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The funeral procession for Cold Spring-Richmond Police Officer Tom Decker approaches St. Nicholas, MInn., Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/The St. Cloud Times, Dave Schwarz

Officials: Thousands at funeral for Cold Spring, Minn., police officer

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COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. (AP) — A Cold Spring police officer who was killed in the line of duty last week was remembered Wednesday as a hero, doting husband and father, and a man who loved serving and protecting the public.

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“You are my hero. You are our hero,” Officer Tom Decker’s brother, Eddie Decker, said during Wednesday’s funeral service at St. John’s Abbey and University Church in Collegeville.

Authorities said Decker was shot when went to check on a man believed to be suicidal. No one has been charged, but authorities continue to investigate.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety said an estimated 3,200 people attended the service at the church, including about 2,300 law enforcement officers from around the U.S. and Canada. They saluted his hearse as it arrived at the church Wednesday morning.

Gov. Mark Dayton also attended the service.

As Decker’s family entered, each person clutched a blue-tinged white rose. Decker’s wife, Alicia, was escorted by two Cold Spring officers. The service began when his casket was rolled to the front and sprinkled with holy water.

During the service, Decker was remembered as a husband who took his wife to dinner every Friday and bought her flowers once a month. He was also remembered as a father who worked at night so he could play with his four children during the day.

The Rev. Cletus Connors, pastor at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Cold Spring, talked about the darkness left behind by the death of Decker, whom he called “Tommy.”

“We are trying to make sense of an aspect of life that can never truly be understood,” Connors said. He added that Decker was “a gift that helped spread God’s love everywhere in his short life. ... We are all better for having known him.”

Connors said Decker would want those left behind to be “strong, determined, unafraid for the future.”

The Rev. Thomas Olson closed the service by thanking the officers in attendance.

“We pray very much for all of you men and women in law enforcement — for the work that you do and in gratitude for how you live your lives. A greater love than this, Jesus said, no one had than the love to lay down his life for one’s friends. Thank you for what you do.”

Two processions wound through the community after the service, as Decker’s casket was brought to St. Nicholas Catholic Cemetery in Luxemburg for burial.

Thousands lined up along Highway 2 to honor Decker as his hearse drove by. Hundreds of students stood in front of Rocori High School, Decker’s alma mater. Many held American flags and watched as a long line of police cars went by, with their lights flashing.

A temporary electronic sign along the highway said: “A hero remembered never dies.”

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