, was remembered Wednesday as a hero, doting husband, father, and a man who loved serving and protecting the public.

“It was a nice turnout. Hopefully the situation that happened will get resolved here soon,” said Austin police officer Chad Norman, who traveled to Collegeville with officer Michael Hartman, also of Austin. Mower County deputy Jim Lamecker attended the funeral, as well.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety said an estimated 3,200 people attended the service at the church, including about 2,300 law enforcement officers from around the U.S. and Canada. Norman said the church was filled to capacity, and he and many others were moved into overflow seating in a gymnasium. Officers saluted the hearse as it arrived at the church Wednesday morning. Gov. Mark Dayton also attended.

More than anything, Norman said, he and the others joined to show their support for those closest to Decker.

“Mainly to show our support for the family and the police department,” Norman said.

Decker’s brother, Eddie Decker, spoke during the service: “You are my hero. You are our hero,” he said at St. John’s Abbey and University Church.

Authorities said Decker was shot when he went to check on a man believed to be suicidal. No one has been charged, but authorities continue to investigate.

As Decker’s family entered, each person clutched a blue-tinged white rose. Decker’s wife, Alicia, was escorted by two Cold Spring officers. The service began when his casket was rolled to the front and sprinkled with holy water.

During the service, Decker was remembered as a husband who took his wife to dinner every Friday and bought her flowers once a month. He was also remembered as a father who worked at night so he could play with his four children during the day.

The Rev. Cletus Connors, pastor at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Cold Spring, talked about the darkness left behind by the death of Decker, whom he called “Tommy.”

“We are trying to make sense of an aspect of life that can never truly be understood,” Connors said. He added that Decker was “a gift that helped spread God’s love everywhere in his short life. “We are all better for having known him.”

Connors said Decker would want those left behind to be “strong, determined, unafraid for the future.”

The Rev. Thomas Olson closed the service by thanking the officers in attendance.

“We pray very much for all of you men and women in law enforcement — for the work that you do and in gratitude for how you live your lives. A greater love than this, Jesus said, no one had than the love to lay down his life for one’s friends. Thank you for what you do.”

Two processions wound through the community after the service, as Decker’s casket was brought to St. Nicholas Catholic Cemetery in Luxemburg for burial.

Thousands lined up along Highway 2 to honor Decker as his hearse drove by. Hundreds of students stood in front of Rocori High School, Decker’s alma mater. Many held American flags and watched as a long line of police cars went by, with their lights flashing.

A temporary electronic sign along the highway said: “A hero remembered never dies.”

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.