Woman sues Walmart over van fire that killed 1 daughter, seriously hurt another in Fridley

The mother of two girls who were critically injured — one of whom later died — in a vehicle fire in the parking lot of a Fridley Walmart in 2019 is now suing the store.

According to the civil lawsuit filed in federal court in June, Essie McKenzie says Walmart’s failure to monitor overnight campers in its parking lots creates a public nuisance, amounts to negligence that can create dangerous situations like the one her daughters were seriously injured in and caused the wrongful death of one of her daughters.

Fire crews were called to the Walmart just off University Avenue Northeast and 85th Avenue Northwest at around 7:13 a.m. on Aug. 6, 2019, on a report of a vehicle on fire in the parking lot. As firefighters worked to put out the flames, McKenzie ran out of the store and started screaming that her daughters were in one of the vehicles engulfed by flames.

The girls — ages 6 and 9 at the time — were pulled from the vehicle by firefighters and rushed to a hospital in critical condition. The 6-year-old died the next day, and the 9-year-old suffered permanent injuries.

Law enforcement determined that a California couple was traveling through the state in their 2005 Dodge Caravan, which they were using as a portable, temporary travel home. The night before, the couple had slept in the Caravan in the Walmart parking lot, and the next morning, used a portable cook stove to make breakfast. However, they put the stove back in the vehicle afterward before it had completely cooled off, then drove the Caravan closer to the front of the lot, parking next to McKenzie’s vehicle, and the man — Roberto Hipolito — then went into the store.

McKenzie’s lawsuit says she and her daughters had dropped off her mother and another family member at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport that morning for an early flight, then came to the Walmart to pick up some items. Her daughters were sleeping so McKenzie decided to let them continue sleeping in the vehicle while she shopped at Walmart.

About two minutes after Hipolito went inside the store, a passerby alerted Hipolito’s wife — who was in the front of the Caravan — that the vehicle had caught fire. That fire then spread to the nearby cars, including McKenzie’s while her daughters were still inside.

Hipolito pleaded guilty to negligent fire as part of a plea deal and was sentenced in August 2020 to three years of probation with a stayed four-month prison term.

In the lawsuit, McKenzie says Walmart’s policy, which allows overnight camping in its parking lots, along with its failure to monitor the camping areas and conform to state and local ordinances for camping “has created real hazards and thereby endangered the safety and health of those who shop and work in the store or live nearby.” It adds that the “unregulated, unlicensed, and unmonitored campgrounds pose a threat of illness, injury, noise, and crime to a considerable number of members of the public.”

The lawsuit also cites several state and local statutes for camping that it alleges Walmart violates by allowing campers in its lots and failing to supervise those campers. It adds that Walmart’s negligence “escalated the danger to create a foreseeable risk that Mr. Hipolito would use and store a cook stove negligently and thereby cause harm to others.”

Finally, McKenzie’s lawsuit claims that the wrongful death of her daughter, Ty’rah, came “as a direct and proximate result of (Walmart’s) wrongful acts,” as was the monetary and emotional damage suffered by McKenzie and her other daughter, Taraji.

In a statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, Walmart spokesperson Randy Hargrove said the company plans to defend itself against the claims.

“Our sympathies remain with the friends and family impacted by this tragic event three years ago. We plan to defend the company and will respond in court to the complaint as appropriate.”

Randy Hargrove, Walmart spokesperson

Key race results in Minnesota’s primary election

Minnesota’s primary election day is Tuesday.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS is watching contested Republican and Democratic party primary races for governor, secretary of state, attorney general, U.S. House, state Senate and state House.

Here’s a look at key races in the state:

Key Races
MN ATTORNEY GEN. – DFL
Last Updated: 2022-08-10 15:29:42
Precincts Reporting: 4103 of 4103 | 100.00 %
Votes
Ellison (Dem)
Keith Ellison (Dem)
378,395
89.00%
Dahn (Dem)
Bill Dahn (Dem)
45,118
11.00%
Full Results
MN ATTORNEY GEN. – GOP
Last Updated: 2022-08-10 15:29:42
Precincts Reporting: 4103 of 4103 | 100.00 %
Votes
Schultz (GOP)
Jim Schultz (GOP)
163,970
53.00%
Wardlow (GOP)
Doug Wardlow (GOP)
108,548
35.00%
Anderson (GOP)
Sharon Anderson (GOP)
39,729
13.00%
Full Results
U.S. HOUSE MN DIST. 5 – DFL
Last Updated: 2022-08-10 15:29:42
Precincts Reporting: 217 of 217 | 100.00 %
Votes
Omar (Dem)
Ilhan Omar (Dem)
57,683
50.00%
Samuels (Dem)
Don Samuels (Dem)
55,217
48.00%
Schluter (Dem)
Nate Schluter (Dem)
671
1.00%
Kern (Dem)
AJ Kern (Dem)
519
1.00%
Ross (Dem)
Albert Ross (Dem)
477
1.00%
Full Results
U.S. HOUSE MN DIST. 5 – GOP
Last Updated: 2022-08-10 15:29:42
Precincts Reporting: 217 of 217 | 100.00 %
Votes
Davis (GOP)
Cicely Davis (GOP)
4,765
48.00%
White (GOP)
Royce White (GOP)
3,689
37.00%
Gaskin (GOP)
Guy Gaskin (GOP)
1,476
15.00%
Full Results
U.S. HOUSE MN DIST. 1 – SPECIAL ELECTION
Last Updated: 2022-08-10 15:29:42
Precincts Reporting: 726 of 726 | 100.00 %
Votes
Finstad (GOP)
Brad Finstad (GOP)
59,797
51.00%
Ettinger (Dem)
Jeff Ettinger (Dem)
55,053
47.00%
Reisdorf (LMN)
Richard Reisdorf (LMN)
1,534
1.00%
McClellan (RP)
Haroun McClellan (RP)
865
1.00%
Full Results

If using the KSTP app, click here.


