2021 in review: Top Minnesota news January-July

A second year into a global pandemic, 2021 brought with it the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, protests at the U.S. and state capitol buildings, high-profile trials and the tentative return of some beloved events. As 2021 draws to a close, here is a look at the top news that made headlines throughout the year.


At the beginning of the year, a little boy with a big heart helped another child in need with a simple donation to Can Do Canines. Simon Teece said, of the $100 he donated: "I thought it was way too much to keep and I knew it would just be better to give it to a charity."

Former Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis President Lt. Bob Kroll announced his plan to retire at the end of January.

A Good Samaritan who helped a Minnesota state trooper received a gift of thanks for his efforts. Bethany Danner, president of Backing the Blue Line, said about the help: "A trooper’s life was on the line that night and we are so thankful Mr. (Vincent) Williams stopped to help the trooper. The fact Mr. Williams did something to help the trooper really, really affected us deeply, truly."

A Wisconsin prosecutor announced he would not file criminal charges against a police officer who shot Jacob Blake in the back in Kenosha during the summer of 2020, leaving him paralyzed and setting off sometimes violent protests in the city.

Angry supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol in a chaotic protest aimed at thwarting a peaceful transfer of power. They forced lawmakers to be rushed from the building and interrupted challenges to current-President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. Leaders around the world condemned the storming of the U.S. Capitol. "What’s happening today is obviously just a shocking departure from the way we do things in America," University of Minnesota Political Science Professor Larry Jacobs said at the time. Gov. Tim Walz said he planned to issue an executive order to mobilize the National Guard to provide security assistance at the State Capitol.

On Jan. 20, fireworks lit up the sky behind the Washington Monument to mark the end of Inauguration Day for President Joe Biden.


In February, a Minnesota man who made some money as the price of GameStop shares jumped decided to share the wealth with a local hospital. Hunter Kahn sold his shares and bought games for Children’s Minnesota, saying he hoped his good deed would spread some cheer to patients at the hospital.

Gov. Tim Walz ordered all flags at state and federal buildings in Minnesota to be flown at half-staff in honor of the victims of the Buffalo health clinic shooting. One person — Lindsay Overbay — was killed in the shooting at Allina Clinic Crossroads and four others were injured.

A unique tiny home shelter space opened in February in a massive North Loop warehouse in Minneapolis. The $2 million project was built in just four months.

Brrr! Minnesotans watched as Navy divers tested their new equipment in Ferrell Lake at Camp Ripley.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by KSTP (@kstptv)


The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was charged with murder and manslaughter in connection to George Floyd’s death, began.

Gov. Tim Walz signed a proclamation marking March 9 as "Nic Zapko Day" in honor of the American Sign Language interpreter’s work to help keep the public informed during his press conferences throughout the pandemic.

The city of Minneapolis on Friday agreed to pay $27 million to settle a civil lawsuit from George Floyd’s family over his death in police custody.

After playing the entire 2020 MLB season without fans, the Minnesota Twins announced there would be an in-person audience in 2021.

A Minnesota elementary school teacher who quickly stole the hearts of millions of Americans on "The Bachelor" was announced as "The Bachelorette." Edina resident Michelle Young was named "The Bachelorette" for season 18.

Ozlem Tureci, who founded the German company BioNTech with her husband Ugur Sahin, said people can rest assured the COVID-19 shots are safe, and the technology behind it will soon be used to fight another global scourge — cancer.

Walz announced all Minnesotans 16 years of age and older would be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations beginning by the end of the month.


After a problem in the kitchen at Lotus Restaurant, Minneapolis police officer Tim Baskin stepped in uniform to help take three orders. The owner of the restaurant posted a picture of Baskin helping on Facebook and the photo went viral.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension identified the officer who shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center as Kimberly Potter. Later in the month, Potter was charged with second-degree manslaughter.

Native Minnesotan and former Vice President Walter Mondale died at the age of 93, according to a statement from his family.

The jury in the Derek Chauvin trial found the former officer guilty of second-degree murder, guilty of third-degree murder and guilty of second-degree manslaughter.


The family of Aniya Allen said the 6-year-old girl suffered a gunshot wound to the head while riding in a vehicle and ultimately died. Aniya was the third child shot in the city in a little more than two weeks, prompting community leaders to gather and issue pleas to residents, saying the violence needs to stop. Her case remains unsolved as of the end of 2021.

Gov. Tim Walz lifted the state’s mask mandate in the middle of the month. However, some places chose to keep the requirement.

Walz also issued a proclamation asking Minnesotans to observe a moment of silence in honor of the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death.


Darnella Frazier was recognized "for courageously recording the murder of George Floyd, a video that spurred protests against police brutality, around the world, highlighting the crucial role of citizens in journalists’ quest for truth and justice," the Pulitzer Prizes said.

Former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22½ years (270 months) in prison for the murder of George Floyd.

Two Minnesotans — Sunisa Lee of St. Paul and Grace McCallum of Isanti — were set to compete in the Olympics alongside Simone Biles in Tokyo.

On social media, Minnesotans expressed surprise over this national news: A commercial lobster diver got caught in the mouth of a humpback whale off the coast of Cape Cod. "All of a sudden I felt this huge bump, and everything went dark … Then I realized, oh my God, I’m in a whale’s mouth … and he’s trying to swallow me," Michael Packard said.


The St. Paul Police Department released body camera video of the July 4 traffic stop of Rep. John Thompson after Thompson released a statement about the incident and said he’d approve the release of the video. Meanwhile, calls for Thompson to resign grew after allegations of abuse and the dispute over his residence.

Two men were sentenced to life in prison for the 2019 murder of Minneapolis realtor Monique Baugh.

Gov. Tim Walz bypassed the Minnesota Legislature and restricted conversion therapy in the state. Conversion therapy, also known as "reparative therapy," refers to a counseling practice that seeks to change a patient’s gender or sexual orientation.

The Twin Cities Pride Festival returned after a two-year hiatus.

Minnesota Wild General Manager Bill Guerin announced the team would buy out the four remaining years left on Zach Parise’s and Ryan Suter’s contracts and they became free agents.

After Sunisa Lee’s gold medal-winning performance for Team USA, Walz honored the St. Paul native. The governor proclaimed July 30 as Sunisa Lee Day in Minnesota.

Minnesotans enjoyed this video of Sunisa Lee’s training, which started in her St. Paul backyard on a beam made by her father.

In a reversal, U.S. health officials recommended masks for vaccinated people in some situations as COVID-19 surged again.

Read Part 2 of this report here.