A Minnesota man questioned but never charged in the killing of a Cold Spring police officer is suing WCCO radio and television for news and social media reports that identified him as the killer.
Cold Spring officer Thomas Decker was shot in the head on Nov. 29, 2012, outside a local bar moments after he arrived to make a welfare check on Ryan Larson, who lived above the bar. Larson’s mother called police to check on her son because she was concerned he was suicidal.
Larson was arrested and jailed for five days in connection with the officer’s death. But he was never charged, and another man named as a person of interest in the shooting later committed suicide.
Larson, who now lives in Long Prairie, contends two tweets by a radio reporter and separate news reports wrongfully pointed to him as the cop’s killer and said he was expected to be charged.
According to the lawsuit, reporter Chris Simon tweeted on Nov. 30: “Chief Phil Jones of Cold Spring PD salutes slain officer Tom Decker Shot by welfare suspect Ryan Larson.” A second tweet stated: “The BCAs Drew Evans confirms officer Decker was ‘ambushed’ when shot twice and killed by Ryan Larson.”
The lawsuit says the statements in the tweets were false, misrepresented statements by law enforcement officials and were defamatory. He also says he was implicated and defamed in television news reports that included his photo.
Larson’s suit in U.S. District Court seeks more than $75,000.
WCCO News Director Mike Caputa said he hasn’t seen the suit and couldn’t comment.
Mary Lynn Smith