A police officer who was killed last week in Minnesota in what authorities say was an ambush once helped Lisa Stukey when she feared an intruder was inside her home. So, the Cold Spring woman organized a candlelight vigil so she could thank the officer "one last time."
Officer Tom Decker, 31, was fatally shot Thursday when he and his partner were checking on a report of a man believed to be suicidal. Authorities have said Decker was shot multiple times after he got out of his squad car near a Cold Spring bar. A man was arrested on suspicion of murder, and the investigation is ongoing.
Prosecutors were still considering charges Monday, as authorities continued to search for the shotgun they believe was used as a murder weapon.
"It's just a sad thing for the whole community," said Stukey, who lives near the site where Decker was killed in Cold Spring, a city of about 4,000 people. "I think we're all a little heartbroken."
Stukey, 43, recalled how scared she was when she thought she had an intruder in her home more than a year ago. She called police, and Decker showed up. She said he was conscientious and brave, and didn't make her feel silly when he found a window had simply blown open in the wind.
Stukey doesn't know the Decker family and said she didn't feel right about going to the public visitation or funeral service, so she got the family's consent to hold a candlelight vigil Monday night in the parking lot of Wenner Funeral Home, where officers have been keeping constant guard over Decker's casket.
"I just wanted to thank him one last time for coming to my rescue," she said. Stukey created an event on Facebook and sent it to all her friends, and asked that they pass it on.
Stukey estimated that about 300 people, including uniformed officers, turned out for the 40-minute vigil on a "beautiful" early December night. The vigil opened with the reading of a poem about a police officer down, followed by hymns and prayers. A brother of Decker's recalled seeing him grow up while Cold Spring-Richmond Police Chief Phil Jones and fellow Cold Spring officers shared stories about Decker, Stukey said.
"I thought it was pretty powerful, just seeing all those people come together to support the officer and his family," Stukey said. "I thought it was very positive."
The man arrested in Decker's death, 34-year-old Ryan Michael Larson, of Cold Spring, was still in custody Monday on suspicion of second-degree murder. The county attorney's office was granted an additional day to consider charges.
Authorities were searching for the shotgun they believed was used to kill Decker, and they urged residents to take a look around their property. Bureau of Criminal Apprehension spokeswoman Jill Oliveira said authorities were also looking to hear from anyone who saw anything Thursday or who has details about what happened.
Page 2 of 2 - "Sometimes a minor detail at the time turns out to be a key piece of information," Oliveira said. "It may not seem significant by itself, but in combination with other information, it may be helpful in the investigation."
Oliveira said authorities were still conducting interviews and trying to piece together a timeline, including what happened in the hour or so between Decker's death and Larson's arrest.
Decker had been with the Cold Spring Police Department for six years. He was a father of four and grew up in the community. A visitation has been scheduled for Tuesday at 4 p.m. at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Cold Spring. Decker's funeral will be Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Saint John's Abbey and University Church in Collegeville.