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December 9, 2007

Minnesotan among dead in Colo. shootings

A Chisholm, Minn., woman was one of two people killed around 12:30 a.m. Sunday when a gunman walked into Youth With a Mission in Arvada, Colo., and opened fire.
Tiffany Johnson, 26, was killed in the Denver suburb, along with Philip Crouse, 24, of Alaska, according to the Arvada Police Department. Two men were injured.
The gunman fled on foot and is still missing, according to police. It’s unknown yet if another shooting at a church in Colorado Springs just hours later was related to this shooting.
According to The Associated Press, Youth With a Mission has a small office on the New Life Church campus, where the other shooting took place, but police did not say whether there was a link between the two incidents.
The two injured men, ages 22 and 23, were wounded and one is in critical condition, according to police spokeswoman Susan Medina. They were also staff members.
According to a close family friend, Carla Macynski, Johnson was born in Hibbing, Minn., and raised in Chisholm. She joined Youth with a Mission after graduating from Anoka-Ramsey Community College, traveling to Egypt, Libya and South Africa as a missionary student.
Johnson became a staff member with Youth With a Mission’s Colorado office about a year and a half ago, where she was the director of hospitality.
According to its Web site, Youth With a Mission is a worldwide organization founded in 1960 that teaches youth around the world to become missionaries.
The New York Times said the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were assisting in the investigation.
The Pioneer Press has The Associated Press’s article, while the Star Tribune has their own reporting.

The Pioneer Press:
http://www.twincities.com/allheadlines/ci_7677547

The Star Tribune:
http://www.startribune.com/local/12293101.html

The New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/10/us/10shooting.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

December 8, 2007

Ridder resigns from Star Tribune

Star Tribune publisher Par Ridder resigned on Friday, coinciding with the settlement of a lawsuit filed against the Star Tribune by the St. Paul Pioneer Press, where Ridder was formerly employed, over his hiring.
His resignation, which came nine months after he took over as the paper’s publisher and three months after he was barred from the job by a Ramsey County judge, was announced by company spokeswoman Sally Nelson.
The Star Tribune hired Ridder from the Pioneer Press, which had been run by his family for several generations. Weeks later, the Pioneer Press filed a lawsuit that accused Ridder of breaking a noncompete agreement, hiring Pioneer Press executives away from the paper in violation of other agreements and taking a laptop computer containing confidential Pioneer Press information.
After a hearing in June on a temporary injunction, Ridder was barred by court order on Sept. 18 from the Star Tribune’s offices on orders from District Court Judge David Higgs, who said Ridder could not be trusted to refrain from using the St. Paul data to hurt the paper.
Higgs, who learned recently that the papers had reached a settlement, dismissed the lawsuit Friday afternoon but upheld a one-year injunction that prevents Ridder from working for the Star Tribune.
The Star Tribune was also ordered to pay legal fees incurred by the Pioneer Press, estimated at $5 million.
Full terms of the settlement were sealed.

The Star Tribune:
http://www.startribune.com/business/12260661.html

The Pioneer Press:
http://www.twincities.com//ci_7664880?IADID=Search-www.twincities.com-www.twincities.com

December 1, 2007

Latest forecast: Minnesota economy "sick"

Minnesota is looking at a projected $373 million deficit over the next 19 months, according to a budget forecast released Friday.
This gap, which Gov. Tim Pawlenty called “manageable,? comes after several years of surpluses.
If the present economic situation continues, lawmakers and the governor will need to seek out ways to fill in the shortfall – either through cutbacks, other sources of revenue or the use of reserves.
Pawlenty said the deficit, which barely over 1 percent of the state’s $34 billion budget, reflects an economic slowdown affecting the entire country. Economists blame high energy prices, break-even job growth, a deflated housing market and credit market trouble for decreasing Minnesota’s tax collections. Sales tax, corporate tax and taxes paid on mortgages and home deeds are all down, according to the forecast.
But Minnesota’s projected shortfall isn’t the worst we’ve had – consider 2003, when Minnesota lawmakers had to bail out a budget deficit of $4.6 billion.
The state also has about $1 billion in a cash account and reserves to depend on.
Even so, the forecast calls Minnesota’s economic outlook “very fragile,? with state economists adding that there is 35 percent change of a recession.
Capitol officials reacted to the deficit prediction with diverging proposals, with lawmakers and the governor calling for everything from an immediate special session to a tax-cut plan.
Since the state must have the budget balanced by mid-2009, lawmakers and the governor could technically wait to see where the economy turns before acting.
But policy-makers note the budget forecast’s prediction that the gap between revenue and spending is expected to stay around until at least 2011; they suggest quicker fixes.

