April 26, 2009

"Hamline University seeks info on anti-gay graffiti"

According to The St. Paul Pioneer Press, "Anti-gay graffiti was discovered Wednesday morning on the Hamline University campus in St. Paul, and officials are asking for help identifying who is responsible."

Hamline spokeswoman JacQui Getty said a majority of the graffiti was found on the Theta Chi fraternity house and the Admissions House. Other words and images were put on shrubbery and walls around the campus.

This vandalism occurred during Hamline's Rainbow Week, which "celebrates and raises awareness about the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community," The Pioneer Press reported.

"We are a very inclusive community," Getty said. "It was a shock."

This is Rainbow Week's third year, and nothing like this happened before, Getty said.

Hamline President Linda Hanson said Wednesday, everything possible is being done to find those responsible.

"As a community, we embrace multiculturalism and aspire to be exemplary as an inclusive learning community," Hanson said. "Such acts will not be tolerated at Hamline."

April 25, 2009

"Beekeeping legalized in Minneapolis"

According to The Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Minneapolis City Council unanimously agreed to lift a 34-year-old ban on apiaries within city limits Friday.

Council Member Diane Hofstede proposed the lift, which requires prospective beekeepers to have applications approved. The applications should be available around June 1.

Qualifications for application approval depend on the size of the beekeepers' lots. If lots are more than 4 acres, "keepers will need consent from all property owners within 150 feet of the hives and 80 percent of the owners within 250 feet of the hives," The Star Tribune reports.

On typical city lots, beekeepers will need to obtain "consenting signatures from all abutting property owners," and 80 percent of the owners within 100 feet of their property.

No more than two hives are allowed to be kept on a typical city lot. The lot would need to be surrounded by a fence and, as written by The Star Tribune, have "flyaways devised with barriers to get bees to altitude quickly when the hive is near a property line."

Beekeepers would also be required to get schooling and a city permit. Initially, the permit would cost $100, and would cost $50 annually.

April 19, 2009

"Vandal throws eggs at Norm Coleman's St. Paul home"

As reported by The St. Paul Pioneer Press, "a young man threw eggs at former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman's house" Tuesday night.

Around 9:20 p.m. Tuesday, Coleman "heard thumping" on the door of his home. When he looked outside, a young man was saying various obscenities, and threw another egg at Coleman.

"I kind of ducked," Coleman said. "I ran after him but I didn't get him."

Coleman described the young man in his late teens or early 20s, and he was riding a bicycle.

The suspect said, "I (expletive) can't stand what you represent," Coleman said.

The suspect was not caught, police spokesman Peter Panos said. If found, he will be charged with a misdemeanor criminal damage to property.

"Car fleeing police crashes on I-94"

According to The Minneapolis Star Tribune, "A car fleeing Minneapolis police on Friday afternoon drove onto eastbound Interstate 94 going the wrong way and crashed head-on into two cars."

After a police officer saw an Audi speed through an intersection at about 60 miles per hour, he turned his lights and siren on and pursued the vehicle.

As the Star Tribune reported, "the car turned north onto Lyndale Avenue going the wrong way on the one-way street."

The officer was ordered to cease the pursuit, said Minneapolis police spokesman Sgt. Jesse Garcia. He then watched as the driver headed down an I-94 exit ramp into oncoming traffic.

The car, going the wrong way, eventually hit two vehicles. There were no serious injuries.

According to Garcia, the driver told police he was racing another vehicle.

April 12, 2009

Man charged with trying to start fire at Mall of America

"A 24-year-old Minneapolis man is accused of three felonies from two incidents in which he allegedly made terroristic threats and tried to start a fire at the Mall of America," according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Andrew Nietz was taken to the Hennepin County Jail Thursday, with one charge of arson and two of terroristic threats.

Nietz told police officers he had an "incendiary device" at the mall April 1. That day, "a backpack loaded with an aerosol can had exploded and caught fire in the third-floor transit area," the Star Tribune reported.

