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9-year-old killed in 'freak' dirt biking accident


A 9-year-old Oak Grove boy died in what authorities are calling a "tragic, freak accident" while dirt biking Friday night, despite wearing proper safety equipment, news sources report.

Friends found Nick Engler badly injured and not breathing near his dirt bike and called for help. The first responder to the scene was Rob Engler, Oak Grove's assistant fire chief and Nick's father, the Star Tribune reported.

Engler tried to revive his son, but Nick died at the scene, WCCO reported.

Authorities are unsure of what happened because there were no witnesses who saw Nick crash his bike. An autopsy report has not yet been released, but Anoka County Lt. Paul Lenzmeier said it appeared Engler died of head injuries, the Star Tribune reproted.

Lenzmeier called the tragedy a "freak accident" because Engler was wearing a helmet, chest protector, gloves and motocross boots. "It wasn't the case of negligence on anyone's part," he told the Star Tribune.

The accident occurred on the 19600 block of Dogwood Avenue in Oak Grove. With his parents' permission, Engler went to a homemade dirt track near his family's home around 7 p.m., WCCO reported.

It's "a fluke accident," Fire Chief Curt Hallermann told the Star Tribune. "It's such a shock and tragic loss."

A bill that would allow alcohol sales at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium is halfway to Gov. Mark Dayton, news sources report.

The Senate voted 55-3 Friday in favor of changing the liquor law. The House is expected to vote soon as well, the Star Tribune reported.

Originally, the University hoped to sell alcohol in premium suite seating areas only, but current law states they must sell to at least one-third of the seats in the stadium's general seating or none at all. The University said this would make it too hard to police underage drinking and denied sales, according to the Star Tribune.

The proposal is part of a larger liquor bill that would require the University to make alcohol available to those of age in the general seating area during events, including any potential Vikings games, MPR reported.

New language in the bill gives the University the control it needs, allowing it to restrict alcohol sales and consumption to one area, likely a beer garden, University spokesman Chuck Tombarge told MPR.

"This new legislation both makes alcohol accessible to those that are of drinking age in the general seating area but does so in a way that allows the university to contain it and do it responsibly," he said.

The measure would allow alcohol sales through halftime, MPR reported.

Prosecutors charged Amy Senser, 45, with a third felony criminal vehicular-homicide offense Thursday, alleging she was talking on her cellphone when she struck and killed a man on an interstate highway exit ramp, news sources report.

The wife of former Minnesota Vikings player Joe Senser is already facing two felony charges for leaving the scene of an accident and failing to alert law enforcement about the incident as quickly as possible, according to the Star Tribune.

The trial was scheduled to begin April 23. It is unclear whether the new charge will cause a delay, the Star Tribune reported.

Senser has acknowledged that she was the driver of the 2009 Mercedes ML350 that struck and killed 38-year-old Anousone Phanthavong of Roseville on Aug. 23, but she has pleaded not guilty to the charges of criminal vehicular-homicide and maintains she was unaware she had hit a person, the Pioneer Press reported.

Phanthavong was filling his car with gas on the Riverside Avenue exit ramp off of Interstate 94 when he was struck around 11:10 p.m. He died at the scene, while Senser drove on, the Pioneer Press reported.

Nearly 24 hours after the crash, Senser's lawyer, Eric Nelson, alerted the Minnesota State Patrol that the SUV involved in the crash belonged to the Sensers, but the driver was not revealed. Nine days later, Nelson informed investigators that Senser was driving the vehicle at the time of the crash, according to the Pioneer Press.

Suspect arrested in Minneapolis shooting death

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A Minneapolis man has been arrested in connection with the north Minneapolis shooting death of Jody Patzner, Jr., news sources report.

Hezekiah Cory Hamilton, 24, was arrested Tuesday night and is currently being held at Hennepin County Jail, Minneapolis Police Sgt. Steven McCarty told WCCO News.

Patzner, 22, was shot Monday while riding a bike a block from his north Minneapolis home with a plate of lasagna for an ill family friend, the Star Tribune reported.

A neighbor told the Star Tribune that three youths confronted Patzner as he biked along Fremont Avenue North. According to the neighbor, the youths yelled that they wanted his bike. Then the neighbor heard two gunshots and saw the assailants run away.

Patzner biked for 30 feet then collapsed on the sidewalk of the 3500 block of Fremont Avenue N., the Star Tribune reported.

Hamilton has a criminal history that includes convictions of assault, terroristic threats and drug possession, according to the Star Tribune.

U grad will replace Sviggum as regent

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The Minnesota Legislature selected Tom Devine Wednesday to serve on the Board of Regents, news sources report.

Legislators voted Devine 110-75 over the other nominee, banker Robert Vogel of Elko New Market, MPR reported.

Devine is a Chanhassen insurance executive, a University of Minnesota graduate, and father to a University freshman and high school senior, according to MPR.

Devine will represent the 2nd Congressional District and will serve out the rest of former Regent Steve Sviggum's term, which ends in 2017, the Minnesota Daily reported.

Sviggum left the board in early March after a lengthy revied concluded his positions as regent and communications chief with the Senate Republican Caucus created a conflict of interest, according to the Minnesota Daily.

Voter ID amendment will be on the November ballot

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Both the Minnesota Senate and the House of Representatives passed the voter ID bill Wednesday, which places the constitutional amendment question on the ballot in November, news sources report.