Follow the links below to specific results sections:


Read more about specific races via the links below:


Stay with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS and KSTP.com for complete coverage and election results.

Investigators identify gas leak as cause of fatal Hopkins house explosion

Wednesday, authorities provided an update on an investigation into a Hopkins house explosion last month that left a husband and wife dead.

According to the Hopkins Police Department, investigators have determined the home’s water heater was recently replaced and a gas line was not reattached after the installation. Investigators stated this allowed gas to leak into the home, and eventually to ignite.

Investigators say the cause of the ignition is not known, adding natural gas can be ignited by many sources, including light switches, pilot lights, or static electricity. Authorities have ruled the fire as being accidental.

Authorities were called to the 200 block of 21st Avenue North around 10:15 a.m. July 27 on a report of an explosion and house fire.

The explosion and fire occurred at and in the area of the home, and the two found dead were identified as 85-year-old Herb Vassar and 83-year-old Sharon Vassar.

4 people hurt by ‘potentially life-threatening’ gunfire from 3 separate incidents in Minneapolis

Tuesday evening, Minneapolis police are investigating multiple shootings that left people with potentially life-threatening gunshot wounds.

James and 16th Avenues North

Minneapolis officers said they responded to reports of a person shot just before 5:30 p.m. along the 1100 block of James Avenue North.

The wounded teenager, who police say is 14 years old, was found inside an apartment in the area. He had a potentially life-threatening gunshot wound, and was taken to the hospital after officers rendered aid.

Investigators say an “accidental discharge” of a firearm happened when people were gathering inside the apartment. A gun was recovered by police at the scene.

No arrests have been made, and the investigation into what happened is ongoing.

21st Street East and 15th Avenue South

Just before 6 p.m., Minneapolis police say they received reports of a shooting near the intersection of 21st Street East and 15th Avenue South.

A woman with a potentially life-threatening gunshot wound was found by police, and she was taken to the hospital after aid was rendered.

Investigators say an argument between a group of people escalated into gunfire. The argument may have involved individuals who had a former intimate relationship, police say.

Officers report that the suspect(s) were gone before they had arrived to the scene.

Bryant and 24th Avenues North

Minneapolis police responded to another report of gunfire near the intersection of Bryant and 24th Avenues North at about 7:07 p.m.

Officers report that they found two men, one in his 20s and another in his 50s, suffering from potentially life-threatening gunshot wounds. They were taken to hospital after police rendered aid.

Police say that a possible suspect was seen entering a vehicle that sped away from the scene.
The investigation is ongoing, and no one has been arrested at this point.

Child, adult rescued from Minneapolis apartment fire; nearly two dozen displaced

A three-story apartment building is now uninhabitable due to damage after an overnight fire, the Minneapolis Fire Department says.

Crews saw heavy, black smoke coming from the third floor after they responded to a call around 12:25 a.m. Wednesday for the building at 3550 Penn Ave. N.

Firefighters searched for a child, who was reported to be on the third floor, and they eventually rescued the child, as well as an adult, from a third floor apartment.

The department says neither person needed to be hospitalized. Paramedics evaluated a third resident for heart-related issues, but say they also medically cleared that adult.

No other victims or injuries were reported. Red Cross assisted approximately 20 residents, children included, fire officials say.

Authorities say they called an MTC bus for temporary shelter for displaced families.

The cause of the fire is being investigated.

The department is also investigating a second incident that happened just hours before the apartment building fire.

The other incident was at a vacant, two-story home on the 3800 block of Lyndale Avenue North around 7:50 p.m. Tuesday.

Crews say they found flames in the kitchen area, which they extinguished. No injuries were reported in that fire.

Two Harbors mayor recalled by wide margin

Christopher Swanson, the Two Harbors mayor who has been embroiled in controversy over allegations of inappropriate business behaviors, was overwhelming recalled by voters Tuesday.

In Tuesday’s primary election, one question asked Two Harbors voters, “Shall Mayor Christopher Swanson be recalled?” WDIO-TV reports that 86% of the more than 1,300 voters checked “yes.”

Swanson has been under pressure to resign for months after some residents alleged conflicts of interest with some of the mayor’s business ties. One citizen also alleged that Swanson used information he received in confidence as mayor to advance a private interest.

More than 500 people then signed a petition asking for a recall but Swanson maintained that he did nothing wrong and said he wouldn’t resign.

A memorandum from Two Harbors City Attorney Tim Costley found multiple instances of Swanson violating city codes.

Last month, State Auditor Julie Blaha released a report saying the Two Harbors City Council and Costley “acted appropriately” in looking into the mayor’s conduct and potential violations of state and city rules but saying a conflict of interest is something for city leaders to decide. Blaha’s office also recommended the city implement economic interest disclosure statements for its elected officials to prevent similar situations in the future.

Swanson was first elected in 2016 and reelected in 2020.

Per the city’s charter, City Council President Ben Redden will now take on the mayoral duties until voters choose the next mayor in a special election during the next general election.

State Rep. Thompson ousted in primary, Lee to face Peterson in November

Incumbent Minnesota state representative John Thompson will not be on the ballot this fall after losing in the August primary.

The Minnesota Secretary of State website shows Thompson lost to DFL challenger Liz Lee.

Lee received nearly 89% of the vote, while Thompson received a little over 11%.

Lee will now face Republican candidate Beverly Peterson.

MN HOUSE DIST. 67A – DFL
MN HOUSE DIST. 67A – DFL
Last Updated: 2022-08-10 15:29:42
Precincts Reporting: 11 of 11 | 100.00 %
Votes
Lee (Dem)
Liz Lee (Dem)
2,168
89.00%
Thompson (Dem)
John Thompson (Dem)
270
11.00%
Peterson
Beverly Peterson
0
0.00%
Full Results

KSTP’s complete election results

Finstad elected to finish out the late Rep. Jim Hagedorn’s term in Congress

Republican Brad Finstad will serve the remainder of the late Rep. Jim Hagedorn’s term following a victory over Democrat Jeff Ettinger on Tuesday in the 1st Congressional District special election.

