Closing arguments to begin Wednesday in trial of woman accused of murdering 6-year-old son

Closing arguments are expected to be made Wednesday afternoon in the trial of a west metro woman accused of killing her six-year-old son, Eli Hart.

Just after 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, prosecutors rested their case against 28-year-old Julissa Thaler, who is charged with one count of first-degree premeditated murder and one count of intentional, non-premeditated second-degree murder.

According to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reporter Eric Chaloux – who is in the courtroom – the defense rested without calling any witnesses. He says closing arguments will begin at 1 p.m.

As previously reported, opening statements began last Friday after a nearly week-long jury selection.

RELATED: Jury trial begins for woman charged with killing her 6-year-old son

Police officers found Thaler covered in blood during a traffic stop in May 2022. Afterward, officers found Hart’s body and a shotgun in the trunk of the car.

Medical examiners determined Hart had been shot as many as nine times.

Check back for updates.

Closing arguments set to begin Wednesday in trial of man charged in Truck Park bar shooting

Closing arguments are set to begin Wednesday morning in the case of a man charged in the deadly mass shooting at a St. Paul bar in 2021.

Wednesday morning, prosecutors continued cross-examination of 30-year-old Devondre Trevon Phillips. His testimony began Tuesday in Ramsey County court.

RELATED: Man on trial for Truck Park bar shooting begins testimony

Phillips is charged with eight counts of attempted second-degree murder in connection to the Oct. 10, 2021, shooting at Truck Park.

Marquisha Wiley, 27, was killed in the shooting and more than a dozen other people were hurt.

Tuesday, Phillips detailed the many prior altercations he had that summer with Terry Brown — who is charged with one count of second-degree murder and four counts of second-degree attempted murder and is set to go on trial starting April 3 — as well as Brown’s friends. He and his attorney also tried to paint Brown and his friends as the aggressors, saying they offered him no choice but to fire shots inside the bar that night.

“I wish I could’ve done something different,” Phillips said Tuesday, adding, “I know that if I didn’t fire when I did, I’d be dead. It’s not a question, but I do feel bad” about injuring others.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, noted that Phillips didn’t contact the police after any of the prior altercations, didn’t ask for help before the shooting and had plenty of other options instead of opening fire.

When questioning continued shortly after 9 a.m. Wednesday, Phillips admitted “it’s highly likely” he shot the eight people he’s charged with shooting but wouldn’t agree that any evidence showed he definitely shot anyone. He also disputed what several clips of evidence seemed to show.

“The way I see it is you guys are seeing what you choose to see,” Phillips told the prosecutor Wednesday morning.

Some of his responses even drew some audible reactions from family members of the victims who were seated in the courtroom.

At 10 a.m., prosecutors finished the cross-examination of Phillips and the defense rested its case.

Closing arguments were previously scheduled to begin 10:30 a.m., however, Phillips’ attorney said shortly before 11 a.m. the state is expected to close soon, and the defense will start closing after lunch.

Jurors could get the case as soon as 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Check back for updates.

Group proposes transformation of Richfield American Legion Post into veteran housing, community space

There could soon be a new future for the American Legion Post 435 in Richfield after the building was forced to close back in 2020 due to financial issues.

Members of American Legion Post 435 have been forced to make tough decisions – their building had served the community since 1957, but they couldn’t keep up with the costs.

“This is where we as a Post would hold our meetings, we would rent out banquet space if people wanted to hold weddings here, class reunions, stuff like that,” said Adam Seamans, Commander of American Legion Post 435.

Instead of letting the Post close down, members came together to save the building and to create an even bigger vision for its future.

“We ran into financial difficulties and then the double whammy with the COVID and everything coming up, it just wasn’t financially viable for us to keep maintaining this building and operating it,” Seamans said.

The group is proposing a full renovation project called Veterans Village 435.

“It’s a multi-use facility that we think serves veterans well, serves the community well and it’s a very exciting project,” Elwyn Tinklenberg, development coordinator for Post 435 said.

The project would include the renovated meeting spaces and banquet halls that the previous building had, but it would also include a restaurant and housing for veterans.

The plans include 200 apartment units, of which 20% would be affordable housing meant for veterans transitioning out of homelessness.

“Housing is a critical need for people in Minnesota, for veterans in Minnesota. And affordable housing in particular, this project provides that. For the community, for the veterans and that’s an exciting part of this,” adds Tinklenberg.

The space would also have rooms reserved for families with loved ones getting care at the nearby VA Hospital.

“We see this as a model that can be used in other communities around the state as a way of keeping the Post active and vibrant in their communities, but also performing their base function – which is supporting veterans in their community,” Tinklenberg said.

The group said this proposal not only brings Post 435 into the future, but it creates housing and living space for the veterans in the Richfield area.

“Post 435 is not this building. The buildings come and go. We as Post, as Post 435, we’re going to endure through this and come back in a much stronger position to serve our membership,” Seamans said.

Legion members say their plan could serve as a model for other locations across the country.

The group is asking the state for $10 million to help fund the project and are also partnering with other private investors.

