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Repeat DWI Offender Suspected in Officer Slaying Kills Self

It was announced on January 4 that Cold Springs investigators had found the weapon used to murder a Cold Spring police officer and that they had a new person of interest that they wanted to talk to in the case. What complicated matters, however, is that the person of interested had killed himself when police were to question him.

Eric Joseph Thomes, 31, was to be interviewed by agents from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Investigators had interviewed Thomes once before, but their last attempted ended in Thomes running to an outbuilding where he refused to come out. After investigators tried for several hours to make contact with him, they found that he had hanged himself inside the building.

Agents would later find a 20-gauge shotgun at a property Thomes had access to. Testing by the BCA would reveal that it was the weapon used to kill Cold Springs police officer Tom Decker back in November when he had responded to a call of a man who was suicidal.

Although Thomes committed suicide, it is not known if he had committed the murder, so no one has been excluded as a suspect.

As for Decker’s death, he was shot in the head by the shotgun outside of the Winners Bar. Thomes had been questioned several times by police because of inconsistencies in his story.

The suicidal man that Decker went to check on, Ryan Michael Larson, was released on the same day he was arrested because no charges were filed against him. When Decker did this welfare check, his partner had lost sight of Decker and of a man who he said had a handgun and not a shotgun.

Larson has said repeatedly it was not him and said that he is upset that he has not been cleared as a suspect. However, Larson seemed rather surprised that police believe that Thomes may have been involved in the death.

Thomes’s criminal record includes Minnesota DWI convictions and driving with a suspended license, according to court records. In fact, it was found in Minnesota court records that he had been arrested for DWI three times in the past year by Stearns County deputies and Cold Spring police. He had been convicted of misdemeanor driving while impaired in 2011 and was scheduled to appear in court the Thursday after he committed suicide to answer for an alleged probation violation.

A Stearns County probation officer alleged that Thomes had violated his probation by not submitting verification that he had completed an eight-hour DUI Clinic or a MADD impact panel. Thomes had denied that he violated his probation at a previous hearing.

Decker, 31, grew up in Cold Springs and had been on the force for six years. He had four children and it is estimated that approximately 3,200 people attended his funeral.

If you or a loved one have been arrested for any Minnesota DWI offense, feel free to contact Minneapolis DWI Lawyer, F. T. Sessoms, to obtain a complete review of your case.