According to the complaint, Nietz told officers "he was a terrorist, that he had rocket-propelled grenades and that he knew all about guns."

On Tuesday, was accused of attempting to light transit brochures on fire. He told security officers that he was a terrorist and that he had explosives.

The suspect confessed to the both incidents and threats he made towards police and security officers in a police interview.

"St. Paul Planned Parenthood clinic sees record protests - on both sides"

As reported by the St. Paul Pioneer Press, more than 2,000 people protested outside St. Paul's Planned Parenthood clinic Friday, "making it the largest group in more than 25 years of Good Friday protests."

Brian Gibson, Pro-Life Action Ministries executive director, said the large attendance came from "the pro-abortion atmosphere coming out of the White House and Congress, and people wanting to show there are still pro-life people out there."

A counter-protest group also set a new assembly record, in a food drive outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in Highland Park.

Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, said the "pledge-a-protester" event raised more than $14,000 for the Hallie Q. Brown Food Shelf.

April 5, 2009

"St. Paul couple shot, injured in home invasion; police search for suspect, whom victims recognized"

A St. Paul couple was shot in their home Thursday afternoon in a "botched home-invasion robbery."

Peter Panos, police spokesman said the man and his wife were each shot once, and their children, who were home during the incident, were not injured. The children ages range from 2 to 15 years.

The couple was taken to Regions Hospital in St. Paul for surgery.

According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the suspect knocked on the door of the couple's house and "forced his way." At 12:07 p.m., a "frantic" woman called police and reported the break-in and shooting.

Police began searching for the suspect Thursday.

"Bus driver accused of DWI is fired"

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, a Metro Transit bus driver was fired after he was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving his bus last month.

Alonzo V. Martin, 46, received two misdemeanors after his bus "swerved all over the road" between Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center on March 21. After witnesses called the police, Martin was pulled over and took a Breathalyzer test. Police said Martin had a blood-alcohol content of 0.24, and tried to hid a can of beer.

The incident was the first in Metro Transit's history.

Bob Gibbons, spokesman for Metro Transit, said Martin was "discharged March 23 for 'gross misconduct.'"

Martin's misconduct was in three areas, and involved falsification of an employment application, falsification of statements to a manager's inquiry and a violation of the Metropolitan Council's drug and alcohol policy. The falsified information on Martin's application was not released.

March 29, 2009

"St. Paul school kids report driver tried to lure them into van"

"Several students at Webster Magnet Elementary in St. Paul reported that a Minneapolis man tried to lure them into his vehicle in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood Wednesday morning," according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Ramon Topete Pavon, 21, was charged with aggravated stalking Friday by the Ramsey County attorney's office.

According to the criminal complaint, the incident occurred around 7:30 Wednesday. Children reported that Pavon "called out for them to come over," drove around the block a few times and even exited the van in one attempt.

A 13-year-old girl managed to record Pavon's license plate number.

Officer Amanda Heu witnessed Pavon's vehicle near Case and Payne avenues Thursday. When Heu asked Pavon a few questions, he said that he "had just dropped off his wife at work," and that he had not been driving in the same area the previous day.

After Pavon's wife denounced that his brother had taken her to work the day before, Pavon was arrested.

As of Friday, Pavon has been in Ramsey County Jail with a $20,000 bail.

"Lottery sting might have caught clerks trying to cash in"

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Five convenience store employees and three accomplices are facing lottery fraud charges after they were caught by undercover investigators allegedly trying to cash in winning lottery tickets for themselves."

In December and January, the Minnesota State Lottery's security office and the state's Alcohol & Gambling Enforcement Division organized and executed a "sting operation." As written by the Star Tribune, the operation tested "whether employees at lottery retailers were lying to players about the value of their tickets and then trying to redeem the winnings."

Clint Harris, the Minnesota State Lottery's executive director, said he was proud that "the majority of the tested employees didn't give into temptation." Only 5 of the 186 stores in the metro area that were targeted did not pass.