If the project gets the funding it needs, they’re looking at breaking ground early this summer or possibly this fall.

Their goal is to have units ready for veterans to lease by 2025.

Golden Valley may buy homes to build new fire station, department says new station needed to improve safety

In an effort to improve safety for residents, and firefighters, some homeowners in Golden Valley may lose their homes to make room for a new fire station.

The “Fire Station Location Project” would consolidate two of their three current fire stations and build a new one — but where it would be located is not sitting well with residents who were recently informed they could lose their homes to make the plan happen.

“It is absolutely our dream home,” Brook Simonson, whose home is under consideration, told city council members ahead of their meeting Tuesday.

Urging them to change course, Simonson said she understands the needs the fire department has, but hopes the city can find a way around displacing families.

“I’m trying to appeal to the human side to everyone on what it means to lose community, what it means to lose dreams, what it means to lose memories in the making because you want to take homes for a fire department,” Simonson said.

The Golden Valley Fire Department says their facilities are outdated and this plan is overdue.

“We just don’t fit in these buildings anymore,” Assistant Fire Chief Dominique Guzman said. “They weren’t designed for our modern apparatus [and] modern operations,” he added about their station.

Asst. Chief Guzman said the department wants to move from a paid-on-call operation to a 24/7 duty crew model to keep up with industry trends — the department says this would not only improve community safety with quick response times, but also help them maintain and retain quality staff.

A big reason they can’t move to that model right now is because the department does not have any sleeping quarters. A new fire station would also allow staff to train at the site, better accommodate female firefighters and make cancer prevention upgrades — including better ventilation along with ways to clean equipment and themselves.

“I think if you’d ask anyone in the department, a big reason why we need to do this is we got to keep each other healthy, we got to keep each other safe,” Guzman said.

Other challenges that the fire department faces are broken down in the city’s Municipal Facilities Study — it points out why the shift to an around-the-clock operation would be beneficial:

“Transitioning from a three station paid-on-call model to a two station duty crew model is critical for consistent staffing and will increase operational efficiency by improving response times by two-and-a-half minutes to four minutes overall.”

There are still other options on the table — including using park land or commercial properties. According to the city, after community input, the city council is being asked to “reconsider utilizing Scheid Park or consider Schaper Park rather than residential properties.”

As for commercial properties, the city says those did not rank well in the “selection criteria prepared by city consultants as other parcels due to response times” — also adding it is a more expensive option.

A major factor in deciding what residential properties are under consideration by the city is the response time for fire calls.

While nothing is set, dozens of homes are under the city’s consideration — including Brian Wade’s home that sits on the north side of the city, near Duluth Street.

“We’re fully supportive of a new fire station, the mentality around why, and then shifting to a full-time model and just a bigger location makes sense. However, we feel that displacing residents is not the right move,” Wade said.

If the council approves the plans to obtain residential parcels, the city said, “staff and consultants will contact the owners to discuss their interest in selling. If a property owner expresses interest, the City would provide fair market value for the property acquisition and relocation costs.”

There have been two open houses for residents to learn about this project and question city leaders. One more is set for Thursday, this one is virtual and starts at 6 p.m.

The city council will address this project during their work session on Tuesday, Feb. 14 starting at 6:30 p.m. No decisions will be made, but people are free to attend and listen.  

Hope fading as deaths in Turkey, Syria quake near 12,000

GAZIANTEP, Turkey (AP) — With hope of finding survivors fading, stretched rescue teams in Turkey and Syria searched Wednesday for signs of life in the rubble of thousands of buildings toppled by the world’s deadliest earthquake in more than a decade. The confirmed death toll approached 12,000.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the especially hard-hit Hatay province, where more than 3,300 people died and entire neighborhoods were destroyed. Residents there have criticized the government’s response, saying rescuers were slow to arrive.

Erdogan, who faces a tough battle for reelection in May, acknowledged “shortcomings” in the response to Monday’s 7.8 magnitude quake but said the winter weather had been a factor. The earthquake destroyed the runway in Hatay’s airport, further disrupting the response.

“It is not possible to be prepared for such a disaster,” Erdogan said. “We will not leave any of our citizens uncared for.” He also hit back at critics, saying ”dishonorable people” were spreading “lies and slander” about the government’s response.

Turkish authorities say they are targeting disinformation, and an internet monitoring group said access to Twitter was restricted despite it being used by survivors to alert rescuers.

Search teams from more than two dozen countries have joined tens of thousands of local emergency personnel in Syria and Turkey. But the scale of destruction from the quake and its powerful aftershocks was so immense and spread over such a wide area — including a region isolated by Syria’s ongoing civil war — that many people were still awaiting help.

Experts said the survival window for those trapped under the rubble or otherwise unable to obtain basic necessities was closing rapidly. At the same time, they said it was too soon to abandon hope.

“The first 72 hours are considered to be critical,” said Steven Godby, a natural hazards expert at Nottingham Trent University in England. “The survival ratio on average within 24 hours is 74%, after 72 hours it is 22% and by the fifth day it is 6%.”

