The ‘suspect’ (5×8 – 12/13/12)


If Randy Ryan Larson didn’t kill Cold Spring police officer Tom Decker — as he insists in his first TV interview — his story will be told in journalism classes for years.

I asked WCCO’s Esme Murphy via Twitter yesterday why she’s still referring to Larson as “a suspect” when police appear to have no evidence, no witnesses, and no gun used in Decker’s killing outside a bar two weeks ago.

“Because the BCA (Bureau of Criminal Apprehension) calls him a ‘suspect,'” she said.

“My life is gone; basically stolen from me,” Larson told Murphy. “I am always going to be looked at as the person that committed this crime.”

In an article last week, the Star Tribune repeated Larson’s insistence, then filled several inches of its paper with a story about why he might have done it.

According to a 2009 affidavit filed by a 35-year-old former girlfriend, Larson had temper issues. She told authorities he could become “instantly very angry, aggressive and agitated” — often breaking her belongings “in a fit of rage.”

“With each incident, the violence level goes up,” the woman stated in court documents in Stearns County. “It’s starting to escalate and snowball, and I am fearful. … He deals with unfavorable situations with violence, anger and aggression. And knowing that Ryan has a gun in the house with ammo only makes me more scared.”

It’s an odd situation that news organizations usually avoid by not naming “suspects” until police charge them with a crime; it ensures that there’s some evidence against the person and that police aren’t just using the media to “smoke out” a person (See Dunlap, Brad). But the police in Cold Spring named Larson right from the start, and the news organizations waived their policies and now have been unable — or unwilling — to consider how to put the genie back in the bottle.

On Dan Barreiro’s radio show yesterday on KFAN Sports Radio, attorney Ron Rosenbaum said the fact police didn’t have enough evidence to keep Larson locked up indicates that they may not have any evidence. He said it’s clear that there was no shotgun residue on Larson after the shooting and while police are looking for a .20 gauge shotgun used in the killing, Larson says he doesn’t own a .20 gauge shotgun.

(Scroll to 32:00)

Meanwhile, there are other questions in the case: Reports of narcotics raids in Minneapolis somehow connected to the case, and questions about where Officer Decker’s partner was when the officer was shot.

But officials aren’t answering those questions because it’s an “active” investigation. That’s a policy Rosenbaum applauded, although it may well be one implemented too late.

Archive: Naming suspects in the media.


Nice Ride, the people that provide bikes for rent all around the Twin Cities, has taken down online usage statistics after some bike riders with talent figured out how to use the database to reveal personal identification about people.

City Pages reports a blogger on the Bike Love blog figured it out…

“Let’s say I take a bike out every morning near my house and ride it to work. My ex-wife knows I do this. She uses this information to figure out my subscriber ID because I am the only one who daily takes that bike from there and rides to the location near my work. Using my ID she looks at my other activity. She sees that I am riding places in the middle of the day. She sees that I am riding places when I told her I was out of town. She sees that I am riding around when I told her I was too sick to take the kids. She sees that I am riding to a place where I spent Saturday night and ride away the next morning. I just do not want her knowing that shit and I did not pay Nice Ride to tell her.”

City Pages says the Nice Ride officials are trying to figure out how to be transparent about how the bikes are used and protect the privacy of people who use them.


In Connecticut, the world’s largest mural is being assembled with the contributions of kids in all 50 states. It’s designed to honor the American worker while, at the same time, teaching kids how the country was built.


St. Paul has released this video of Saturday’s opening of Union Station.

Union Depot Restoration Celebration from St. Paul Ofc. of Communications on Vimeo.


As always, we apologize in advance for the time you’re about to waste on the Crapomatic Gift Generator.


(h/t: Neatorama)

Bonus I: Would you wear a helmet made of cardboard when riding your bike made of cardboard? (NPR)

Bonus II: ’tis the season to reveal to everyone how much you hate your job. (May not be suitable for the easily offended)

Bonus III: One of the best airshows in rural America is the early fall crop dusting. Here’s what it looks like from the air.

Bonus IV: Kevin Love tries to walk back his damning interview about the Timberwolves.


U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison is among a group of congressmen who are suing to halt the use of the filibuster in the Senate. Ellison argues that the filibuster, under Senate rules, improperly blocks legislation that the House has voted on. Today’s Question: Should the filibuster be changed, and how?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: As Minnesota does its work to implement the Affordable Care Act, we’ll look at one facet of health care reform: whether the state also needs a Basic Health Plan to cover people who are currently enrolled in MinnesotaCare but who might not be able to afford private insurance when health insurance exchanges go into effect in 2014.

Second hour: How can sports stadiums fit into a downtown neighborhood?

Third hour: Star Tribune restaurant critic and food writer Rick Nelson.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): “Left Behind: Dropping Out.” (Part of the CPB initiative, “American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen.”)

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – Options for intervention in Mali. Plus, the NCAA’s conference shuffle.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – One of the places where cross-ethnic connections are being made in greater Minnesota is in the schools. Northfield’s TORCH program has greatly improved the graduation rate for Latino students and is a model program. What began as a conversation of concerned parents and teachers now provides mentors and tutoring for students starting in sixth grade. Volunteers help many first-generation, low-income students navigate the college application process. And the program continues track students through high schools and during their college years. MPR’s Elizabeth Baier will report.

NPR reports on the staying power of Legos. That’s why they call it all things considered.

  • Robert Moffitt

    1) They named the suspect and broke the rule, but is he another “Richard Jewell?”

    2) A program funded by a major health insurer (BCBS of MN) should have been a little more savy about data privacy concerns.

    4) This old train station still has a role, it’s not just money thrown down a hole. The trains are coming, yes they are, you’ll feel the rumble at MPR.

  • David G

    #1: see also, Richard Jewell, Steven Hatfill.

  • Paddy

    Do police departments and the BCA typically release suspect names before they have actually been charged with anything? Is so, then the onus is clearly on the media to withhold reporting it.

    If not, then it seems that at least some of the blame falls on the Cold Spring PD for releasing his name too early.

    Both sides are clearly at fault, but who is more responsible for (potentially) ruining an innocent person’s life?

  • Bob Collins

    // Do police departments and the BCA typically release suspect names before they have actually been charged with anything?

    Yes, they release names upon arrest.

    //Both sides are clearly at fault, but who is more responsible for (potentially) ruining an innocent person’s life?

    The problem is an ethics one for journalists. We’re pretty quick to jettison the policy if another media org names a suspect. But, it seems to me, that doesn’t change the reason you had the policy in the first place. It’s a bad policy because of the inconsistency. The time when you’re most likely to do damage by releasing the name is also the time when you have the most ethical reason not to.

  • Jon

    Why are we scandalized by the outing of Larson, but not of the rapists from yesterday’s 5×8, if our justice system has decreed that both should be protected?

  • Bert


  • B Joe


    It might be because the rapists were actually found to be guilty of something and weren’t outed until after they were found guilty of something. Even after they were outed, I don’t know that their names have actually been printed in the press.

    Larson was outed before the police had enough of a chance to look at the evidence to realize that they didn’t actually have any evidence.

    I think that “arrest first, ask questions later” is a pretty common response in the wake of a dead police officer. Sometimes, in asking questions later, you find out that you shouldn’t have made the arrest.