Eight people were charged with felony lottery fraud at the investigation's conclusion, with charges that may include a maximum of five years in prison, a $25,000 fine or both.

March 15, 2009

St. Paul St. Paul school fires substitute teacher for drinking on the job

A substitute teacher at a St. Paul elementary school was fired Tuesday for drinking on the job.

The teacher, who has not been named, was removed from Roosevelt Elementary after police were called around 1 p.m. Principal Scott Tryggeseth called police and reported that the teacher had been acting "suspiciously."

According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, "police administered a Breathalyzer to the teacher." His blood alcohol level registered at 0.18.

A pint of Phillips vodka was found in the teacher's possession.

Tryggeseth issued letters to parents after the incident briefly explaining the situation.

"A substitute teacher was dismissed today after we became aware that he may have been under the influence of alcohol. He will not be retuning to our or any other St. Paul Public Schools building," wrote Tryggeseth.

"Bullet will stay in the back of boy shot near Farview Park"

The bullet that hit a Minneapolis boy Friday will stay in his back for the rest of his life.

Truvontee McElroy, 11, was shot in the stomach while waiting at a bus stop near Farview Park. A 15-year-old girl was shot in the leg during the same incident.

McElroy was shot in the stomach. The bullet cut his colon in half before embedding itself in one of his back muscles. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, doctors are weary of removing the bullet as a risk of injuring McElroy more.

McElroy and the other victim were shot near 29th and Lyndale Avenues at 5:45 p.m. Friday from a few blocks away. While police said they have information on the suspect, they have declined to release anything.

No arrests have yet been made.

March 8, 2009

"Hit-and-run victim remains in critical condition"

The Apple Valley woman, 26, struck by a hit-and-run motorist last week is still in critical condition, according to the Pioneer Press.

Joan LeVasseur was brought to Fairview Ridges Hospital in Burnsville after she was hit by a vehicle at the intersection of Cedar Avenue and 153rd Street around 9:15 p.m. Friday.

The vehicle, which left the scene without stopping, was described as a large and light-colored.

LeVasseur, who is deaf, was later transferred to Hennepin County Medical Center, where she was treated for head trauma, a severe brain injury, facial lacerations, a broken hand and fractures on her legs and pelvis.

The Pioneer Press wrote that "anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Apple Valley police at 952-953-2700 or the Dakota County Communications Center at 651-322-2323."

"Charges dismissed in St. Paul shooting case"

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, assault charges were dismissed Friday against a St. Paul man who was accused of "participating in the shooting of a pregnant woman, her fetus and her boyfriend last May on the city's upper East Side."

Lee Vang, 31, was charged with three counts of second-degree assault in November. Vang had not originally been involved as a suspect until he was included in a confession from Evalyn Bheaanu.

Bheaanu pleaded guilty to all three charges in August, saying that Vang shot through Andrea Benhamin's apartment door on May 18. She said that Vang did that "because he was mad that Bheaanu had been beaten up and robbed earlier that night."

The Star Tribune reported that Benjamin was shot in the stomach and "later gave birth to a pre-term baby boy." The baby was injured by the bullet, which went through his buttocks and leg.

Benjamin and her baby both survived.

Bheannu is serving 36-, 46- and 61-month sentences simultaneously.

March 1, 2009

"For exposing himself to young girls, man gets 84 days in jail, six years' probation"

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that "a Fridley man will spend 84 days in jail and be on probation for six years following a sentencing hearing Friday for exposing himself to several girls last year."

Brian Erik Thompson, 26, will begin his sentence on March 13. In addition to his jail sentence, Thompson must pay a fine, "remain law-abiding," abstain from contact with the victims, minors or "vulnerable adults," access the Internet only if approved, and "possess no pornographic or sexually explicit material."

Thompson pleaded guilty to fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct in November. He was charged with three incidents in 2008 where he exposed himself to girls younger than 16.

"I know that it was wrong," Thompson told Judge Robert Awsumb.