According to the latest results – which show all precincts reporting – Finstad received 51% of the vote, while Ettinger brought in 47%.

Hagedorn, a Republican, died of cancer in February.

Early Wednesday morning, Finstad released the following statement regarding his win:

“I am humbled to receive the support of my fellow Southern Minnesotans to represent them in Congress. I entered this race in March because I believe it is so important to get engaged in the battle for the future of my family, your family, and our country. Our country faces extraordinary challenges, but I am confident that we can come together to overcome them and ensure that the 21st century is yet another great American century.

First, I ask everyone in our district to take time to remember the late Congressman Jim Hagedorn. Congressman Hagedorn fought tirelessly for our conservative values during his time in Washington, D.C. I am honored that voters have given me an opportunity to continue the fight for our shared values in Congress.

This election is ultimately about the future direction of our country. As your representative in Congress, I promise to fight the extreme Biden and Pelosi agenda that is devastating our families. I will work to slash inflation, get control of the border, restore American energy independence, and put our families first. You have my commitment that I will bring our Southern Minnesota values to Washington, D.C. and work hard for you every single day.

Most importantly I want to thank my wife, Jackie, our seven children, and our extended families for their steadfast support during this campaign. I could not have done this without them and I am so blessed to have their love and support.”

Brad Finstad
U.S. HOUSE MN DIST. 1 – SPECIAL ELECTION
U.S. HOUSE MN DIST. 1 – SPECIAL ELECTION
Last Updated: 2022-08-10 15:29:42
Precincts Reporting: 726 of 726 | 100.00 %
Votes
Finstad (GOP)
Brad Finstad (GOP)
59,797
51.00%
Ettinger (Dem)
Jeff Ettinger (Dem)
55,053
47.00%
Reisdorf (LMN)
Richard Reisdorf (LMN)
1,534
1.00%
McClellan (RP)
Haroun McClellan (RP)
865
1.00%
Full Results

Voters simultaneously cast ballots for the regularly scheduled primary election and chose a November rematch between Finstad and Ettinger to decide who will represent the newly redrawn 1st Congressional District for a full term.

U.S. HOUSE MN DIST. 1
U.S. HOUSE MN DIST. 1 – DFL
Last Updated: 2022-08-10 15:29:41
Precincts Reporting: 749 of 749 | 100.00 %
Votes
Ettinger (Dem)
Jeff Ettinger (Dem)
51,436
92.00%
Rainwater (Dem)
James Rainwater (Dem)
3,116
6.00%
Kalberer (Dem)
George Kalberer (Dem)
1,266
2.00%
Full Results
U.S. HOUSE MN DIST. 1 – GOP
Last Updated: 2022-08-10 15:29:42
Precincts Reporting: 749 of 749 | 100.00 %
Votes
Finstad (GOP)
Brad Finstad (GOP)
48,299
76.00%
Munson (GOP)
Jeremy Munson (GOP)
15,212
24.00%
Full Results
U.S. HOUSE MN DIST. 1 – LMN
Last Updated: 2022-08-08 10:57:51
Precincts Reporting: 0 of 749 | 0.00 %
Votes
Abrahamson (LMN)
Brian Abrahamson (LMN)
0
0.00%
Reisdorf (LMN)
Richard Reisdorf (LMN)
0
0.00%
Full Results

Samuels concedes, Omar will run for 3rd term in US House

Rep. Ilhan Omar survived a tight primary challenge Tuesday in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, defeating challenger Don Samuels.

Samuels conceded the race while down almost 2,800 votes with 97% of precincts reporting.

Omar will run for a third term in Congress after winning the primary by a 3-point margin. She will face off against the winner of the Republican primary.

The Associated Press projected Cicely Davis as the Republican 5th Congressional District nominee. She won 48% of the vote with 98% of precincts reporting.

U.S. HOUSE MN DIST. 5
U.S. HOUSE MN DIST. 5 – DFL
Last Updated: 2022-08-10 15:29:42
Precincts Reporting: 217 of 217 | 100.00 %
Votes
Omar (Dem)
Ilhan Omar (Dem)
57,683
50.00%
Samuels (Dem)
Don Samuels (Dem)
55,217
48.00%
Schluter (Dem)
Nate Schluter (Dem)
671
1.00%
Kern (Dem)
AJ Kern (Dem)
519
1.00%
Ross (Dem)
Albert Ross (Dem)
477
1.00%
Full Results
U.S. HOUSE MN DIST. 5 – GOP
Last Updated: 2022-08-10 15:29:42
Precincts Reporting: 217 of 217 | 100.00 %
Votes
Davis (GOP)
Cicely Davis (GOP)
4,765
48.00%
White (GOP)
Royce White (GOP)
3,689
37.00%
Gaskin (GOP)
Guy Gaskin (GOP)
1,476
15.00%
Full Results

View full election results here.

Stay with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS and KSTP.com for updates on this developing news. Refresh your page to make sure you are seeing the most current information.

Ellison, Schultz to square off in general election

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has advanced to the November election after defeating DFL challenger Bill Dahn in the August primary.

With all precincts reporting, Ellison was shown to have 89.35% of the vote, while Dahn received 10.65% of the vote.

Meanwhile, Republican candidate Jim Schultz led the three-way race on the other side of the ballot.

Schultz received 52.51% of the vote, with Doug Wardlow coming in second at 34.77%.

Sharon Anderson came in third with 12.72%.

