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Cold Spring unsettled after officer's murder, suspect's release

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Residents of the communities of Cold Spring and Richmond remain unsettled as they wait for a break in the investigation and mourn the death of Police Officer Tom Decker more than a week ago.

The St. Cloud Times reports that the lack of charges in the Nov. 29 ambush slaying of the officer has generated much speculation.

“The rumor mill is just abuzz with ideas,” Cold Spring City Administrator Paul Hetland told the paper.

Certainly much of the speculation is about Ryan Michael Larson, 34, the Cold Spring man who was taken into custody in connection with the shooting but released without any charges being filed. The Star Tribune reports that, after talking with several reporters to declare his innocence, Larson is now keeping a low profile. He is reportedly spending time with family members. The paper said that local police have cautioned Larson to stay out of Cold Spring for his own safety. They have offered to have escort him if he needs to return to his apartment for his possessions.

Larson, a second year student in the machine-tool program at St. Cloud Technical and Community College, lived in an apartment above the bar adjacent to the parking lot where Decker was ambushed. On the night of the shooting, Larson's family members, fearing he was suicidal, had police to check on him. The officer was in the process of doing that at the time he was shot in the face.

Larson's mother brought Minneapolis defense attorney Joe Friedberg into the case before Larson's release from jail. Friedberg told the newspaper that he assumed that law enforcement forensic testing of Larson's skin and clothing for gunpowder residue must have come back negative or Larson would have been charged.

Officials with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension have said that Larson continues to be a suspect. But Fox9reported on Dec. 7 that authorities may have identified a new and different suspect.

Fox9 reported that Minneapolis police, accompanied by BCA agents, raided a south Minneapolis home Wednesday seeking evidence connected to the murder. They executed a search warrant for narcotics, but sources told the television station agents were looking for information on a possible 40-year-old suspect whose drivers' license listed that address. People living at the south Minneapolis home confirm police asked about the suspect, who has a violent criminal history. They said he no longer resided at the house.

Fox9 said court and police documents indicated the suspect has lived in Cold Spring and was known at an apartment complex three blocks from where Decker was killed. The BCA will not confirm the individual is a suspect.

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