Both chambers passed their respective versions of the bill last month, but an amendment was made to clear up language differences between the two bills Monday, the Minnesota Daily reported.

Now its up to voters to answer the question on Nov. 6: "Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?" KAAL TV reported.

The Senate debated for more than three hours on Wednesday, eventually passing the bill 35-29. Only one Republican, Jeremy Miller of Winona, joined the unanimous DFLers in voting against the measure.

"Republicans in the legislature had two years to negotiate bipartisan reforms to election law, and it is disappointing that their failure to do so has led to an unnecessary constitutional amendment that would make it harder for law abiding citizens, including tens of thousands of seniors, service members, and students, to exercise their right to vote," said Gov. Mark Dayton in a statement Wednesday.

"I cannot support a constitutional amendment that is pushed through the legislative process by only one political party - and neither should Minnesotans if they see it on the ballot this fall," he said.

Supporters of the bill argue it would solve a voter fraud problem. "If a legal voter is next to an illegal voter, this makes the legal voter the disenfranchised," Republican Senator Dave Thompson of Lakeville told KAAL TV.

But others argue there is no proof such a problem even exists, and that the amendment will make it more difficult for some people to exercise their constitutional right to vote. During the Senate debate, DFL-ers argued it would be students, soldiers overseas, the elderly, homeless and the disabled who would be come disenfranchised, according to the Minnesota Daily

Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, told the Minnesota Daily that students who move from their dorm mid-semester or list their permanent address as their parent's will have a difficult time voting.

"I think the bottom line is that we all know that this bill will disenfranchise people," he said.

In addition to the voter ID question, a question of whether to ban same-sex marriages will also appear on the Nov. 6 ballot. They will be 10th and 11th constitutional amendments on the ballot in Minnesota since 1990, according to the Minnesota Daily.

Only one of these proposed amendments was voted down, according to the Secretary of State -- a 1994 amendment to allow off-track betting on horse races, the Minnesota Daily reported.

Boater found dead in St. Croix River

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By Alysha Bohanon

A man's body was pulled from the St. Croix River Saturday afternoon, news sources report.

The 46-year-old White Bear Lake man was found near the Bayport Marina, according to the Star Tribune.

Sheffiff's deputies and Bayport police officers were notified that an unattended boat was turning in circles. They responded just before 6 p.m., the Pioneer Press reported.

Deputies and the Washington County dive team located the operator 100 yards from his boat. Paramedics pronounced the man dead at the scene, the Star Tribune reported.

The man's identity and cause of death have not been released. The death is under investigation by the Ramsey County medical examiner's office and the Sheriff's Office, the Star Tribune reported.

By Alysha Bohanon

A St. Paul hotel desk clerk faces two counts of interference with privacy after allegedly audio recording guests having sex, news sources report.

Jeremiah Caleb Marg, 28, of Burnsville, a clerk at the 340 Hotel at 340 Cedar St. in St. Paul allegedly placed an audio recording device first near the bathtub and later the bed of the room a newlywed couple was staying in on Dec. 28, according to the Pioneer Press.

The couple spotted the device under the door and discovered it had recorded them having sex, as well as other couples previously, and called police, the Pioneer Press reported.

A search of Marg's laptop revealed audio files of unknown couples having sex as well as the defendant's voice testing the recording. There was also an audio/video file of the device being placed beneath the door of a room, according to the Pioneer Press.

Marg has a previous conviction in Wisconsin for showing sexual material to two girls in 2002, the Star Tribune reported.

Mall of America plans $200 million expansion

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By Alysha Bohanon

The Mall of America is advancing plans for a $200 million dollar expansion which could include more retail space, a second hotel and a medical tower, news sources report.

Six years ago, officials unveiled a plan that would have doubled the size of the megamall, but that plan stalled. The new strategy is to complete the expansion in smaller steps, according to KSTP News.

A Radisson Blu hotel is currently being constructed on the south side of the mall. The expansion would take place on the north side, according to the Pioneer Press.

The development is currently scheduled to begin next spring, according to KSTP.

Rochester's Mayo Clinic expressed an interest in joining the project, which could include 150,000 square feet of medical space. Both parties are still exploring what Mayo's involvement would be, according to the Pioneer Press.

In addition to the medical space, the expansion would also include another hotel and retail space. The project would be one or two towers 13 to 15 stories high. Retail would be the lower three floors, with medical and hotel rooms above, according to the Pioneer Press.

"We'd like to take it higher-end retail," Hagen said. "All these pieces kind of tie together - the flag and brand of the hotel, the services that Mayo is offering and the type of retail this wing will cater to."

Man jumps from 35W bridge

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By Alysha Bohanon

A man pulled his car over to the side of the Interstate 35W bridge and jumped into the Mississippi River Tuesday, news sources report.

A witness reported the incident to the Minneapolis Police Department at 5:53 p.m., Minneapolis police Sgt. Steve McCarty told the Minnesota Daily.

According to the Minnesota Daily, the Minnesota State Patrol searched the area wit ha helicopter until it became too dark to continue. The search then continued by boat.

Emergency workers searched the Mississippi using sonar equipment. They were still on the water at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Star Tribune reported.

As Wednesday afternoon, the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office had not found the man, the Minnesota Daily reported.

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