Attorney General Race
MN ATTORNEY GEN. – DFL
Last Updated: 2022-08-10 15:29:42
Precincts Reporting: 4103 of 4103 | 100.00 %
Votes
Ellison (Dem)
Keith Ellison (Dem)
378,395
89.00%
Dahn (Dem)
Bill Dahn (Dem)
45,118
11.00%
Full Results
MN ATTORNEY GEN. – GOP
Last Updated: 2022-08-10 15:29:42
Precincts Reporting: 4103 of 4103 | 100.00 %
Votes
Schultz (GOP)
Jim Schultz (GOP)
163,970
53.00%
Wardlow (GOP)
Doug Wardlow (GOP)
108,548
35.00%
Anderson (GOP)
Sharon Anderson (GOP)
39,729
13.00%
Full Results

Editor’s Note: This article previously included an image of Keith Ellison and Doug Wardlow. The image has since been corrected to show Ellison and Jim Schultz.

Walz, Jensen set to square off in Minnesota gubernatorial election

DFL Gov. Tim Walz and Republican former Sen. Scott Jensen were projected to lock in their nominations for Minnesota governor following Tuesday’s primary election.

Each candidate had more than 90% of their parties’ vote with just over 20% of precincts reporting statewide when the Associated Press projected the result.

Walz, the incumbent, is seeking to secure a second term as Minnesota’s governor alongside Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, while Jensen is looking to become the state’s first Republican governor since Tim Pawlenty’s second term expired in 2011. Jensen has chosen former Minnesota Viking Matt Birk as his running mate.

RELATED: Walz, Jensen tangle on budget surplus, public safety during first debate

Jensen rose to prominence in the GOP through his criticism of Walz’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and has harped on Minnesota’s rise in violent crime through Walz’s tenure.

Meanwhile, Walz’s campaign has called Jensen’s position on abortion “extreme” and has raised fears that his opponent would chip away at abortion access in Minnesota.

Gubernatorial Race
MN GOVERNOR – DFL
Last Updated: 2022-08-10 15:29:42
Precincts Reporting: 4103 of 4103 | 100.00 %
Votes
Walz (Dem)
Tim Walz (Dem)
416,963
97.00%
Savior (Dem)
Ole Savior (Dem)
14,983
3.00%
Full Results
MN GOVERNOR – GOP
Last Updated: 2022-08-10 15:29:42
Precincts Reporting: 4103 of 4103 | 100.00 %
Votes
Jensen (GOP)
Scott Jensen (GOP)
288,542
89.00%
Lacey (GOP)
Joyce Lacey (GOP)
21,309
7.00%
Carney (GOP)
Bob Carney (GOP)
13,214
4.00%
Full Results
MN GOVERNOR – GLC
Last Updated: 2022-08-10 15:29:42
Precincts Reporting: 4103 of 4103 | 100.00 %
Votes
Patterson (GLC)
Steve Patterson (GLC)
1,003
59.00%
Paulsen (GLC)
Darrell Paulsen (GLC)
693
41.00%
Full Results
MN GOVERNOR – LMN
Last Updated: 2022-08-10 15:29:42
Precincts Reporting: 4103 of 4103 | 100.00 %
Votes
McCaskel (LMN)
James McCaskel (LMN)
1,461
52.00%
Wright (LMN)
Chris Wright (LMN)
1,356
48.00%
Full Results

View complete 2022 primary election results

Moriarty leads crowded field in Hennepin Co. attorney primary, Witt leads Sheriff’s race

UPDATE: With 100% of precincts reporting, former public defender Mary Moriarty took home the most votes in the Hennepin County Attorney race with 36.4% of the vote.

Former Judge Martha Holton Dimick finished with a 2,744-vote lead over House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler for the second slot on the general election ballot.

Mike Freeman announced last year he would not seek re-election after running the office for 23 years.

Meanwhile, in the race for Hennepin County Sheriff, Dawanna Witt took a commanding 57% of the vote.

Joseph Banks filled out the second spot on the ballot with 22% of the vote, beating third-place vote-getter Jai Hanson by 3,142 votes.

Whoever wins the sheriff race will replace Dave Hutchinson, who announced earlier this year that he wouldn’t run for re-election after he was involved in a drunk driving crash.

View the full election results here.


The crowded field of candidates vying to be the next top prosecutor in Hennepin County will soon be whittled down to the top two.

It is the first time in decades that there’s been a competitive race to become the next county attorney in the state’s largest county. Mike Freeman announced last year he would not seek re-election after running the office for 23 years.

The race is gaining national attention because it comes with a renewed focus on public safety as communities worry about shootings, carjackings, and other violent crimes.

The seven candidates are Paul Ostrow, Mary Moriarty, Saraswati Singh, Martha Holton Dimick, Jarvis Jones, Ryan Winkler, and Tad Jude. The pool of candidates offers a range of experience, from the former chief public defender in the county to the current state house majority leader, to former judges and private attorneys.

“There’s no doubt that there will be significant changes in the office once Mike leaves,” retired Hennepin County Judge Kevin Burke said.

“There’ll be a new chief deputy; there will likely be new chief deputies in the criminal division, civil division, juvenile division,” he said. “So you’re going to see, much like the Vikings, you bring in a new coach, or bring in new coaches, you bring in a new philosophy about how the office ought to run and I think that’s what the public can expect.”

The incoming county attorney will arrive at a critical time. Shootings and carjackings have people in the Twin Cities on edge.

Plus, MPD is currently in the middle of negotiations with the Department of Human Rights that found a pattern of race discrimination.

As 5 INVESTIGATES reported earlier this year, the county attorney’s office also found itself entangled in the damning report. Investigators called the current policy of tracking officer credibility as a “systemic failure.”

“You’ve got to change that,” Burke said. “You can’t end up saying, well, we don’t know. That’s just not going to work.”

The top two candidates with the most votes on primary night will advance to the general election ballot in November.

Lower prices offer Americans slight reprieve from inflation

WASHINGTON (AP) — Falling prices for gas, airline tickets and clothes gave Americans a little bit of relief last month, though overall inflation is still running at close to its highest level in four decades.

