FBI searching Sauk River in Cold Spring caseby Madeleine Baran, Minnesota Public Radio,
Conrad Wilson, Minnesota Public Radio
COLD SPRING, Minn. — The FBI searched the Sauk River Monday to help solve the murder last month of Cold Spring police officer Thomas Decker.
The team of FBI divers from New York waded into the freezing water, less than two blocks from where Decker was killed, to look for evidence. The team, which is one of just four FBI dive teams in the country, also used a robot equipped with a camera to search underwater.
Jay Brunn, of the Minneapolis FBI office, said the search was easier than expected, in part because the water was clear. The team used a grid system to ensure a thorough search.
"We hope to be done by tomorrow," Brunn, who was one of three Minneapolis FBI officials at the scene, said. "It'll depend on what kind of progress we make today."
Local investigators appear to have made little progress in solving the murder of Officer Decker, who was shot and killed on Nov. 29 outside Winner's Sports Bar and Grill in Cold Spring, about 20 miles southwest of St. Cloud. Police have not found the murder weapon and there is no suspect in custody. In St. Paul, law enforcement officers held the first news conference about the case in more than two weeks and publicized a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Decker's killer. They also revealed that witnesses saw a black vehicle leaving the murder scene and asked for the public's help in identifying it.
"We fully believe that someone knows information that would help us solve this case and bring Officer Decker's killer to justice," said Bureau of Criminal Apprehension superintendent Wade Setter.
NEWEST INFORMATION ON THE CASE
Witnesses reported a black van or mini-van with a loud muffler leaving the parking lot of the bar shortly after Decker was shot, Setter said. The van headed west on Main Street away from the Sauk River, he said. Law enforcement officials acknowledged there is no evidence the van was involved in the crime.
In the days following Decker's death, police thought they found the killer not far from the scene of the shooting. They arrested Ryan Larson, who lived in the apartment above the bar. Police have said Officer Decker was shot just as he arrived to check on Larson, who was reportedly suicidal. When Decker left his squad car, he encountered someone with a gun who fired two shots and killed him, according to Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner.
After the shooting, investigators broke down Larson's door and arrested him. Larson was released five days later when Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall said she did not have enough evidence to file charges.
Larson has repeatedly denied killing Decker. He expressed frustration with the investigation and said he fears for his safety.
"My apartment is uninhabitable due to their searches," Larson said on Friday. "Basically they've knocked down the walls. They've tore up the floors."
The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Stearns County Sheriff's Office are leading the investigation.
"The sooner we get this individual that's responsible for this behind bars, the better all of us will sleep at night," Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner said at Monday's news conference.
— Follow Madeleine Baran on Twitter: http://twitter.com/madeleinebaran
(MPR reporter Curtis Gilbert contributed to this report.)
- All Things Considered, 12/17/2012, 5:20 p.m.
Madeleine Baran is a general assignment reporter for MPR News.