Ryan Larson and the urge to name suspects

Though they said the investigation is far from over, authorities are providing some evidence the man found dead in a Cold Spring apartment last night is the man who might have ambushed and killed Cold Spring police officer Tom Decker in November.

The gun used in the killing was found on Eric Thomes’ property. He was found dead; He had apparently killed himself as police tried to interview him about “inconsistencies” in the story he’s given police.

But BCA superintendent Wade Setter said “We have not excluded anyone as a suspect in this case,” and said it would be “premature” to suggest Thomes did it.


That’s got to sting Ryan Larson, who is the “anyone” Setter is referring to.

Larson’s official involvement still seems to be that he was the guy Officer Decker was to check on at the request of some family members.

After the shooting, that was apparently enough to hustle Larson off to jail. His apartment was tossed by the cops, and he was named as a suspect.

The media, many of whom have a policy about naming suspects until they are charged with a crime, tossed their policies, even though the reason it exists is to prevent innocent people from being named until there’s some evidence to charge them with a crime. The Star Tribune carried quotes about his temper from an ex-girlfriend.

There was — and as far as we can tell, still is — no evidence to charge Larson with anything. The county prosecutor refused to charge him in the case.

But almost every subsequent news story about Officer Decker’s killer included a mug shot of Larson, who feared enough for his safety that he didn’t return to his apartment for days.

If it turns out that, indeed, Larson was not involved in the shooting as he insists, there’ll be plenty of opportunity for introspection on how he was so publicly linked to the crime.

“I just hope it ends for everybody,” he told the Star Tribune today.

  • Kirk W

    As pithy as this sounds, he’s lucky to have a common name like Ryan Larson. I don’t think his name will be remembered as linked to this outside the few who are actually involved in the investigation.

    Could this be one advantage to having naming law’s like those in Iceland?

  • Albatross

    One of my mottos is “If nobody is fired, they were doing their jobs.” If nobody is fired or resigns over the decisions by the news media to violate their own journalistic standards in this case, then the jobs of those media venues’ editors are not journalism, QED. Rather, their collective job is apparently sensationalism at any cost.

    I have a lot of friends in journalism, and they always balk when I bemoan the sorry state of that vocation, but it seems the decline continues.

    Hope Mr. Larson gets a hefty settlement from these media entities. Heaven knows they have plenty of money to throw at valid lawsuits brought against them…

  • Duke Powell

    This line caught my eye…

    “The media, many of whom have a policy about naming suspects until they are charged with a crime,”

    This apparently isn’t the policy at MPR.

  • Bob Collins

    Oh, Duke, if only you were a more regular reader you would know that answer since I’ve been writing about it since 1998.

  • Duke Powell

    As you know, Robert, I am a regular reader.

    Here’s a comment you made in the discussion concerning naming suspects in the Amy Senser case:

    “If you think I’m employing a double standard, then you do the work and find the times when I’ve declared someone guilty of a *specific* crime without having the evidence to back it up.”

    George Zimmerman is the obvious come-back.

  • Bob Collins

    I can’t cut and paste with a smartphone but if you google “MPR policy on naming suspects” you’ll see a pretty good list.

    My problem is the policies orgs use are inconsistently applied with a type of “I’ll know it when I see it” test.

    The most egregious case in the TC I think was Brad Dunlap, who may or may not have killed his wife but a cozy relationship between cops and a TV reporter seemed to conspire to “smoke him out.”

    I don’t see that as a healthy role for journalists.

    Yes, George Zimmerman would certainly be part of the discussion. At the very heart of it all is the danger of the “pitchfork mentality.”

  • David G

    I believe George Zimmerman admitted to killing Trayvon Martin, no?