Consumer prices jumped 8.5% in July compared with a year earlier, the government said Wednesday, down from a 9.1% year-over-year increase in June. On a monthly basis, prices were unchanged from June to July, the first time that has happened after 25 months of increases.

The report offered welcome news for congressional Democrats and President Joe Biden heading into the midterm elections. Biden highlighted the flat monthly inflation figure.

“I just want to say a number: zero,” he told reporters. “Today we received news that our economy had zero percent inflation in the month of July.”

Republicans, who have made inflation a top campaign issue, stressed that prices are still painfully high. Texas GOP Rep. Kevin Brady highlighted grocery costs and said Americans “continue to struggle under President Biden’s cruel economy, with shrinking paychecks, a shrinking economy and a shrinking workforce.”

The reprieve offered no certainty that prices would stay on the decline. Inflation has slowed in the recent past only to re-accelerate in subsequent months. And even if price increases continue to weaken, they are a long way from the Fed’s 2% annual target.

“There’s good reason to think inflation will continue to slow,” said Michael Pugliese, an economist at Wells Fargo. “What I think gets lost in that discussion is, slow by how much?”

Even if it were to fall to 4% — less than half its current level — Pugliese suggested that the Federal Reserve would need to keep raising interest rates or at least keep them high.

Much of the relief last month was felt by travelers: Hotel room costs fell 2.7% from June to July, airfares nearly 8% and rental car prices a whopping 9.5%. Those price drops followed steep increases in the past year after COVID-19 cases eased and travel rebounded. Airfares are still nearly 30% higher than they were a year ago.

Gas prices dropped from $5 a gallon, on average, in mid-June to $4.20 by the end of last month, and were just $4.01 on Wednesday, according to AAA. Oil prices have also fallen, and cheaper gas will likely pull down inflation this month as well, economists said.

Last month’s declines in travel-related prices helped lower core inflation, a measure that excludes the volatile food and energy categories and provides a clearer picture of underlying price trends. Core prices rose just 0.3% from June, the smallest month-to-month increase since March. Compared with a year ago, core inflation amounted to 5.9% in July, the same year-over-year increase as in June.

All told, the July figures raised hope that inflation may have peaked after more than a year of relentless increases that have strained household finances, soured Americans on the economy, led the Federal Reserve to raise borrowing rates aggressively and diminished President Joe Biden’s public approval ratings.

Americans are still absorbing bigger price increases than they have in decades. Grocery prices jumped 1.1% in July and are 13% higher than a year ago, the largest year-over-year increase since 1979. Bread prices leaped 2.8% last month, the most in more than two years. Rental and medical care costs rose, though slightly less than in previous months.

A strong job market and healthy wage increases have encouraged more Americans to move out on their own, reducing the number of available apartments and pushing up rental costs. Wall Street purchases of homes and trailer parks have also lifted monthly payments.

Average paychecks are rising faster than they have in decades, but not fast enough to keep up with inflation. As a result, some retirees have felt the need in recent months to return to the workforce.

Among them is Charla Bulich, who lives in San Leandro, California. For the past six months Bulich, 73, has worked a few hours a week caring for an elderly woman because her Social Security and food stamps don’t cover her rising costs.

“I go over my budget all the time — that’s why I had to go get a job,” Bulich said. “I wouldn’t even think about buying hamburger meat or a steak or something like that.”

Now she worries that she will lose her food stamps in the coming months because of her extra income.

Michael Altfest, director of community engagement at the Alameda County Community Food Bank in Oakland, said his organization now provides about 4.5 million pounds of food a month, up from below 4 million in January. The group has also budgeted for a 66% increase in fuel costs. That’s mostly because of higher gas prices but also because it’s now using more trucks to keep up with the demand for food.

Altfest’s own rent recently jumped 14%, he said, forcing him to recalibrate his budget.

“All these costs are going up, all at once,” he said. “The people here were stretched already.”

Last month’s modest slowdown in inflation might enable the Fed to slow the pace of its increases in short-term rates when it meets in late September — a possibility that sent stock prices jumping. How quickly and how far the Fed raises borrowing costs has significant effects on the economy: Sharper hikes tend to reduce consumer and business borrowing and spending and make a recession more likely.

If the Fed doesn’t have to raise rates as high to restrain prices, it has a better chance of engineering an elusive “soft landing,” whereby growth slows enough to curb high inflation but not so much as to cause a recession.

Still, Fed Chair Jerome Powell has emphasized that the central bank needs to see a series of lower readings on core inflation before it will pause rate hikes. The Fed has boosted its short term rate by 2.25 percentage points in the past four meetings, the fastest series of increases since the early 1980s.

Biden has pointed to declining gas prices as a sign that his policies — including large releases from the nation’s strategic oil reserve — are helping lessen the higher costs that have hurt household finances, particularly for lower-income Americans and Black and Hispanic households.

There are other signs that inflation may fade in coming months. Americans’ expectations for future inflation have fallen, according to a survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, likely reflecting the drop in gas prices that is highly visible to most consumers.

Inflation expectations can be self-fulfilling: If people believe inflation will stay high or worsen, they’re likely to take steps — such as demanding higher pay — that can send prices higher in a self-perpetuating cycle.

Companies then often raise prices to offset higher their higher labor costs. But the New York Fed survey found that Americans’ foresee lower inflation one, three and five years from now than they did a month ago.

Supply chain snarls are also loosening, with fewer ships moored off Southern California ports and shipping costs declining. Prices for commodities like corn, wheat and copper have fallen steeply.

Stubborn inflation isn’t just a U.S. phenomenon. Prices have jumped in the United Kingdom, Europe and in less developed nations such as Argentina.

In the U.K., inflation soared 9.4% in June from a year earlier, a four-decade high. In the 19 countries that use the euro currency, it reached 8.9% in June compared with a year earlier, the highest since record-keeping for the euro began.