"I'm so sorry for that. I wish I could take it back, take it all back. I want to let you know that this won't happen again," Thompson said.

"2 teens shot at Southdale Mall"

Two teenage boys, 15 and 18, were shot during a gang-related fight in a Southdale mall parking lot Friday evening.

According to The Minneapolis Star Tribune, one of the boys was shot in the leg and the other was shot in the abdomen, requiring surgery. Both boys, whose names have not been released, were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis after the incident in the parking lot outside the J.C. Penney store.

Police Cheif Mike Siitari said that "at least four shots from a .45-caliber handgun were fired during the clash between the rival Hispanic groups."

The shooter, who has not yet been identified, is "believed to be between 16 and 18 years old." Investigators have been reviewing security tapes from that evening in an attempt to find more clues.

"No arrests had been made as of late Friday," Siitari told The Star Tribune.

February 22, 2009

Things You Can Find Under Your Couch: Dust, Pennies, Inmates

A missing inmate was returned to the Winona County Jail after police found him hiding underneath his couch Wednesday.

According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Ricky Lance, 27, had been "unaccounted for since late December when he left to look for work and never returned."

After a witness reported seeing Lance driving in Winona, police located the vehicle. The blue Chevrolet was stolen, and police noticed someone watching them from inside the residence by which it was parked.

Police searched the residence and found Lance hiding under his couch, promptly returning him to jail. County attorney Chuck MacLean told the Pioneer Press that "it's a 'safe assumption' he won't get work-release privileges again."

"Horror replay in Waseca murder trial: 'She remembers everything'"

The trial for the man accused of killing a Waseca father and son will begin Monday in Rochester.

As reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the suspect, Michael Zabawa, shot three members of the Kruger family a total of eight times, killing two and injuring one, two years ago.

Tracy Kruger, 40, and Alec Kruger, 13, died. Hilary, now 43, and her youngest son, Zak, now 12, survived. As a result of the event, Hilary lost one of her arms and Zak, who was "staying with friends that night," was not hurt.

As written by the Star Tribune, "Zabawa, a hog farm worker with a petty criminal past, entered the Kruger house after driving his pickup truck into a nearby ditch" on Feb. 3 2007. During a "struggle" inside the Kruger home, Zabawa said he "accidentally shot Hilary because she was behind Tracy," and that he "accidentally shot Alec after he tossed the shotgun aside and it went off."

Hilary, however, said that the suspect shot her first while she was asleep. He then shot Tracy, her husband, after he woke up, and shot Alec, after he called 911.

According to the Star Tribune, the trial has been moved to Rochester because of the "intense publicity and emotion generated by the case." Hilary will testify against Zabawa during the trial, which will take around three weeks.

February 15, 2009

"Rail crewman spots man's body on tracks"

A man's body was found on train tracks near Payne Avenue and Phalen Boulevard in St. Paul, after he was struck and killed by a train Saturday night.

The victim, has not been identified, according to St. Paul police spokesman Peter Panos.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that a Union Pacific train operator "called the train-dispatch center after spotting the man's body on tracks adjacent to the ones his train was on" around 10:30 p.m. Saturday. The dispatch center then called the police.

Police are trying to determine how the victim ended up on the tracks. While the death is not believed to be suspicious, the investigation is ongoing.

"Arden Hills nursing home found at fault in death of woman, 91, with neck fracture"

According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, three conclusions were made in the state's investigation of last year's death of Gladys Gall at Presbyterian Homes of Arden Hills:

"The woman's April 28 death was preceded by a fracture of her cervical spine."

"No such neck fracture can occur without a violent incident or fall."

"Somebody must know what happened - even if she fell on her own - because she couldn't have picked herself up from such an injury."

The Minnesota Department of Health released an investigative report this week, holding the nursing home accountable for maltreatment. The department told the Pioneer Press that Gall would had to have "suffered a severe blow or fall" while living in the home.

Presbyterian Homes has challenged the state's accusations. Without being able to identify any specific incidents of maltreatment, Traci Beach, administrator of the Arden Hills home, said that "it is unfair for the state to fault the home."

