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April 13, 2008

Man facing exposure charges

A Minneapolis man is facing three counts indecents exposure, a misdemeanor charge, for exposing himself and allegedly masturbating in front of two young women in Walter Library on the University of Minnesota campus.

A women reported to police that a man approached her at a table in Walter Library at 9 p.m., sat near her, and then exposed himself and masturbated. According to the report the woman yelled "What are you doing," and "I'm leaving," at the man, now identified as David Lee Gatson, 39, and that the man then said "No, I'm leaving," and walked out.

The next night a different woman reported that a man, also identified as Gatson, approached her at a table in Walter Library at 8:45 p.m. and passed her a note that said "That's a nice phone does it take pictures," before arranging chairs around her in a type of barricade. He then sat down, exposed himself and began to masturbate.

According to the police roport Gatson has three prior indecent exposure convictions in Hennepin County in the past three years.

Sex offender tries to strike again

A convicted sexual offender from Minneapolis is being charged with third-degree attempted criminal sexual conduct and attemped false imprisonment for an incident on the morning of April 8. Both are felony charges.

Michael Nicholas Kocur, 40, is being brought on these charges after following a 14-year-old girl to school on the morning of the eighth. The girl told police that he had been following her in a car on the way to her bus stop and had passed her and then come back several times before stopping and offering her a ride. She told police that when she refused and tried to leave the man said "Come on, I can give you a ride anywhere you want to go. It's no problem," according to the criminal complaint. The girl said he left when she opened her cell phone to call 911.

Kocur told police that he had been under great amounts of stress lately, according to a Star Tribune article, and that he had been using prostitutes. He said he had been trying to pick up a oprostitute before going to work, and claimed that he thought the girl was eightteen.

Kocur was convicted on charges of obscenity and disorderly conduct in 1996 for soliciting 13 and 14-year old girls for prostitution, and twice in 1998 on the same charges with girls of the same age.

April 6, 2008

Women dead and two children injured as result of police chase

A woman was killed in an accident Sunday morning when a 15-year-old boy collided with her car at Lake Street and Stevens Avenue after being pursued by police.

The woman, 26-year-old Hanna Abukar, was driving her son, 6, and a neighborhood boy, 13, to Sunday school when the incident happened. Both of the children were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center for treatment, with one in critical condition Sunday Night.

According to police the 15-year-old boy, not yet identified, was driving near 31st Street and Longfellow Avenue South when police tried to pull him over for speeding, but instead of stopping the boy fled. When radioing in the officers were told that the car had been reported stolen, and they pursued the boy. The chase was called off near Lake Street and 21st Avenue South after the boy accelerated to a high speed. The patrol sergeant made the call as a concern of public safety, deeming that the chase was to fast for a bust city street. About half a mile later, the boy collided with Abukar's vehicle.

The boy was caught inside a Kmart after fleeing the crash scene and taken to Hennepin County Medical Center for treatment of minor injuries, and will likely face several felony charges including vehicular homicide, according to a statement made by police Sgt. William Palmer to the Pioneer Press.

One killed and dozens injured in bus accident

A bus carrying high school students home to Pelican rapids flipped on I-94 in the Nerthwest Metro area early Saturday morning, killing one and injuring dozens.
Jessica Weishair, 16, was killed when the bus flipped onto its side at 5:45 a.m. as it was carrying the school band back to Pelican Rapids from a four-day tour of Chicago. Two other students were in critical condition Saturday night, after the crash had been cleared and students were taken by ambulance and helicopter to nearby hospitals. Dozens of students had other minor injuries.
There were 43 students, four chaperones, a tour director and the driver on the bus. The second bus that was carrying the rest of the school band was not involved in the accident, but some students from that vehicle saw it happen, saying the bus went airborn on a freeway exit ramp, skidded, and tipped. Firefighters reported that some students had arms or legs pinned under the bus when they got there.
Stacy and Kim Weishair, the parents of Jessica Weishair, told a Star Tribune reporter that "Even though we are struggling with our grief, we hold in our thoughts those who have been injured and all the students, staff, chaperones and their families who were involved in the band trip."
Other students and relations of the students have come together in an air of agreement that it was a tragic end to what had been a fun, enjoyable week touring Chicago's arts scene.