___

Associated Press Writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Freeborn Co. Sheriff’s Office searching for suspect of fatal Albert Lea shooting

Authorities say they are searching for a man suspected of killing another man Tuesday afternoon.

According to the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office, deputies were called to the 75000 block of 160th Street in Albert Lea shortly before 3:30 p.m. for a report of a man who had been shot.

When deputies arrived, they found the man was being given aid but he died soon after.

Wednesday morning, authorities identified the victim as 45-year-old Juan Vasquez Jr. of Albert Lea.

Although the investigation is still ongoing, authorities have identified the suspect as 32-year-old Ben Vidal Moreno.

The sheriff’s office believes Vidal Moreno and Vasquez previously knew each other and “had issues between themselves.”

Authorities say Vasquez and another man arrived at the address in an SUV and Moreno was already there. After a while, Vasquez and the other male began to leave the home in their SUV and, while turning from the driveway to head west on 160th Street, their vehicle was hit with multiple rounds of gunfire.

That’s when authorities say Vasquez got out and walked back to the house, and the driver heard another shot. The driver got back into the vehicle and left and was contacted by law enforcement soon after the shooting happened.

Authorities say Moreno drove away after the shooting in a four-door, 2004 Ford F-150 with a Minnesota license plate of EUZ057. The vehicle’s color wasn’t immediately provided.

Anyone who sees Moreno or a vehicle matching that description is being asked to call 911 or the Freeborn County Law Enforcement Center at 507-377-5200.

As of this time, the sheriff’s office says it doesn’t believe there is a threat to the public but citizens shouldn’t approach Moreno or the vehicle.

FEMA funds now available for areas damaged by late May storms

Federal emergency money is now available to a large portion of Minnesota following severe weather in late May.

Tuesday, President Joe Biden signed a declaration that allows federal emergency money to be distributed to state, tribal and municipal recovery efforts, as well as certain private nonprofit organizations.

Wednesday morning, FEMA announced the money was available, saying it is available on a cost-sharing basis.

The money can be used for emergency work, as well as the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the weather, which happened on the Sunday and Monday of Memorial Day weekend.

As previously reported, multiple warnings were issued across the state as tornadoes touched down.

The National Weather Service gave the Forada tornado an EF-2 classification, meaning wind speeds of up to 120 mph were possible.

Meanwhile, the NWS designated the Plato and Eagle Bend tornadoes as EF-1.

The counties eligible for funds include:

  • Aitkin
  • Big Stone
  • Cass
  • Chippewa
  • Crow Wing
  • Douglas
  • Grant
  • Itasca
  • Kanabec
  • Kandiyohi
  • Lac qui Parle
  • Lyon
  • Nobles
  • Pine
  • Pope
  • Renville
  • Rock
  • Stevens
  • Swift
  • Todd
  • Traverse
  • Wadena
  • Yellow Medicine

Teen seriously hurt from ‘accidental’ shooting in Minneapolis

Police are investigating a shooting that left a teen with a potentially life-threatening gunshot wound Tuesday evening.

Minneapolis officers said they responded to reports of a person shot just before 5:30 p.m. in the 1100 Block of James Avenue North.

The wounded boy, who police say is 14 years old, was found inside an apartment in the area. Officers aided the boy until medics could take him to the hospital.

Investigators say an “accidental discharge” of a firearm happened when people were gathering inside the apartment. A gun was recovered by police at the scene.

No arrests have been made, and the investigation into what happened is ongoing.

Simon, Crockett advance following Secretary of State primary

Incumbent Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon will once again be on the ballot in November after being challenged by Steve Carlson.

With 100% of all precincts reporting, Simon, a DFL candidate, received 72.52% of the vote, or 285,397 ballots. Carlson received 108,123, or 27.48%.

On the republican side of the ballot, Kim Crockett received 190,156 votes, or 63.15%. Her challenger, Erik van Mechelen, received 110,943 votes, equaling 36.85%.

Secretary of State Race
MN SEC. OF STATE – DFL
Last Updated: 2022-08-10 15:29:42
Precincts Reporting: 4103 of 4103 | 100.00 %
Votes
Simon (Dem)
Steve Simon (Dem)
285,329
73.00%
Carlson (Dem)
Steve Carlson (Dem)
108,163
27.00%
Full Results
MN SEC. OF STATE – GOP
Last Updated: 2022-08-10 15:29:42
Precincts Reporting: 4103 of 4103 | 100.00 %
Votes
Crockett (GOP)
Kim Crockett (GOP)
190,176
63.00%
van Mechelen (GOP)
Erik van Mechelen (GOP)
110,965
37.00%
Full Results

Michels wins Wisconsin GOP governor primary, will face Evers

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Tim Michels, a wealthy businessman endorsed by former President Donald Trump, won the Republican primary for Wisconsin governor on Tuesday and will face Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in a contest that could reshape elections in the marquee battleground.

Michels defeated former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who was endorsed by former Vice President Mike Pence and had backing from establishment Republicans, including ex-Gov. Scott Walker.

In his victory speech, Michels promised to focus on jobs and the economy and said he would stand up for people who “have been left behind by the Democratic Party that just wants to focus on the social issues.”

“As governor, my number one priority is to take care of the hardworking people of Wisconsin,” Michels said.

Evers’ campaign called Michels “the most extreme and divisive nominee possible, one that will tell Donald Trump anything just to keep his endorsement.”

Both Michels and Kleefisch falsely claimed the 2020 presidential election was rigged, a lie Trump has pushed in an effort to overturn his loss to Joe Biden. Federal and state election officials and Trump’s own attorney general have said there is no credible evidence the election was tainted. The former president’s allegations of fraud were also roundly rejected by courts, including by judges Trump appointed.

Michels said decertifying the results of the 2020 contest was not a priority but said “everything will be on the table.” He supports other changes to voting and elections, including dismantling the bipartisan commission that runs Wisconsin elections.