The Pioneer Press:
http://www.twincities.com/allheadlines/ci_7606501

The Star Tribune:
http://www.startribune.com/587/story/1583429.html

Police accused of racist demotions

Some black community, religious and educational leaders are calling disciplinary action against a black homicide detective the latest example of racial bias in the Minneapolis Police Department.
But The Star Tribune reports that the most recent incident, involving the transfer of “well-respected? black homicide detective Charlie Adams, appeared late Friday to possibly undergo reconsideration.
Adams, a 22-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department, was transferred after he contradicted statements made by his commanding officer regarding the investigation into the killing of bicyclist Mark Loesch.
The Star Tribune said Adams was transferred to a less prominent unit Wednesday after multiple incidents of insubordination, with the latest contradictory comments being the “last straw,? according to Chief Tim Dolan.
Critics of the decision to transfer Adams to a less prominent section of the department call it a setback for relations between the police and community.
Activists Spike Moss and Ron Edwards voiced concern at a news conference at the Minneapolis Urban League about what they consider to be ongoing rights violations of black officers in the department. Edwards and others noted Dolan’s demotion of three other high-ranking black officers during his first year as chief.
Dolan, meanwhile, denies that personnel choices were motivated by race.
When Minnesota Public Radio asked Dolan about charges against him that he’s negatively affected relations between the black community and his department, he pointed out city figures stating that minority recruitment in the department is at an all time high.
Adams latest alleged act of insubordination occurred after homicide unit commander Lt. Amelia Huffman stated that one of the suspects in the killing told investigators that the victim was seeking out marijuana when he was killed.
Adams spoke out against her comment and said there was no evidence that the victim had been looking for drugs. He also apologized to Loesch’s family for the announcement made by Huffman.
Minnesota Public Radio was unable to reach Sgt. Adams for comment Friday afternoon but said community activists plan to hold a press conference next week with an update on Adams’ status with the police department.
Adams is scheduled to start his reassignment next week.

The Star Tribune:
http://www.startribune.com/10241/story/1584621.html

Minnesota Public Radio:
http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2007/11/30/officersdemoted/

November 18, 2007

Hundreds off students protest Iraq war

About 500 students skipped school Friday to protest the war in Iraq at a rally in downtown Minneapolis.
The students from schools all around the Twin Cities held signs and sang songs of protest in the plaza outside the Hennepin County Government Center.
The Pioneer Press, which called the event “peaceful,? said that on-site officers who watched from the sidelines estimated a group of about 200 protesters. Organizers put the number at 1,000.
Kesh Gabyalla, a student at Perpich Center for Arts Education in Golden Valley, said he didn’t know how much of an impact the protesters had.
“But if we don’t go out and express our First Amendment rights,? he told the Pioneer Press, “then we will lose our power and our country will go down the tubes. We have to stand up and say ‘No.’?
The protest attracted more than just high school students, with Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak making an appearance.
“I was up in my office when I saw people out peacefully protesting the war and I came down and said thank you. Because many of us were out protesting this before this war started. More people should,? Rybak told Minnesota Public Radio.
After the rally, the students marched through downtown streets on their way to Augsburg College for a teach-in on the war.
The protest was sponsored by Youth Against War and Racism, a student-led initiative formed about three years ago after three Kennedy High School students fought against having military recruiters in their Bloomington school.
Now, the group has activists at about 40 schools in the Twin Cities, according to Ty Moore, an organizer with Socialist Alternative, along with chapters in Boston, Seattle, and Tacoma and Olympia, Wash.
MPR said Socialist Alternative, an international activist group with a local chapter, also sponsored the protest.

MPR:
http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2007/11/16/studentprotest/

Pioneer Press:
http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_7485882

November 16, 2007

Metro Transit adds hybrid buses

Seventeen new hybrid Metro Transit buses, painted shades of bright green, were introduced to the metro area Thursday in a step in the transit agency’s efforts to “go greener.?
The hybrids, which cost $557,000 each, use bio-diesel fuel and are cleaner and quieter. The buses already in Metro Transit’s fleet have averaged 4.71 miles to the gallon, which is a one-mile-per-gallon difference from the 3.86 for a standard bus. This may not seem like a big difference, but in percentage terms, the Star Tribune said it’s “significant.?
Metro Transit anticipates a 22 percent or greater improvement in fuel economy, which translates to 1,965 gallons of fuel per bus saved annually, on top of the decreased production of pollutants. The Pioneer Press said the hybrids will produce about 90 percent fewer emissions than the buses they replace.
The federal government pays 80 percent of the cost of a new bus, with local sources contributing the rest. But with lower operating costs, Metro Transit hopes to recoup the local portion of the extra cost per bus in a little over six years. This is based on the agency’s assumption that once all 172 hybrids in the total fleet of more than 800 buses are running in five years, Metro Transit expects to save 338,000 gallons of fuel a year – combine that with current fuel price of $3.25 a gallon, and the investment will pay off in six years.
To persuade more people to give the buses a try, the agency announced that rides on the green hybrids (you can’t miss them – they’re the most colorful objects on Nicollet) will be free on Monday on routes 17 and 18. Route 17 serves Hopkins, St. Louis Park, Uptown, Nicollet Mall and Northeast Minneapolis, while Route 18 serves Bloomington, Richfield, South Minneapolis and Nicollet Mall.
Go to the Start Tribune article for more comprehensive coverage; The Pioneer Press only offers basic information.