Rescuers at times used excavators or picked gingerly through debris. With thousands of buildings toppled, it was not clear how many people might still be caught in the rubble.

In the Turkish city of Malatya, bodies were placed side by side on the ground and covered in blankets while rescuers waited for vehicles to pick them up, according to former journalist Ozel Pikal, who said he saw eight bodies pulled from the ruins of a building.

Pikal, who took part in the rescue efforts, said he thinks at least some of the victims froze to death as temperatures dipped to minus 6 degrees Celsius (21 Fahrenheit).

“As of today, there is no hope left in Malatya,” Pikal said by telephone. “No one is coming out alive from the rubble.”

Road closures and damage in the region made it hard to access all the areas that need help, he said, and there was a shortage of rescuers where he was.

“Our hands cannot pick up anything because of the cold,” said Pikal. “Work machines are needed.”

The region was already beset by more than a decade of civil war in Syria. Millions have been displaced within Syria itself and millions more have sought refuge in Turkey.

Turkey’s president said the country’s death toll passed 9,000. The Syrian Health Ministry said the death toll in government-held areas climbed past 1,200. At least 1,600 people have died in the rebel-held northwest, according to the volunteer first responders known as the White Helmets.

That brought the overall total to nearly 12,000. Tens of thousands more are injured.

Stories of rescues continued to provide hope that some people still trapped might be found alive. A crying newborn still connected by the umbilical cord to her deceased mother was rescued Monday in Syria. In Turkey’s Kahramanmaras, rescuers pulled a 3-year-old boy from the rubble, and rescuers sent by the Israeli military saved a 2-year-old boy.

But David Alexander, a professor of emergency planning and management at University College London, said data from past earthquakes suggested the likelihood of survival was now slim, particularly for individuals who suffered serious injuries.

“Statistically, today is the day when we’re going to stop finding people,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we should stop searching.”

Alexander cautioned that the final death toll may not be known for weeks because of the sheer amount of rubble.

The last time an earthquake killed so many people was 2015, when 8,800 died in a magnitude 7.8 quake in Nepal. A 2011 earthquake in Japan triggered a tsunami, killing nearly 20,000 people.

Many of those who survived the earthquake lost their homes and were forced to sleep in cars, government shelters or outdoors amid rain and snowfall in some areas.

“We don’t have a tent, we don’t have a heating stove, we don’t have anything. Our children are in bad shape,” Aysan Kurt, 27, said. “We did not die from hunger or the earthquake, but we will die freezing from the cold.”

The disaster comes at a sensitive time for Erdogan, who faces an economic downturn and high inflation. Perceptions that his government mismanaged the crisis could hurt his standing. He said the government would distribute 10,000 Turkish lira ($532) to affected families.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition party, blamed the devastation on Erdogan’s two-decade rule, saying he had not prepared the country for a disaster and accusing him of misspending funds.

In their effort to crack down on disinformation related to the earthquake response, police said they had detained 18 people and identified more than 200 social media accounts suspected of “spreading fear and panic.”

Global internet monitor NetBlocks said access to Twitter was restricted on multiple internet providers in Turkey. Trapped survivors have used Twitter to alert rescuers and loved ones, while others have taken to the social network to criticize the government’s response.

There was no official comment on the restrictions. The government has periodically restricted access to social media during national emergencies and terror attacks, citing national security.

In Syria, aid efforts have been hampered by the ongoing war and the isolation of the rebel-held region along the border, which is surrounded by Russia-backed government forces. Syria itself is an international pariah under Western sanctions linked to the war.

The European Union said Wednesday that Syria had asked for humanitarian assistance to help earthquake victims. An EU representative insisted the bloc’s sanctions against the Syrian government had no impact on its potential to help.

The U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Syria, Muhannad Hadi, said Wednesday that there was still no access to the Bab al-Hawa border crossing into rebel-held Syria — the only terminal where U.N. aid can be delivered — because of damaged roads.

Using other crossings, or sending the aid across conflict lines from Damascus, requires “multiple levels of coordination between different parties, security, humanitarian, NGOs,” he said. “It’s not a straightforward operation.”

Critics have accused the Syrian government of deliberately slowing down the process to cut off support to rebel-held areas.

Turkey sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Some 18,000 were killed in similarly powerful earthquakes that hit northwest Turkey in 1999.


Alsayed reported from Bab al-Hawa, Syria. Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey. Bilginsoy reported from Istanbul. Associated Press journalists David Rising in Bangkok, Danica Kirka in London, Frank Jordans in Berlin, Robert Badendieck in Istanbul, and Kareem Chehayeb and Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Keep tabs on key legislation with our Legislative Tracker

The 2023 session of the Minnesota Legislature could be one of the most consequential in state history.

A good example is the Protect Reproductive Options Act signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday. It puts in state law the “fundamental” right to abortion, contraception and other reproductive health measures.

“The message that we’re sending to the people of Minnesota today is very clear,” the governor said before signing the bill. “Your rights are protected in this state.”