According to reports, Gall suffered from memory loss and advanced osteoporosis, "putting her at risk for falls," as stated by the Pioneer Press.

After Gall's admittance to the emergency room on April 18, 2008, doctors found a fracture in her neck. However, Gall wasn't able to remember how it might have been caused.

The Pioneer Press also revealed that a neurosurgeon who is being consulted in the state's investigation said "Gall couldn't have suffered the injury - known as a hangman's fracture because of its severity - without experiencing trauma."

Only theories have been offered so far by investigators and family.

February 8, 2009

Mounds View Officials Change Happy Endings

Mounds View officials decided to consider changing the city's licensing program after alleged sexual activity closed a parlor last month.

According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Xiu Ju Li, owner of Jian Kang Massage, had her license revoked and was arrested on "suspicion of promoting prostitution," Mike Sommer, Mounds View Police Chief, said.

The investigation in to the massage parlor's late hours and potential prostitution ring encourage Mounds View's city code on massage operations to be magnified.

The Pioneer Press reports that "the owner of a massage parlor would have to continually be of 'good moral character' after the license has been issued," and the city would also "update the code to conform to Minnesota law.

By changing and strengthening the code, some of the "ambiguity" would be eliminated, said City Council member Roger Stigney. The City Council is planning to adopt these changes on Feb. 23.

Warming Device Too Hot to Handle

Investigators said Friday that hospitals should stop using warming devices similar to a machine that "severely burned a newborn," according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

"We urge hospitals to remove these models from service as soon as feasible," said Mark Bruley, the nonprofit ECRI Institute's vice president, accident and forensic investigation group.

Maverick Werth, the 12-hour-old baby burned at Mercy Hospital in January 2008 was scarred on his scalp and upper body and "wears a special glove to protect his right hand," said his father.

Mercy hired ECRI to investigate the incident. As reported by the Star Tribune, ECRI concluded that "hospital staff members were not at fault because the defects in the device 'are not visible to the naked eye' and did not result from improper maintenance."

While ECRE stated that incidents similar to Werth's are "unlikely," the group recommended "immediate action to remove and replace the affected models,"

February 1, 2009

From Smoke-Free Buildings to Smoke-Free Cars

Legislature viewed a bill Thursday that would prohibit smoking in cars containing children.

As reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the bill, written by Rep. Nora Slawik, "would make it illegal to smoke in cars while driving with passengers younger than 18, treating it as a moving violation," and resulting in a $100 fine.

However, police would not be able to pull over drivers for solely violating the smoking ban, instead treating is as a secondary offense. The violation would only be ticketed if the driver were pulled over for a different reason.

Slawik, an avid supporter of the Freedom to Breathe Act (FTB), is looking forward to adding Minnesota to the growing list of states that have already passed the bill.

With the support from FTB activists and the bill's upcoming presentation to the Senate, Slawik hopes to soon achieve her goal of, as she told the Star Tribune, "a generation of healthier kids."

Recycle, Reduce, Reuse

A Mankato woman recently donated used soccer jerseys to needy children in Bangladesh.

According to, Mankato United's youth soccer fundraising coordinator, Kari Halbur, has found a solution for the growing pile of used youth soccer jerseys that collects in Mankato homes. Founded by Muhit Rahman, the Bangladesh Relief Fund collects used uniforms from around the country and ships them to various locations in Bangladesh.

Halbur found the program after searching online, and the jerseys were shipped across the ocean a few days later. The Mankato jerseys were scattered among the children of Bangladesh, from Panchagarh Government High School to the village where Rahman was born and raised.

The generous donations made by the families of Mankato are just a few of the nationwide sets of jerseys Rahman has received. Halbur hopes the donations from Mankato United's youth soccer teams to Rahman's "great program" will continue.

As reported, "With all the stuff going on in the world and with the sort of divisions that exist," Rahman said, "I just believe that, in the karma of the universe, something good happens when people share."