The Star Tribune:
http://www.startribune.com/462/story/1554611.html

The Pioneer Press:
http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_7477149

November 9, 2007

MnDOT emergency management boss fired

The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s emergency management boss was fired Friday after coming under scrutiny for her relationship with a high-ranking federal highway official in Washington, D.C.
Sonia Morphew Pitt, MnDOT’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management director, was accused in a department statement of “serious employee misconduct pertaining to out of state travel, misuse of state resources and conduct unbecoming to Mn/DOT.?
Pitt also came under scrutiny at the time of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse Aug. 1 in Minneapolis. At the time, she was on the East Coast attending what expense reports said was training and failed to return to Minnesota until 10 days after the incident.
The Star Tribune said that the Federal Highway Administration’s program manager for transportation security, Daniel M. Ferezan, has been questioned by a private investigator hired by MnDOT, according to Ian Grossman, the top spokesman for the U.S. Department for Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. The investigator looked into Pitt’s “whereabouts and her activities with Ferezan in the frenetic aftermath of the Aug. 1 collapse,? Grossman said.
The Tribune also quoted a “source with direct knowledge of the investigation? that said MnDOT was investigating whether Pitt traveled under false pretenses.
The same source also said investigators were looking at whether Ferezan enabled her to make trips that weren’t appropriate for her job.
Pitt, 43, and Ferezan, 61, did not return calls to the newspaper Thursday seeking comments.
The Star Tribune, whose coverage of the situation was more comprehensive than the Pioneer Press’, spoke with James Nobles, the state legislative auditor. He said Thursday that his office might pursue criminal charges against Pitt if their investigation finds that she made false claims for state money in her government position.
Nobles also said he will demand that Pitt repay the state if his investigators find she obtained or spent money illicitly. The report could be complete in two to three weeks, he said.
The Pioneer Press pointed out that a MnDOT investigation found that Pitt used her state-provided cell phone to make over 2,000 minutes of personal calls between February and June of this year and had the state pay for vacation travel, including trips to Las Vegas and Washington, D.C.
According to a separate audit report, the state first began looking into Pitt’s activities in July 2007, the Pioneer Press reported.

The Star Tribune:
http://www.startribune.com/10204/story/1538793.html

Pioneer Press:
http://www.twincities.com/allheadlines/ci_7417908?nclick_check=1

November 7, 2007

15-year-old St. Paul girl safe after alleged abduction, Amber Alert

A 18-year-old man was jailed on a possible kidnapping charge after allegedly abducting an ex-girlfriend in St. Paul Monday, setting off an Amber Alert, authorities said.
The ex-girlfriend was found unharmed shortly after midnight at a residence on the city’s West Side, close to where the kidnapping occured.
According to police spokesman Tom Walsh, detectives were able to track down the suspect and the ex-girlfriend, Jacqeline Mendoza, 15, of St. Paul, after the suspect asked the girl to call the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office in what authorities believe was an attempt to throw officials off after the suspect learned about the Amber Alert.
The girl, a runaway since Oct. 28, was returning to her mother when she was taken. She was turned over Tuesday to child-protection authorities.
According to the Star Tribune, police announced late Tuesday afternoon that they had arrested a 38-year-old St. Paul woman who allegedly assisted the abduction. But the Pioneer Press reports the woman as 28-year-old Elizabeth Garcia.
The Press said she was with the suspect, David Guzman, when he allegedly grabbed Mendoza off a street, and later helped police located the couple, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday.
After the Amber Alert was issued on Monday, investigators located Garcia through cell phone records. After being arrested and brought to the St. Paul police department, she provided information about where Guzman and Mendoza might be.
Police said she was released pending further investigation.

Police went to Guzman’s apartment in the 700 block of Stryker Avenue, where they found Guzmas and Jacqueline, about midnight.
Officers then arrested Guzman, who is being held in the jail and is expected to make his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon.

Star Tribune:
http://www.startribune.com/10242/story/1533427.html

Pioneer Press:
http://www.twincities.com/allheadlines/ci_7395437?nclick_check=1

November 3, 2007

Missing Edina man found

The 23-year-old Edina man who has been missing for more than three weeks was found at an I-94 rest stop in Menomonie, Wis. on Friday
Scott Tridgell, a Lund’s grocery store accountant,
Tridgell’s parents, Gary and Amy Tridgell of Duluth, had made a public plea for assistance in finding their son. They suspected he might be having an amnesia episode related to a serious head injury he suffered in December.
The Pioneer Press said he was found in his black 1996 Toyota Tacoma about 50 miles from where Tridgell’s mysterious journey apparently started.
They quoted Edina police Lt. Dave Nelson: Tridgell “appears to be fine. It sounds like he was a bit lost and confused as to where he was.?
A Twin Cities couple spotted a hail-damaged black pick-up truck in an Interstate 94 rest stop parking lot while traveling through Wisconsin. Recalling reports about a missing Edina man in a similar truck, Larry DeMarr drove up next to the truck, finding a sleeping man wearing glasses.
DeMarr and his girlfriend called 911. A short time later, Menomonie, Wis., police confirmed that he was Tridgell.
Tridggell was last seen at his Edina bank withdrawing money. The Pioneer Press said police had been worried since there was no further activity on his phone, credit card or bank account.
Tridgell was at Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina, according to his brother, Brian Tridgell. Hospital officials said they could not release any information about Tridgell’s condition.