It’s just one of potentially a dozen or more major pieces of legislation that could reshape Minnesota in many ways. Among the measures making their way through the legislature are bills legalizing recreational marijuana; paid family and medical leave; restoring voting rights for felons after their release; gun control laws, legalized sports betting and many more.

Now you can follow all this legislation on our new online Legislative Tracker. You will find links to the bills along with their status in the House and Senate and whether or not they’ve made it to the governor’s desk for his signature or veto.

The site will be updated frequently, and we hope you find it helpful.

Minnesota non-profit helps with emergency response after Turkey-Syria earthquake

Collapsing buildings, giant piles of rubble, and heroic rescues.

“What we have seen, it’s something unpredictable,” says Roy Moussali, the executive director of Questscope, a global humanitarian non-profit. “Waking up at four in the morning, with the whole building shaking.”

This is the new reality, in the aftermath of a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that stretched hundreds of miles across southeastern Turkey and neighboring Syria, killing thousands.

“It’s not only the destroyed buildings, but also the lack of resources,” explains Muthanna Khriesat, Questscope’s CEO. “Lack of rescue teams, lack of rescue equipment, and the lack of water, we also have to take care of.”

For seven years, Khriesat and his family have called Minnesota home.

But now, he’s back in his native country Jordan, trying to help those suffering in Syria.

“Yesterday, we opened up three shelters, and now we are hosting 1,000 people in those shelters, providing them with essential things,” Khriesat says. “We are blessed with what we have and to think about our brothers and sisters, that they have nothing. They are freezing cold, with no support and no shelter, with all the trauma they are facing.”

Clothes, blankets, food, and water are desperately needed, Khriesat notes.

Questscope is teaming up with Alight, the Minnesota-based humanitarian organization — which is providing fundraising and tech support, and helping to build temporary shelters.

The bitterly cold weather in the region is not helping.

“We have freezing temperatures, and it has been snowing in some parts of Aleppo, so it was very cold, no food, no shelter,” Moussali declares. “So there is a need for heating, there is no fuel, very little fuel, no power. We only have one hour of electricity per day.”

Moussali is in charge of about 1,400 Questscope staffers — all Syrians — and about 3,000 volunteers.

He says the country’s 12-year civil war has exacted a heavy price on Aleppo.

Beyond the widespread destruction to the city buildings and infrastructure, there’s been a cholera outbreak, massive water shortages — and now, an earthquake.

“We are called to have empathy and compassion for each other, and this is what’s happening in the humanitarian community here,” Moussali says. “Everyone is working for the common good.”

Alight is calling this an open-ended mission, with thousands of buildings either damaged or destroyed.

Among the most urgent needs, Moussali says, is heavy duty equipment to lift pieces of concrete and free people who are trapped under all that rubble.

For his part, Khriesat says he’s planning to travel to Syria next week.

He’s already thinking about the challenges that lay ahead.

“Moving forward, we have to deal with bigger problems, we have to think about the trauma with kids, with the people who have lost their families,” Khriesat says. “Also, we have to think about home repairs and people not spending their lives in those shelters. We have to see what kind of plans we will have to send them back home and put them back into their houses.”

You can find out more information about Alight here.

More information about Questscope is available here.

8-year-old gets surprise trip to Super Bowl courtesy of Thielen Foundation

An 8-year-old boy from Minnesota who has overcome several hurdles in his life now has two tickets to the Super Bowl.

The Thielen Foundation surprised Devin Dee of St. Louis Park with the chance of a lifetime.

Devin is a patient at M Health Fairview Masonic Children’s Hospital and receives support through the Pediatric Mental Health Unit, a unit of the hospital that partners with the Thielen Foundation.

Last month the foundation thought Devin and his uncle Mark were the best fit for a Super Bowl surprise by giving them two tickets and $5,000 in travel expenses.

“For about two to three days I had to keep it a secret,” Devin’s uncle, Mark Erickson, said. “Every once in a while I almost slipped about when we go to Arizona all that kind of stuff. It is really special they recognized us.”

The trip to Arizona for the big game will be Devin’s first time on a plane.

North Minneapolis ALDI set to close, leaving residents with few options for healthy food

In North Minneapolis, grocery stores are few and far between… and the problem is about to get worse.  The ALDI store on Penn Avenue North is about to close on Sunday, leaving residents with even fewer options.

Aldi announced the closure in a statement:

“ALDI has made the difficult decision to close our store at 3120 Penn Avenue North due to the inability to renovate the store to accommodate our larger product range and our current lease term expiring.”

A spokesperson for Aldi

“I’m very concerned because this is the only place within walking distance for us to buy fresh produce and meat,” said resident Sheree Bochenek.

“It’s just a huge loss to the neighborhood because we are in a food desert to begin with, “ added Council Member LaTrisha Vetaw with the Minneapolis City Council. “I’ve talked to the owners of that space and they’ve committed to figuring out how to get another grocery store in there.”

After ALDI closes, there will be only two major grocery stores left in North Minneapolis — an area that serves more than 70,000 residents.