March 9, 2008

Two men charged with child abuse

Two St. Paul men are due in court for abusing children they were entrusted with the care of.

Marcus Leon Mason, 29, is facing a felony charge for 'maliscious punishment of a child under the age of 4,' according to the Pioneer Press. Mason's girlfriend's 3-year-old son was taken to the hospital the day after he had baby-sat with welts across the boys back and buttocks, as well pinprick-sized bleeding in the eyes, a sign of smothering or strangling.

Mason originally said the welts were just from rough playing, but later admitted that he had stuck the child with a belt. Mason was arrested Wednesday night.

The second man, Jacob James Fredricks, 26, and his wife brought their 4-month-old son to the hospital on Feb. 16 with siezures. The mother said the boy hit his head on the computer table, while Fredricks said he hit his head on the kitchen table and in his crib. The doctors at the hospital told police that such bumps could not possibly cause the damage present in the infant.

Fredricks later admitted in a phone call that he had shaken the baby becasue he wouldn't stop crying, according to the Pioneer Press. Fredricks has not been arrested, but has been summoned to a court date on April 10.

St. Paul man gets 5 years for child sex abuse

A St. Paul man was sentenced to five years in prison on Wednesday for molesting a 9-year-old girl, according to the Pioneer Press.

Bobby Lockett, 48, offered to pay the girl for helping him with yardwork last summer and then, once in his backyard, covered her mouth and pulled her into the apartment building, according to the police report. He molested her and prevented her from screaming, and afterwords she ran home to tell her mother what had happened.

Lockett was convicted of second-degree criminal sexual conduct in Ramsey County and sentenced to five years. Nicole Kubista, his public defender, requested leniency in the sentence, saying Lockett was mentally disabled, and that he was not in his right mind. She pointed out his speech impediment and stated that he had been in special learning classes in school, and asked that he be sentenced to community service instead of incarceration. This motion was denied.

Lockett had been previously convicted of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl in Illinois.

March 2, 2008

Murder Suspect Extradited

A man was extradited from Mexico and brought back to Minneapolis on Friday to face charges for stabbing his fromer girlfriend to death eight years ago.
Jorge R. Diaz, 44, was seen leaving with Diocelina Villegas-Cortez, 27, from her Phillips neighborhood duplex early in January of 2000 by one of her four children. Diaz was charged several days later with stabbing her to death in fromt of the duplex. He fled to Mexico shortly after and has been there for over eight years.
A task force at the FBI office in Mexico was started in 1992 for the purpose of seeking out and finding criminal who fled from the U.S. to Mexico. It was this task force that finnaly found Diaz last October, and held him until the proccoss of extradition could be completed on Friday.
The task force has operated for 16 years, and has discovered thousands of violent criminal hiding in Mexico from the U.S.

E-Verify Debate

A new system for checking the identity and immigration status of job applicants is about to be in wide-spread use, according to the Star Tribune.
A law was passed in Minnesota mandateing that any of Minnesota's 25,000 contractors that do more than $50,000 worth of business with the state each year must run checks on their employees through the E-Verify system, and that other contractors may by choice. All sub-contractors of the major contractors must also adhere to the mandate. This was effective as of January 29.
The debate which proceeded from this is over whether that it is necessary, and whether it is effective. Many groups, from immigrants rights groups to the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, argue the law and feel that it is too sweeping. Others feel that it's a start, but that E-Verify is not enough.
Many stand in the middle of the debate, saying that some kind of system is needed, but that it needs to be perfected, according to Star Tribune reports. There are inaccuracies in the data on the system which could make a legal resident come up as illegal, and in the case of someone making a mistake on an application it can be difficult to clear up. There have been cases of legal immigrants losing jobs or not being hired becasue of immigration status because of the flawed system, and even after procuring the valid documentation and Social Security Card they were not given their jobs.
According to Marilu Cabrera, spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 31,000 identities were checked in the system in 2007. In the first seven weeks of this year, 26,000 identities have already been checked.