Star Tribune:
http://www.startribune.com/106/story/1525086.html

Pioneer Press:
http://www.twincities.com//ci_7357603?IADID=Search-www.twincities.com-www.twincities.com

November 1, 2007

North Dakota businessman suspected of robbing Hudson banks

A 53-year-old North Dakota auto sales lot owner robbed a Hudson bank before committing suicide in Stillwater on Wednesday, police said.
Hudson police detectives Shawn Pettee and Jeff Knopps received search warrants Thursday for Alfred Josiah Knodle’s home and business in Fargo and West Fargo.
After they executed the search warrants Thursday, they notified his family of his death.
Stillwater police found identification, including a business card in the suspected bank robber’s car Wednesday, but waited to contact family to ensure they didn’t jeopardize evidence of their investigation.
Knodle was the operator of Alfred’s Autobody and Sales in West Fargo.
Police also said Knodle is the suspect in the robbery of another Hudson bank last week.
The Star Tribune: “Police have said there is a high probability that the two bank robberies in Hudson were committed by the same man. According to the news release, Hudson police compared the surveillance video from both robberies and have concluded that Knodle committed both crimes.?
The reason Knodle chose the Hudson banks, more than 260 miles from his North Dakota home, is still unclear.
Police believe Knodle entered Citizens Bank Oct. 26 at about 9:45 a.m., demanded money from the clerks, and left with an undisclosed amount of cash in a dark Buick sedan.
He returned to Hudson Wednesday about 10 a.m., according to police, but this time robbed Associated Bank on Hudson’s main street.
While he was able to leave Hudson, dispatchers had alerted neighboring areas to watch for a white Ford Mustang, which was then seen by an Oak Park Height Police officer at 10:10 a.m. Knodle shot himself to death about five minutes later.

Pioneer Press:
http://www.twincities.com/allheadlines/ci_7342189

Star Tribune:
http://www.startribune.com/10240/story/1522904.html

October 27, 2007

24-year-old woman murdered after responding to Craigslist ad

A 19-year-old Savage man is suspected in the homicide of a 24-year-old woman after she responded to an ad for a nanny job on Craigslist.
The suspect is being held in the Scott County jail on Saturday pending charges. While authorities did not release the suspect’s name, they said charges could be filed as soon as Sunday.
According to the Star Tribune, Katherine Ann Olson was found dead in the trunk of her car at a Burnsville park late Friday night. This came one day after she told her roommate she was going to meet a family who posted on the Web site.
The Pioneer Press provided more information about the murdered woman and the case. Olson was a 24-year-old Minneapolis resident.
The Press also said police were tipped off that Olson was missing after someone called officials at the Rudy Kraemer Nature Preserve to report a purse in a garbage can in Pacer Park in Savage.
Olson’s roommate later called police to report that her roommate hadn’t been seen since 8 a.m. Thursday and that she had left the house to respond to a Craiglist ad.
Savage police Capt. David Muelken said in a press conference today that officers found a plastic bag containing a “significantly bloody towel? in a garbage can.
Hours after, a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter spotted Olson’s vehicle in the Bursnville park.
Muelken said it is unclear where Olson died, but that she was murdered.
The investigation is “focused? on the 19-year-old man being held in custody. He was arrested Friday night at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where he is an employee, Muelken said.
According to the Star Tribune, Olson attended high school at Park of Cottage Grove and graduated from St. Olaf College.