IRS urges special refund recipients to delay filing taxes

NEW YORK (AP) — The Internal Revenue Service is recommending that taxpayers hold off on filing their tax returns for 2022 if they received a special tax refund or payment from their state last year.

Last year, 19 states offered diverse programs that offered inflation relief payments or refunds for taxpayers. The IRS issued the guidance Friday due to the agency’s uncertainty about the taxability of the payments.

“We are working with state tax officials as quickly as possible to provide additional information and clarity for taxpayers,” the IRS said in its statement.

For residents from states such as California and Illinois, the agency is recommending that they hold off on filing their tax returns until they receive further instruction from the IRS.

If you received a state tax refund last year, here is what you need to know.


If you got a tax refund from your state in 2022, the IRS is recommending you hold off on filing your tax return until the agency gives further instructions. Certain states that provided these refunds have determined that these payments are not taxable for most people. What needs to be determined is if these refunds are taxable on the federal level, said Tom O’Saben, director of tax content and government relations at the National Association of Tax Professionals.

In some states, people would get taxed if they received a tax refund in 2022 only if they itemize their deductions, said Keith Hall, president and CEO of the National Association for the Self-Employed. An example of a state that is taking this route is Virginia, which has stated that taxpayers that filed a standard deduction will not be taxed for their tax rebate. However, not all states have issued guidance on tax rebates.


Following the IRS recommendations is key if taxpayers want to avoid having to amend a previously filed tax return, said Hall.

“I think the IRS is trying to help people save another filing, if they had to do an amended return,” he said.


The IRS is recommending that you don’t file an amended return yet. If you believe you need to file an amended return, the IRS advises you to wait until further instructions are given.


Special tax refunds were offered by 19 states in 2022. The list includes Alaska, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia.


If you are not sure if you need to wait to file your taxes, Hall recommends you consult with a tax professional about your specific situation.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Tele-NICU program helps physicians safely deliver babies across Minnesota

A new program is helping physicians safely deliver more babies across Minnesota. M Health Fairview launched its Tele-NICU program at Ridges Hospital in June and it’s been expanding to other facilities.

It allows doctors at M Health Fairview Masonic Children’s Hospital to connect virtually to delivery rooms across the state. A high-definition camera brings them into the room with a physician at a remote location who requests assistance.

“We can help walk them through the next steps that need to happen and hopefully anticipate some of the challenges that might be coming down the pipeline if we were able to see they weren’t able to respond to those treatments,” said Dr. Ellen Diego, a neonatologist for M Health Fairview.

In December, Jessie Johnson experienced the benefits of this technology first-hand.

She had a cesarean section scheduled for Jan. 25 at a hospital in Duluth, which was more than an hour from their Hill City home but equipped to handle her high-risk pregnancy.

Eight years ago, Johnson was diagnosed with a benign pituitary tumor. She had three surgeries and was the first Mayo Clinic patient to undergo a targeted radiation treatment called proton beam therapy. At the time, her neurosurgeon told her it might not be possible to become a mother.

She later married Adam Johnson and during the pandemic underwent years of IVF, which finally resulted in her pregnancy.

On Dec. 13, Johnson went into labor at about seven and a half months pregnant. They rushed to nearby Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital as snowflakes started to fall.

“I was working in one of our after-hours clinics and I got a phone call from our OB that we had someone here in labor who had a really complicated pregnancy,” said Dr. Tim Pehl, a family physician at Grand Itasca.

A snow storm made her delivery even more complicated.

“We weren’t going to be able to transfer this woman to Duluth, where we’d normally transfer her,” said Dr. Pehl. “The helicopters weren’t flying anywhere so the NICU team was coming by ground transport in an ambulance so that was going to take several hours.”

“I was a little nervous to deliver at Grand Itasca, one with my medical condition and then also with him because they didn’t have the NICU set up,” Johnson remembers.

Six weeks earlier, the hospital received Tele-NICU training. Dr. Pehl explained they called Masonic Children’s Hospital and asked for help with Johnson’s case.

“They were prepping the mom to be able to deliver the baby,” said Dr. Diego, who picked up the call. “We just had a couple of minutes to kind of prep the team and make some calls to get the medical crew who would hopefully be able to come pick up [the baby] in the event that he needed to be transferred to another facility.”

She was able to monitor newborn baby Teddy’s vitals from the Twin Cities office. The technology allows physicians to pan the camera around the room and zoom in on the patient, monitors, or family members in the room.

“We can assess the baby and really see what these providers are seeing at these outside facilities,” said Dr. Diego. “We might be helping with thermoregulation, helping keep their temperature up. We might be helping with their breathing, we might be helping walk them through how to support their cardiac function, how to support their heart, all of the other organ systems in their body.”

One of the biggest concerns with premature babies is often their breathing.

“If we have to put a breathing tube in an infant she can read the numbers of the breathing tube and say ‘Woah that looks like it’s in too far’ or ‘That looks like it’s not in enough’,” said Dr. Pehl. “It’s kind of an all hands on deck approach.”