The governor’s race was the latest proxy war between Trump and Pence, one-time partners who have backed opposing candidates in other swing states as they try to push the GOP in different directions. The results Tuesday added to Trump’s record of wins, following victories for his preferred candidates last week in closely watched races for governor and Senate in Arizona.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who supported Trump’s second impeachment, conceded defeat in her Washington state congressional district after being overtaken in late vote tallies by a GOP challenger endorsed by the former president. And in next Tuesday’s slate of contests, Rep. Liz Cheney, who also backed Trump’s impeachment and is the vice chair of the House panel probing his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection, faces a challenging primary race.

Those developments, combined with the rush of support from Republicans after the FBI executed a search warrant at Trump’s Florida estate on Monday, were fresh reminders of the former president’s enduring grip on the GOP.

Back in Wisconsin, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes won the Democratic nomination to face Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, one of Trump’s most vocal supporters. The matchup is among the last to be set before the November general election, when control of the currently 50-50 split Senate is up for grabs, and Democrats see Wisconsin as one of their best opportunities to flip a seat.

Wisconsin’s most powerful Republican, state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, held off a Trump-backed challenger. Trump endorsed Adam Steen after Vos rejected the former president’s pressure to decertify the 2020 results. Vos said his victory showed “you don’t have to be a lapdog to whatever Donald Trump says.”

Tuesday’s outcomes have far-reaching consequences beyond Wisconsin, a state that is almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats and where 2022 will be seen as a bellwether for the 2024 presidential race. The person elected governor this fall will be in office for the presidential election and will be able to sign or veto changes to election laws passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature. The next governor and U.S. senator also may sway decisions on issues from abortion to education and taxes.

“We’re a 50-50 state and so every race in Wisconsin, just by definition, is going to be decided by a few percentage points one way or another,” said former Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat. “And those few percentage points in Wisconsin may well determine what the course of the nation is in the coming years.”

Elsewhere Tuesday, a Trump-backed candidate won the GOP primary for Senate in Connecticut, a state that’s long been home to the Republican establishment. Republican National Committee member Leora Levy, whom Trump endorsed last week, will face two-term Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal after she defeated former state House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, who had support from the state party.

Voters in Vermont — the only state to never have a woman in its congressional delegation — chose a woman, Becca Balint, as the Democratic nominee for the state’s lone House seat. She is favored in the race to replace Rep. Peter Welch, who won the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat long held by Patrick Leahy, who is retiring. And Minnesota Republicans chose Dr. Scott Jensen, a COVID-19 vaccine skeptic endorsed by the state GOP, to face Gov. Tim Walz.

But the most-watched races were in Wisconsin, where Trump has kept up his pressure campaign to cancel Biden’s 2020 victory. Biden won the state by nearly 21,000 votes, four years after Trump narrowly won the state by roughly the same margin. The 2020 outcome has been upheld in two partial recounts, a nonpartisan audit, a review by a conservative law firm and multiple lawsuits.

Evers has made voting and elections a focus of his own campaign, telling voters he’s the only candidate who will defend democracy and “we are that close to not having our vote count in the state of Wisconsin.”

Both Michels and Kleefisch said overturning the 2020 election results was not a priority. But they said they would dismantle the bipartisan commission that runs Wisconsin elections and would support prohibitions on voters having someone else turn in their absentee ballots, as well as ballot drop boxes located anywhere other than staffed clerk offices.

Michels is co-owner of Wisconsin’s largest construction company and has touted his work to build his family’s business. He lost the 2004 Senate race to Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, and has been a major donor to GOP politicians.

At a rally on Friday, Trump praised Michels as an “incredible success story.” He criticized Kleefisch as part of the “failed establishment” and also took aim at Vos. He told supporters that Michels was the better choice to defeat Evers.

Michels pledged that “we are going to have election integrity here in Wisconsin.” He also said he will bring “law and order” back to Wisconsin, criticized Evers’ handling of schools and blamed Biden for rising prices.

GOP state Rep. Tim Ramthun also made a long-shot bid for governor.

In her concession speech, Kleefisch said, “The fight now is truly against Tony Evers and the liberals who want to take away our way of life.”

Barnes, in his victory speech in Milwaukee, emphasized his middle-class background and upbringing while casting Johnson as “self-serving” and “an out-of-touch politician” who cares only about special interests and wealthy donors.

“It is time for a change, everybody,” said Barnes, who would be Wisconsin’s first Black senator if elected. “It’s time for us to be represented by somebody who shares our experiences.”

Johnson called Barnes the “most radical left candidate” Democrats could have chosen.

“This is a contest between radical left socialism versus freedom and prosperity,” he said.

___

Burnett reported from Chicago. Reporter Gretchen Ehlke contributed from Thiensville, Wis.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Takeaways: Trump tightens grip on GOP, narrow Squad victory