The Star Tribune:
http://www.startribune.com/south/story/1512230.html

The Pioneer Press:
http://www.twincities.com/ci_7299353?source=most_viewed

October 24, 2007

Minnesota man dies of rabies

A 40-year-old man from Monticello died from a rabies infection Saturday at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester. Minnesota Department of Health officials said they think the man was infected after being bitten by a bat sometime in mid-August.
The Star Tribune reported the man as Randy Hertwig, a 46-year-old father and machinist who loved the outdoors. He was bitten after swatting at a bat while stacking firewood and felt only a “pinprick? on his hand. Since there was no blood or puncture marks, he didn’t realize that he had been bitten at the time.
According to the CaringBridge.org website on which Hertwig’s wife, Michele, and son and daughter, his symptoms began four weeks later with tingling in his hand where he had been bitten. A short time later Hertwig lost his ability to talk or move, and by mid-October, he “lay in a deep coma, beyond reach of even the best medicine.?
The cause of his illness remained a mystery until last week, when relatives recalled the incident after a doctor asked if he had been bitten by a bat, reports the Pioneer Press. Doctors then followed required guidelines to notify the state of a potential rabies case.
The state then notified the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which conducted tests and confirmed that Hertwig had rabies two days before he died. Hartwig died at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
The Minnesota Department of Health is working with several health care facilities where the man was treated to assure that health care workers were not directly exposed to infected saliva, according to a Minnesota Public Radio report.
The man is the fifth person to die of rabies in Minnesota in the past century, with the other deaths in 1917, 1964, 1975 and 2000.
Most recent cases of rabies in rabies in humans in the United States have been because of bat bites that went unrecognized or unreported.
Two to three people contract rabies in the United States each year, down from more than 100 each year in the early 1900s, according to the state Health Department.
Most cases of rabies are transmitted by bats, skunks or raccoons.

The Star Tribune:
http://www.startribune.com/106/story/1503056.html

The Pioneer Press:
http://www.twincities.com//ci_7261634?IADID=Search-www.twincities.com-www.twincities.com

Minnesota Public Radio:
http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2007/10/23/rabiesdeath/

October 21, 2007

Suicidal boy, 15, fires 100 shots in police standoff

A standoff between an armed teenage boy and police ended without serious injury Saturday morning after the suicidal boy fired about 100 shots in a home in Hudson, Wis.
The standoff began about 9 p.m. Friday in an upscale neighborhood about five miles south of Hudson, according to the Pioneer Press.
After his parents left to see a movie, the 15-year-old boy called a couple of his friends and made suicidal threats, said St. Croix County Sheriff Dennis Hillstead, who declined to name the boy. The ninth-grader was alone in the house when he called his friends.
The friends called police after hearing gunshots in the background.
When officers arrived at the house, they also heard shots being fired from inside the home, Hillstead said. Police took shelter and called for reinforcements as a precaution. Several nearby homes were evacuated.
Police contacted the youth by having his friends call the house, Hillstead said. Officers convinced him to surrender about 12:30 a.m.
The teenager likely will face felony charges for reckless endangerment and criminal damage to property, Hillstead said.
The standoff lasted more than three hours, while the boy fired shots from inside the house. He was armed with two shotguns, a .22-caliber pistol and plenty of ammunition, according to the sheriff’s office.
Of the 100 or so shots fired, police believe 30 to 50 went through the home’s windows, although none of the neighboring homes were hit.
Officers did not return fire.
The shots caused extensive damage to the interior of the home and shattered most of the main floor windows. A damage estimate was not available Saturday.
Paramedics rushed the teenager to Hudson Hospital after officers discovered he had cuts on both his hand and feet. He was later transferred to the Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison, Wis., for a 72-hour emergency hold for mental evaluation.

The Pioneer Press:
http://www.twincities.com/ci_7236985?source=most_viewed


October 20, 2007

Three killed in collision near Lakeville

A Mound woman and her son, along with the son’s friend, died Friday in a crash involving a car and two semitrailer trucks south of the Twin Cities.
The victims, all of whom were in the car, were identified by the State Patrol as driver Jayson Ceaser, 20, of Minnetonka, and passengers Tamara Ceaser, 46, of Mound, and Nicholle Oseland, 22, of Mound.
Tamara Ceaser and Jayson Ceaser are mother and son; Oseland is a friend of Jayson Ceaser’s, the State Patrol said.
The collision occurred about 2:15 a.m. on Interstate 35 in the Lakeville-New Market area, the State Patrol said.
The victims were driving north when their car struck a semi in the rear on Interstate 35. Authorities said Jayson Caesar lost control and crossed the median into southbound traffic, where the car was hit by another truck.
The truck drivers were not injured.
The Star Tribune said authorities closed a 5-mile stretch of the highway between Scott Count Road 2 and Dakota County Road 70 for about four hours as investigators reconstructed the accident.
The freeway was open again by mid-morning.
According to The Associated Press, road were wet at the time of the crash.

The Star Tribune:
http://www.startribune.com/west/story/1495089.html

The Associated Press:
http://www.twincities.com//ci_7223541?IADID=Search-www.twincities.com-www.twincities.com