Fortunately, Teddy was born healthy and didn’t need a breathing tube.

“I could hear the Tele-NICU people saying ‘He’s breathing, he’s warm and he’s doing all of this stuff’,” said Adam Johnson. “It was pretty reassuring to hear what they were doing.”

The Tele-NICU program is available 24/7 and it’s meeting an increased need.

“In rural Minnesota, a lot of small town hospitals have stopped delivering babies and we’re sort of a small-medium town hospital so we’re delivering more babies,” said Dr. Pehl. “We’re far enough from a NICU that we’ve always known that there are scenarios when we have to do the best we can and rely on our training the best we can and hope there’s a good outcome but now having a neonatologist in the room virtually just is a complete game changer.”

“When we can visually be inside of a delivery room and see what the providers are seeing who are in some of these facilities that might be in an area we can’t get to, that is potentially life-changing for those patients,” Dr. Diego added.

The medical transport finally arrived at Grand Itasca three hours after Teddy was born. He was brought to a Duluth hospital where he was in the NICU before heading home just before New Year’s Day.

“Without the tele-NICU, I don’t know where we would’ve been on that night,” said Adam Johnson. “I was just grateful that they have this not only for us at the time but for others in the future.”

Biden in State of Union promises to ‘finish the job’

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden exhorted Republicans over and over Tuesday night to work with him to “finish the job” of rebuilding the economy and uniting the nation as he delivered a State of the Union address meant to reassure to a country beset by pessimism and fraught political divisions.

The backdrop for the annual address was markedly different from the previous two years, with a Republican speaker sitting expressionless behind Biden and GOP lawmakers in the audience preparing to scrutinize both his administration and his policies.

But Biden sought to portray a nation dramatically different in positive ways from the one he took charge of two years ago: from a reeling economy to one prosperous with new jobs; from a crippled, pandemic-weary nation to one that has now opened up and a democracy that has survived its biggest test since the Civil War.

“The story of America is a story of progress and resilience. Of always moving forward. Of never giving up. A story that is unique among all nations,” Biden said. “We are the only country that has emerged from every crisis stronger than when we entered it. That is what we are doing again.”

He added: “We’re not finished yet by any stretch of the imagination.”

Biden sought to reassure the nation that his stewardship of the country has delivered results both at home and abroad, as he also set out to prove his fitness for a likely re-election bid.

But the challenges for Biden are many: economic uncertainty, a wearying war in Ukraine, growing tensions with China and more. And signs of the past trauma at the Capitol, most notably the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol, was unavoidable, with a large fence encircling the complex as lawmakers and those in attendance faced tighter-than-usual security measures.

From the start, the partisan divisions were clear. Democrats — including Vice President Kamala Harris — jumped to applause as Biden began his speech. New Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, though he had greeted the president warmly when he entered the chamber, stayed in his seat.

Rather than rolling out flashy policy proposals, the president set out to offer a reassuring assessment of the nation’s condition, declaring that two years after the Capitol attack, America’s democracy was “unbowed and unbroken.”

“The story of America is a story of progress and resilience,” he said, highlighting record job creation during his tenure as the country has emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biden also pointed to areas of bipartisan progress in his first two years in office, including on states’ vital infrastructure and high tech manufacturing. And he says, “There is no reason we can’t work together in this new Congress.”

“The people sent us a clear message. Fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the sake of conflict, gets us nowhere,” Biden said. “And that’s always been my vision for the country: to restore the soul of the nation, to rebuild the backbone of America — the middle class — to unite the country.”

“We’ve been sent here to finish the job!”

The president took to the House rostrum at a time when just a quarter of U.S. adults say things in the country are headed in the right direction, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. About three-quarters say things are on the wrong track. And a majority of Democrats don’t want Biden to seek another term.

He sought to confront those sentiments head-on.

“You wonder whether a path even exists anymore for you and your children to get ahead without moving away, I get it,” Biden said. “That’s why we’re building an economy where no one is left behind. Jobs are coming back, pride is coming back because of the choices we made in the last two years.”

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who gained a national profile as Trump’s press secretary, was to deliver the Republican response to Biden’s speech.

She was to focus much of her remarks on social issues, including race in business and education and alleged big-tech censorship of conservatives.

“While you reap the consequences of their failures, the Biden administration seems more interested in woke fantasies than the hard reality Americans face every day,” she was to say, according to excerpts released by her office. “Most Americans simply want to live their lives in freedom and peace, but we are under attack in a left-wing culture war we didn’t start and never wanted to fight.”

With COVID-19 restrictions now lifted, the White House and legislators from both parties invited guests designed to drive home political messages with their presence in the House chamber. The parents of Tyre Nichols, who was severely beaten by police officers in Memphis and later died, are among those seated with first lady Jill Biden. Other Biden guests included the rock star/humanitarian Bono and the 26-year-old who disarmed a gunman in last month’s Monterey Park, California, shooting.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus invited family members of those involved in police incidents, as they sought to press for action on police reform in the wake of Nichols’ death. The White House, ahead of the speech, paired police reform with bringing down violence, suggesting that giving police better training tools could lead to less crime nationwide.