WASHINGTON (AP) — After an uneven start, Donald Trump’s election-year tour of revenge succeeded in ousting Republican members of Congress, boosting Trump-backed “America First” candidates who beat back the establishment and strengthening his grip on the party.Meanwhile, Ron Johnson, the most vulnerable Republican senator up for reelection, will take on Wisconsin’s Democratic lieutenant governor in November in one of this year’s most closely watched Senate contests.And a member of the Squad of progressive lawmakers survived a tough primary challenge from a Democratic rival running on a pro-police platform, while voters in Vermont are poised to send a woman to Congress for the first time in the state’s 231-year history.Takeaways from election results Tuesday night:TRUMP’S GRIPAs the midterm primary season reaches its final contests, Trump’s grip on the Republican Party is strengthening.In the spring and early summer, his endorsement record, a metric he touts as testament to his enduring popularity, was uneven. In Georgia, a fixation of Trump’s after top Republican officials rejected his entreaties to overturn the 2020 election, most of the former president’s hand-picked candidates were defeated at the ballot box.But as the season ground on, his enduring sway is apparent.Consider the following.Trump opened August with his slate of vehement election-deniers beating establishment-backed candidates in Arizona.By the time the race reached Wisconsin on Tuesday, Tim Michels, a wealthy Trump-backed businessman, won the Republican primary for Wisconsin governor. He defeated former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, an establishment backed candidate.And in Connecticut on Tuesday, Leora Levy surged to an unexpected victory over a more moderate rival in a liberal-leaning state that has historically drawn moderate GOP candidates. On Monday, just hours after the FBI searched his Florida estate, Trump held a tele-town hall rally for her. Another rival credited his late endorsement for her win.Meanwhile, most of the 10 Republican members of Congress who voted to impeach him have either retired or lost. That includes Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer who lost his race last week along with Washington State Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who conceded on Tuesday. Rep. Liz Cheney, the vice chair of the House Jan. 6 committee investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, will be on the Wyoming ballot next week and is widely expected to lose.Those developments, combined with the rush of support from Republicans after the FBI executed a search warrant at Trump’s Florida estate on Monday, were clear reminders of Trump looming presence.___SQUAD VICTORYMinnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar’s detractors spent heavily to oust the divisive lawmaker and member of the progressive Squad.They failed. Again.Omar narrowly defeated her centrist challenger, former Minneapolis City Councilmember Don Samuels, all but guaranteeing her victory in November in an overwhelmingly Democratic district centered around Minneapolis. It was the second time a well-financed group had mobilized unsuccessfully against her.Almost since her arrival in Congress, Omar has attracted bipartisan criticism. First, she drew condemnation after suggesting in 2019 that Israel’s supporters were pushing U.S. lawmakers to take a pledge of “allegiance to a foreign country” and claiming congressional support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins, baby,” which many saw as an antisemitic trope about Jews buying influence.That drew a $2.5 million negative advertising blitz, which was financed by the pro-Israel lobby, attacking her ahead of the 2020 election.This year, pro-police groups as well as a mysterious super PAC spent over $750,000 criticizing Omar and backing Samuels. His north Minneapolis base suffers from more violent crime than other parts of the city, and he helped organize a campaign to stop sharp cuts in police funding pushed by progressive activists, including Omar, following the killing of George Floyd by police.Other members of the Squad — Reps. Cori Bush of Missouri and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — had easier victories last week.TOUGH FIGHT IN WISCONSIN SENATE RACEIf you take his word for it, Johnson shouldn’t be running. The Wisconsin Republican had pledged to step down after two terms, only to reverse himself this year.Now, after coasting to victory in his primary Tuesday, Johnson’s reward will be a hard-fought campaign against Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes that could determine the balance of power in the narrowly divided U.S. Senate. It’s also certain to saturate the airwaves as millions of political advertising dollars flood the state.It will be the first time Johnson won’t be running against former Sen. Russ Feingold, the Democrat he ousted from office and defeated again six years later. He’s also the only Republican senator up for reelection in a state Joe Biden won in 2020.The matchup offers a study in contrasts. Johnson, 67, is a multimillionaire businessman whose father was a corporate treasurer. At 35, Barnes is close to half his age and the product of a working-class Milwaukee family. He would be the first Black senator from Wisconsin if elected.Johnson has the former president’s backing. He has also been a major ally.After the 2020 election, an aide to Johnson told then-Vice President Mike Pence’s staff in a text message that he wanted to hand-deliver to Pence fake elector votes from his state and neighboring Michigan. Pence’s staff rebuffed their request.Johnson also met with Wisconsin lawmakers in 2021 and talked about dismantling the state’s bipartisan elections commission and having the GOP-controlled Legislature take over presidential and federal elections.VERMONT’S GLASS CEILINGVermont has been represented in Congress by white men ever since it became the 14th state to join the union in 1791.That’s poised to change after state Senate leader Becca Balint advanced from Tuesday’s Democratic primary to face Republican Liam Madden in a general election contest that will determine who will be Vermont’s next representative in the U.S. House.Vermont is a liberal-leaning state and a Republican last won the seat in 1988, making Balint the overwhelming favorite in November. If she wins, Balint will not only be the first woman to represent Vermont in Congress, but the first openly gay person, too.It may seem unusual that such a liberal-leaning state has not elected a woman to Congress. But there hasn’t been much opportunity. As the second-least populated state, Vermont gets to send only one representative to the U.S. House.Current Democratic Rep. Peter Welch has held the seat for the past 15 years, giving it up to run for the Senate. Current U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders had it the 15 years before that. And Republican Jim Jeffords also held the seat for 15 years before he was elected to the Senate.Although the pace of turnover has moved at glacier speed, there is an upside for Balint: The seat offers a reliable springboard to the U.S. Senate. Sanders’ term is up in 2024. So far, the 80-year-old has not said whether he intends to run again.Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

State Fair police seek more officers for ‘Great Minnesota Get-Together’

The Minnesota State Fair expects total attendance to be more than 2 million visitors, but the fair is projected to have less than half the police officers it wants present.

In a letter to the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office obtained by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, State Fair Police Chief Ron Knafla acknowledged he has 99 sworn officers right now and a hiring goal of 200 officers for the State Fair will probably come up a “bit shy” of that amount.

In the letter Knafla sent last week, he wrote, “Please accept this letter as an official request for assistance from the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office to support our efforts to ensure the health and safety of the State Fair attendees.”

Ramsey County Sheriff’s Deputy Alex Graham told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the sheriff’s office would step up and help the State Fair Police Department get as close to that number of 200 sworn officers as possible, along with help from the Minnesota State Patrol.

“The sheriff’s office is going to dedicate 40 deputies a day it sounds like right now, with 30 state troopers on the gates,” Graham said. “So, we’re hoping to bring that to 170 officers a day with the emergency aid we’re going to provide to them.”

The State Fair starts on Aug. 25 and ends on Labor Day, Sept. 5.