October 14, 2007

I-35 replacement bridge design unveiled

The design of the new Interstate 35W bridge was revealed during a news conference at the state Capitol on Monday.
Unveiling of the new Minneapolis bridge, a 1,216-foot concrete span, came after state officials signed a $234 million contract with a joint venture led by Colorado-based Flatiron Constructors. Designed with the theme of “Arches, Water, Reflection,? the bridge will have observation decks around the main piers, sculptural elements near the approaches and twin stylized arches of decorative lighting along the roadway.
The bridge, slated for completion by Christmas Eve 2008, will also have two parallel spans with five traffic lanes in each direction.
Flatiron won the contract after a controversial bidding process that brought protests from two of the three unsuccessful bidders.
Investigators with the Minnesota Department of Administration sided with the Minnesota Department of Transportation on Monday, urging that the state approve the award after finding to flaws with how MnDot scored the proposals, despite Flatiron’s bid being $57 million more than the lowest bid.
According to Flatiron’s manager of the project, Peter Sanderson, local workers will be used to build the bridge, and most of the construction will take place in Minnesota. Prefabricated parts will be assembled in St. Paul and then floated on barges to the bridge site as part of an accelerated construction process known as “design-build.?
The bridge designer, Figg Engineering, is known for its aesthetically pleasing bridges. According to the Pioneer Press, the design “offers clean, simple lines and a minimalist look.?
While debris is still being cleared from the collapse site, the initial site preparation will begin immediately. Sanderson said he hope to begin construction in earnest no later than Nov. 1.
The new I-35W bridge will not be “fracture critical,? meaning it won’t collapse if one component fails, unlike the old steel-girder bridge that collapsed on Aug. 1. The cause of the collapse that killed 13 remains under investigation.

Pioneer Press:
http://www.twincities.com//ci_7122021?IADID=Search-www.twincities.com-www.twincities.com

October 9, 2007

Lakeville mom charged in infant drowning

A Lakeville mother was allegedly surfing the Internet when her 11-month old daughter drowned in a upstairs bathtub in August.
The Dakota County Attorney’s office charged Katherine Renae Bodem, 38, with two counts of second-degree manslaughter today in connection with her daughter’s Aug. 25 drowning.
Bodem left her daughter in the bathtub with her 2 ½-year-old brother for almost 20 minutes while she went downstairs to look up shopping items on the Internet, according to the criminal complaint.
Bodem told police she had left the child in the tub with her brother for only a couple of minutes and could hear the two children splashing and laughing.
Bodem’s 10-year-old daughter, who was downstairs playing with her two other brothers ages 7 and 8, told authorities that after about 20 minutes, the boy came downstairs and indicated something was wrong, according to the complaint.
The Star Tribune, whose story on the case has greater detail, reports that the girl said her mother was on the computer searching for shoes to replace a pair she had damaged.
Bodem said she rushed upstairs and attempted to revive the baby by hitting her on the back and blowing into her mouth, and the girl vomited, according to the complaint. The Star Tribune said police found the tub was nearly full of water, with toys inside and outside the tub.
Also report the Star Tribune: Lakeville police arrived at the home in the 20500 block of Jupiter Avenue and found two women outside trying to revive the child, who the paper identifies as Cecilia.
A forensic examination of the computer, examined by police using a search warrant, indicated she had been online looking for shoes for 19 minutes before the 911 call was placed.
According to the Star Tribune, Bodem apparently hasn’t had any contact with child-protection officials and has no criminal record, officials said.
Bodem was the only adult home at the time.
Bodem’s other children will remain at home under the father’s custody, Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said.
Bodem made her first court appearance on Tuesday in Dakota County District Court in Hastings and bail was set at $60,000.
Her next court appearance is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 5 in Hastings.

The Star Tribune:
http://www.startribune.com/south/story/1473888.html

The Pioneer Press:
http://www.twincities.com//ci_7128519?IADID=Search-www.twincities.com-www.twincities.com

October 7, 2007

Poll: Minnesotans do not support gas tax or special session

There is more opposition than support for a new state gas tax to pay for transportation repairs, says a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll.
The poll found that 50 percent opposed raising the gas tax, while 46 percent were in favor. Even more respondents opposed a special session to deal with transportation problems in the wake of the Minneapolis bridge collapse, with 53 percent calling it unnecessary.
Forty-two percent said they thought there should be a special session.
The poll surveyed 802 adults in Minnesota between Sept. 18 and 23. It has a margin of sampling error of 4 percentage point plus or minus.
It also found that sixty-eight percent approved of the way Gov. Tim Pawlenty handled the disaster, and 58 percent approved of the DFL-led Legistlature’s handling of it.
A majority, by 53 percent to 42 percent, says the matter can wait until next year’s regular session.
Minnesota’s gas tax is among the lowest in the nation, at 20 cents on the gallon. According to the Star Tribune, it was last increased in 1988, when it had the buying power of 35 cents. The average state tax is 28.5 cents, according to the American Petroleum Institute.
Responses varied most by education and party affiliation, said the Star Tribune. Fifty-seven percent of college graduates approved of raising the gas tax, compared with 45 percent of those with some college education and 39 percent of those with none.
Support split along party lines as well, with 56 percent of Democrats willing to pay a higher gas tax and 41 percent of Republicans willing to do so.