Biden was shifting his sights after spending his first two years pushing through major bills such as the bipartisan infrastructure package, legislation to promote high-tech manufacturing and climate measures. With Republicans now in control of the House, he is turning his focus to implementing those massive laws and making sure voters credit him for the improvements.

Biden, not known for his oratory, appeared relaxed and confident as he delivered his address. He casually adlibbed remarks, fed off the responses from Democratic lawmakers who frequently stood up with thunderous ovations and playfully engaged with his Republican critics.

Addressing Republicans who voted against the big bipartisan infrastructure law, Biden said he’d still ensure their pet projects received federal support. “I promised to be the president for all Americans,” he said. “We’ll fund these projects. And I’ll see you at the ground-breaking.”

The switch is largely by necessity. The newly empowered GOP is itching to undo many of his achievements and vowing to pursue a multitude of investigations — including looking into the recent discoveries of classified documents from his time as vice president at his home and former office.

Though he pledged bipartisanship where possible, Biden also underscored the sharp tensions that exist between him and House Republicans: He discussed GOP efforts to repeal Democrats’ 2022 climate change and healthcare law and their reluctance to increase the federal debt limit, the nation’s legal borrowing authority that must be raised later this year or risk default.

Stressing that the “full faith and credit of the United States of America will never, ever be questioned,” Biden accused congressional Republicans of threatening to hold the U.S. economy hostage to their policy demands.

“Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset every five years. That means if Congress doesn’t vote to keep them, those programs will go away,” Biden said. “Other Republicans say if we don’t cut Social Security and Medicare, they’ll let America default on its debt for the first time in our history.

“I won’t let that happen.”

On the eve of the president’s address, McCarthy challenged Biden to come to the negotiating table with House Republicans to slash spending as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling.

“We must move towards a balanced budget and insist on genuine accountability for every dollar we spend,” McCarthy said.

While hopes for large-scale bipartisanship are slim, Biden reissued his 2022 appeal for Congress to get behind his “unity agenda” of actions to address the opioid epidemic, mental health, veterans’ health and cancer. He announced new executive action and call for lawmakers to act to support new measures to support cancer research, address housing needs and suicide among veterans, boost access to mental health care, and move to further crack down on deadly trafficking in fentanyl.

The president also called for extending the new $35 per month price cap on insulin for people on Medicare to everyone in the country. And he pushed Congress to quadruple the 1% tax on corporate share buybacks that was enacted in the Democrats’ climate and health care bill passed last year known as the Inflation Reduction Act.

The speech comes days after Biden ordered the military to shoot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that flew brazenly across the country, captivating the nation and serving as a reminder of tense relations between the two global powers.

“Make no mistake: as we made clear last week, if China’s threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country,” Biden said. “And we did.”

Last year’s address occurred just days after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and as many in the West doubted Kyiv’s ability to withstand the onslaught. Over the past year, the U.S. and other allies have sent tens of billions of dollars in military and economic assistance to bolster Ukraine’s defenses. Now, Biden must make the case — both at home and abroad — for sustaining that coalition as the war drags on.

Man on trial for Truck Park bar shooting begins testimony

The man who is currently on trial in connection to the deadly mass shooting at the Seventh Street Truck Park bar in 2021 took the stand Tuesday.

After a two-day jury selection process, 30-year-old Devondre Trevon Phillips’ trial officially started Wednesday of last week. He’s charged with eight counts of attempted second-degree murder in connection to the Oct. 10, 2021, shooting.

Phillips’ alleged accomplice, 34-year-old Terry Brown, is charged with one count of second-degree murder and four counts of second-degree attempted murder. Brown’s trial is now scheduled to start on April 3. It was previously scheduled to begin at the same time as Phillips’ trial.

RELATED: Monday marks 1 year since fatal mass shooting at St. Paul’s Seventh Street Truck Park Bar

Tuesday morning, Phillips described multiple altercations with Brown and his friends in the spring and summer of 2021. One of those was an incident in June at Flameburger, where Phillips said he and his cousin — who was dating Brown — were waiting in line when Brown approached. Phillips said Brown grabbed his cousin and made threats, so he intervened.

When asked why he intervened, Phillips explained that he’d previously lost another cousin to a domestic violence incident and felt compelled to defend his cousin at Flameburger. However, when he stepped in, he said Brown started making threats toward him and, when they stepped outside, Brown and several of his friends pulled guns on Phillips.

While they ran away without harming him, Phillips said Brown and his friends soon started calling him to mock him and threaten to kill him when they caught him again.

In several subsequent encounters, Phillips described being shot at by Brown and his friends.

Due to those encounters, Phillips said he decided to not stay in Minnesota for the whole summer as initially planned and went back to Las Vegas.

“To see somebody that frequently means it’s getting too hot,” Phillips told jurors.

It wasn’t until the night of the Truck Park shooting in October that Phillips returned, adding that he didn’t tell anyone and wanted to lay low so he didn’t post anything on social media, either. Phillips said he wanted to go from the airport straight home and rest but his nephew wanted to get a drink so he agreed.

