Thousands of law enforcement officers and mourners from around the state attended the funeral today for a Cold Spring police officer who was killed in the line of duty last week.
The service for Officer Thomas Decker this morning in Collegeville was followed by a procession through the communities where he policed. Many members of the public attended to say goodbye.
Minnesota Department of Public Safety estimates about 3,200 people attended the funeral, including 2,300 law enforcement officers from around the country and Canada.
A group of law enforcement officers carried Decker's casket into St. John's Abbey and University Church in Collegeville.
Decker, 31, was shot and killed while responding to concerns about a possibly suicidal man.
Surrounded by family and thousands of fellow officers from around the state, Decker was remembered as someone who made a difference where he lived.
"We may never know everything Tommy has endured, treasured and done for others," Rev. Cletus Connors said. "We can still be grateful that he shared his life with us. Then we can go on remembering Tommy."
Losing an officer is like losing family, said Ken Heim, Sartell fire chief.
"Police and fire, it's like a brother, sisterhood. You kind of look out for each others' back very closely," Heim said.
Residents in downtown Cold Spring also lined the procession route, waiting for Decker's casket. It's the town where Decker was shot while responding to concerns about a possibly suicidal man.
Bill Hawn stood holding a U.S. flag.
"I'm trying to show a little respect for Officer Decker, bringing out the flag," Hawn said. "I didn't know him personally, but I know he protected our community and I'd like to show that respect."
Hawn said the shooting saddened and bothered him.
"The worst part about it is there's somebody out on the loose that actually did this and they don't have him in custody and that's bad for everybody," Hawn said.
A man who was arrested in connection to Decker's shooting was released on Tuesday for lack of evidence.
The fact that investigators do not have a suspect in custody is terrifying, said Amanda Brehmer, who works in Cold Spring.
"Small town communities show just so much support. For not only the community members, but also the people that serve them," Brehmer said.
"There's so many details out there you don't know. Was it personal to him specifically? Was it any policeman? Was it an accident? Or was he just (in) the wrong place at the wrong time? I mean you don't know," Brehmer said. "There's all those possibilities, but either way there's somebody out there that shot someone. Shot an innocent person."
A short time later, the hearse carrying Decker's body drove by. For a moment, a nearby group of firefighters stood at attention. Some onlookers took pictures. Others just watched.
Decker was buried at St. Nicholas Catholic Cemetery in Luxemburg, just south of Cold Spring.