February 17, 2008

St. Paul man pleads guilty to assault with table leg

Andrew Vasterling, 28, admitted in court on Tuesday to attacking a man with the leg of an antique table, according to the Pioneer Press.
The attack itself took place on July 7, 2006 but has just recently come into the court system.
Vasterling made his statement on Tuesday about the incident that happened in the appartment of a Rocky LaFrenz, who lived off of Como Avenue. According to Vasterling the victim, Russel Hirsch, was arguing with LaFrenz over the condition of his antique table, and Vasterling picked up one of the table's legs and struck Hirsche with it.
Hirsch has no memory of the attack, according to his statements to the Pioneer Press. He said that he remembered being in his appartment and then waking up in the hospital. He said that he had originally thought that he had fell down the stairs because someone told him that was what had happened, and the truth was only found out when the police interviewed a women who had been at the appartment that night. The woman said Hirsch's head was split open from the assault.
After Vasterling pleaded guilty it was agreed by prosecutors that the charges would remain as assault and not be ammended to attempted murder.
Hirsch, a 43-year-old man, has needed five brain surgeries since the assault and has lost 60% of his short-term memory.

Two teen boys suspected in stabbing defended by mother

The mother of two boys recently taken into custody as suspects in a stabbing said Saturday that the police had the wrong boys, and that her sons were no where near the scene.
The boys' names have not been released, and the mother witheld her own name to avoid her sons being identified.
The victem was Pirkko Gaultney, a 70-year-old woman. Another boy, age 15, was arressted on Thursday after his father found the victim's credit cards in the boy's belongings.
The other two boys, 15 and 16, went to Robbinsdale Armstrong highschool with the first suspect, and the three boys had apparently served community service together. The mother believes her sons may have been named by the first boy as part of the crime as revenge for a fight the had at school.
The police say that they are not currently looking for any other suspects, although the mether swears her sons could not have been anywhere near the Gaultney's house that night. The police have until Tuesday to charge the boys.

February 3, 2008

Clinton speaks to rouse a Minnesota vote

The Pioneer Press reported that over 3,800 people attended a rally and speech held by presidetial candidate Hillary Clinton on Sunday at Augsburh College.
Clinton made a 38-minute speech to her audience explaining what she intends to do for America if elected president, focusing on the facts and ideas rather than the more emotionally charged speeches made by Democra Barack Obama and Republican Mit Romney on Saturday.
"I want you to understand completely what it is I will try to accomplish as you president," said Clinton to her audience.
She spoke about her intended health care plan, which will make health care affordable to every citizen of the United States, as well as speaking about her foreign policy and how she intends t bring troops home quickly and safely from Iraq. She also touched on her enery policies, covering her desire to invest the nation in renewable energy sources and giving credit o Minnesota for its own policies on getting to 20 percent renewable energy sources by the year 2020.
While it was also noted in the Pioneer Press that the audience at Clinton's raly was significantly less than the 20,000 people who showed up to listen to Obama at the Target Center on Saturday, it was noted that the majority of the attendees openly stated themselves to be adamant supporters of Clinton.

Death of University of Minnesota student ruled accidental

The Star Tribune reported that the death of Rachel A. Dow was ruled as an accident on Wednesday by the Hennepin County medical examiner's office.
Dow, a 29-year-old student at the University of Minnesota who lived and worked in south Minneapolis, was found dead in the Mississippi River on Jan. 12 near the intersection of 38th Street and West River Road. The last time anyone had seen her was at 1:15 a.m. on Jan. 11, when she was leaving the Uptown Bar and Cafe.
The Medical Examiner's report stated that Dow had died of hypothermia, and that other related factors included 'acute alcohol intoxication.'
Dow's friends told the Star Tribune that she had been an adventurous person who liked to go off on her own, and that she would often take her bike down to the river and ride by herself.
Dow's bike was found on the side of the river near where her body was pulled out, and it is believed that while walking on the river's frozen surface she fell through a whole in the ice.