The Star Tribune:
http://www.startribune.com/10204/story/1468985.html

October 4, 2007

Brainerd woman found guilty of illegal music downloading

A U.S. district court jury found a Brainerd woman liable for illegal music file sharing Thursday afternoon in the first such lawsuit to go to trial. The jury found that Jammie Thomas had willfully committed copyright infringement by downloading and sharing all 24 songs for which the record companies had sought damages, awarding them $222,000.
The companies accused Thomas of downloading the songs without permission and offering them online through a Kazaa file-sharing account. Thomas denied wrongdoing and testified that she didn’t have a Kazaa account.
Thomas and her attorney, Brian Toder, declined comment as the left the courthouse.
According to the Star Tribune, when asked if they planned to appeal, Toder said “we haven’t talked about it.?
The Associated Press calls the ruling a win in a “key fight.? Record companies have filed about 26,000 lawsuits since 2003 over file-sharing, which has hurt record sales because it allows people to get music for free instead of buying it in stores. Many defendants have settled by paying the companies a few thousand dollars.
Copyright law sets a damage range of $750 to $30,000 per infringement, or up to $150,000 if the violation was “willful.? Jurors ruled that Thomas’s infringement was willful but awarded damages of $9,250 per song.
The RIAA says the lawsuits have slowed down illegal sharing, even though music file-sharing is rising overall. The group says the number of households that have used file-sharing programs to download music has risen from 6.9 million monthly in April 2003, before the lawsuits began, to 7.8 million in March 2007.
The record companies involved in the lawsuit are Sony BMG, Arista Records LLC, Interscope Records, UMG Recordings Inc., Capitol Records Inc. and Warner Bros. Records Inc.

The Star Tribune:
http://www.startribune.com/462/story/1464264.html

The Associated Press:
http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071004/NEWS07/71004080/1118/RSS

September 28, 2007

Anoka man charged with burning cross on his own lawn

A 47-year-old Anoka man was charged Friday with falsely reporting a crime after reporting a burned cross on his lawn Wednesday. He had previously told police that he woke up Wednesday morning to a charred outline of a cross burned in the lawn of his house. He set the blaze himself in “a search for sympathy and money,? said The Star Tribune.
De’Andre June was charged with falsely reporting a crime. He also was charged Friday with disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process in a different altercation with police.
The incident had been treated by police as a racially biased attack.
Inmates at the Anoka County Jail told authorities that June had planned the incident. June had told the inmates last week that he was going to burn a cross in his yard and blame it on his neighbor, reports the Star Tribune.
Anoka County Jail inmates saw the story about the incident on TV and recognized June, according to Capt. Phil Johanson of the Anoka Police Department as quoted by The Associated Press. When he was in jail with them last week, they said “he had made comments that he was going to do something like this to get sympathy from the community and the church for financial gains and otherwise.?
According to the Star Tribune, Johanson said he had no reason to believe that the attack had been a hoax when police responded early Wednesday morning.
Johanson said his office received numerous calls from people offering their support to June and his family. “It’s been moving this week,? he said.
Neighbors and supporters in Anoka who had been planning a community prayer rally at June’s home Sunday were surprised and dissapointed to hear the news about June.

The Star Tribune:
http://www.startribune.com/crime/story/1452711.html

The Associated Press:
http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2007/09/28/crossburning/?rsssource=1

School gay rights group wins ruling

A Minnesota federal judge ruled Tuesday that a gay-straight student group at Maple Grove High School deserves the same privileges as other groups.
U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen ruled that the school had violated the federal Equal Access Act by allowing other extracurricular groups the chance to use school bulletin boards or the public address system, rights denied to the Straight and Gays for Equality (SAGE) student group.
The legal case was initiated just shy of two years ago by two former students and SAGE members who sued the Osseo School District in 2005.
The district has argued that SAGE had been denied broader communication access not because of the group’s popularity or moral judgements, but rather because its purpose and activities are unrelated to the school’s curriculum. School officials claimed to favor “curricular? groups in providing communications access.
But as Ericksen outlined in her ruling, the district’s definition of several groups as “curricular,? goes against federal law.
The Associated Press said the group was limited to posting posters only on a community bulletin board and outside their meeting places ahd was prohibited from using other forms of school communication, according to the ruling.
As of Wednesday, reports The Star Tribune, school officials had not had time to fully review Ericksen’s decision, said Lawrence Hayes, an attorney for the district. He said the district will consider all its options, including appealing the ruling.

The Star Tribune:
http://www.startribune.com/462/story/1445803.html

The Associated Press:
http://wcco.com/minnesotawire/MN--GayGroup-Lawsuit/resources_news_html

September 23, 2007

Guest rips off head of hotel’s duck

A guest at the Embassy Suites hotel in St. Paul could face jail time and a $5,000 fine for tearing the head off a tame duck early Saturday.
The 26-year-old Denver businessman is in jail on suspicion of felony animal cruelty. The Pioneer Press mentions the man’s name, Scott D. Clark, while the Star Tribune did not, following general policy to not identify suspects until they are formally charged.
About 2:30 a.m. Saturday, the man abruptly chased down and killed one of the ducks the hotel keeps in an ornamental pond inside the lobby and atrium, according to police.
The Star Tribune said that one of the hotel’s security guards saw the man corner one of the ducks and rip its head off from its body, quoting Sgt. John Wuorinen.
The man reportedly told astonished onlookers that he was hungry, with the Pioneer Press reporting that he said, “I’m hungry. I’m gonna eat it,? according to the police report.
“It sounds like there was quite a bit of alcohol involved,? Wuorinen said.
The man was detained by hotel security guards and then taken into custody by police. He spent Saturday night in the Ramsey County Jail and was scheduled to appear in court on Monday. According to the Pioneer Press, police said they were not aware of the man having any criminal record.
The Pioneer Press also reports that the man declined a request for an interview on Saturday.

Star Tribune:
http://www.startribune.com/462/story/1440073.html

Pioneer Press:
http://www.twincities.com/ci_6973749?source=most_viewed&nclick_check=1

Girl shot in head

A 12-year-old Minneapolis girl was shot in the head on Friday night in Minneapolis as she walked home from a party.
The girl was in grave condition at Hennepin County Medical Center on Saturday afternoon.
The girl, whose name was not released by police, was shot in the head at the intersection of 18th Street and Oliver Avenue North in North Minneapolis around midnight Friday.
WCCO reports that police said a group of children walked out of a nearby house party when someone fired multiple shots from down the street. One of them hit the child.
“We don’t believe that she was the intended victim,? said Lt. Dean Christiansen of the Minneapolis Police Department.
According to WCCO, among Minneapolis’ 60 homicides in 2006, 11 victims were younger than 18. Eleven juveniles were charged with homicide or related offenses. But Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan said Saturday that overall criminal activity among youths has declined.
The girl’s family didn’t want to talk about the shooting or her condition when reached Saturday afternoon, WCCO reports.
No arrests had been made by Saturday evening. Police said they have descriptions of two suspects, although no names have been released. The investigation is ongoing.

Star Tribune:
http://www.startribune.com/462/story/1440080.html

WCCO:
http://wcco.com/topstories/local_story_265092735.html

September 16, 2007

Shot fired inside Target Center

According to the Pioneer Press, “Minneapolis police are looking for a man who allegedly fired a handgun at another spectator in the Target Center stands Saturday night as thousands watched a mixed-martial arts competition.?
No one was shot or injured during the incident, which was not a random shooting.
Minneapolis police Sgt. Tammy Dietrich said the suspect, who fled the arena after the shooting, fired one round at the intended victim while the two men were fighting in the seating area. Police have the name of the suspect, and according to the Pioneer Press, officers interviewed the intended victim - a 27-year-old Minneapolis man - at the scene.
The shooting occurred about 10:45 p.m. during a break between bouts at the “World Fighting Championships - Downtown Throwdown, an event showcasing kickboxing, wrestling and martial arts.
According to the Star Tribune, “Police spokeswoman Sgt. Tammy Diedrich said it is the first shooting inside the Target Center in her 20 years on the force.?
The Pioneer Press quotes Sandy Sweetser, Target Center senior director of marketing and event services: “The event resumed after a half-hour delay, Sweetser said, and ended shortly before midnight.
Sweetser also said that off-duty Minneapolis police officers and Target Center in-house security provided security for Saturday’s event, and spectator’s bags were checked at the building’s entrance, which is a standard policy used before Timberwolves games.

Star Tribune:
http://www.startribune.com/467/story/1425999.html">http://www.startribune.com/467/story/1425999.html

Pioneer Press:
http://www.twincities.com/allheadlines/ci_6912418">http://www.twincities.com/allheadlines/ci_6912418

September 15, 2007

Minneapolis Bicyclist's Death Investigated as "Apparent Homicide"

A man killed while on a night time bike ride in south Minneapolis has been identified, according to WCCO.
Mark Loesch, 41, a Minneapolis computer specialist, was discovered around 7 a.m. Thursday not far from his home in a front yard in the 3700 block of Elliot Avenue South. According to the Star Tribune, it is not clear how long the victim was in the yard before someone found him. Officers arrived to find Loesch suffering from “severe trauma? and called for an ambulance, the Star Tribune reports.
According to WCCO, Loesch e-mailed a friend saying he’d finished putting a new tire on his bicycle after working on it before 10 p.m. Wednesday night. Then Loesch watched the late news with his wife, who went to bed afterwards. Friends think Loesch perhaps went to show off his new tire on a quick night time ride.
There have been other recent incidents of violence in the neighborhood where Loesch was found, according to WCCO. Three African-American teens suffered gunshot wounds on the same day Loesch was found.
The Star Tribune is reporting no suspects have been arrested in a case the Minneapolis Police Department’s homicide unit is investigating as an “apparent homicide.?

WCCO:
http://wcco.com/topstories/local_story_257202801.html

Star Tribune:
http://www.startribune.com/462/story/1423126.html">http://www.startribune.com/462/story/1423126