Phillips said he wasn’t armed when they went to the bar but then he saw an old friend from high school outside who said he’d heard Phillips was possibly in some trouble and sold Phillips his gun.

Still, Phillips testified that he wasn’t looking for Brown and his friends and didn’t think they’d be trying to find him.

Before lunch Tuesday, Phillips didn’t get into the shooting but did walk through some surveillance footage from inside the bar just prior to the shooting and pointed out that when he saw Brown and his friends by the doors, he got nervous and hoped they’d move so he could escape. However, “in a blink of an eye,” the started approaching him.

He added that, when he saw Brown and his friends, he was thinking, “Am I gonna get outta here alive?” When asked by his lawyer about injuring innocent bystanders, Phillips said, “I wish I could’ve done something different” to avoid the shooting but added, “I know that if I didn’t fire when I did, I’d be dead. It’s not a question but I do feel bad” about injuring others.

Marquisha Wiley, 27, was killed in the shooting and more than a dozen other people were hurt.

Prosecutors say Phillips fired the first shot that night, although Phillips and his attorney laid out how Brown was the aggressor and Phillips was simply trying to defend himself.

Prosecutors also tried to push back on the idea that Phillips didn’t have any other options, noting he never called the police after any of the prior incidents involving Brown and his friends and he didn’t call the police, security or ask anyone else for help between the time he saw Brown and his group at Truck Park and when the first shots were fired.

Additionally, the prosecution tried to imply that Phillips should’ve known Brown and his group would be there even before he saw them because Phillips had talked to his cousin, who was dating Brown, earlier at the bar. Phillips said he didn’t have any indication Brown was still dating his cousin and never asked her if Brown would show up that night.

Prosecutors will continue questioning Phillips Wednesday morning. When that is finished, closing arguments are expected to take place Wednesday before the case is handed to the jury, which will be sequestered during deliberations.

Scoring King: James passes Abdul-Jabbar for NBA points mark

LeBron James got the first official statistic of his NBA career on a rebound. His next entry on the stat sheet was an assist.

Even then, points weren’t the priority. They never were.

Somehow, he became the most prolific scorer in NBA history anyway. It finally happened Tuesday night, the kid from Akron, Ohio, connecting on a step-back jumper to push his career total to 38,388 points and break the record that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar held for nearly 39 years.

James outstretched his arms after his 36th point of the night for the Los Angeles Lakers, threw both hands in the air, then smiled. Abdul-Jabbar rose from his seat and clapped. The game was stopped as members of James’ family, including his mother, his wife and their three children, took the floor for a ceremony recognizing the moment.

“It’s never gotten my juices flowing,” James told The Associated Press, when asked what the scoring record means to him. “I’m there now because I never, ever thought about it. The only thing I ever thought about was winning championships, maybe a couple MVPs, maybe defensive player of the year. But scoring championships and records, I’m telling you, that was never on my mind.”

Abdul-Jabbar — a longtime Laker and one of many celebrities and sports stars who made sure they were there to see history — became the league’s all-time leading scorer on April 5, 1984 and wound up retiring in 1989 with 38,387 points. It was a record that some thought would last forever, with very few even coming close. Karl Malone retired 1,459 points behind Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant was 4,744 points shy, and Michael Jordan was 6,095 points away.

James passed them all, then caught Abdul-Jabbar, too. The 38-year-old — who finished with 38 points in the Lakers’ 133-130 loss — did it in his 20th season. Abdul-Jabbar also played 20 NBA seasons.

“You’ve got to give him credit for just the way that he planned to last and to dominate,” Abdul-Jabbar told TNT.

And now, King James — a moniker he’s had since high school, when he was just a kid from Akron — is the NBA’s scoring king, with 38,390 points and counting.

“A record that has stood for nearly 40 years, which many people thought would never be broken,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said.

Abdul-Jabbar held the ball aloft, then handed it to James, the ceremonial passing of the torch. They posed for photos with Silver, then with one another. James wiped away tears from his eyes, then addressed the crowd.

“I just want to say, thank you to the Laker faithful. You guys are one of a kind,” James said. “To be able to be in the presence of such a legend as great as Kareem, it’s very humbling. Please give a standing ovation to the Captain, please.”

James then thanked his family and those who have supported him, including Silver and the late NBA Commissioner David Stern.

“I thank you guys so much for allowing me to be a part of something I’ve always dreamed about,” James said.

At least 16 different players have, technically, been the all-time leading scorer in league history — most of those coming in the opening month of the league’s existence in 1946, when everybody was starting from zero and nine different players were atop the scoring list in the first 16 days.

But only six have ended a season officially as the all-time leader: Joe Fulks, George Mikan, Dolph Schayes, Bob Pettit, Wilt Chamberlain and Abdul-Jabbar.

James will be the seventh name on that list, and he’s likely to stay there for a long time. No active player is within 10,000 points of James, who is under contract for two more years and is on pace to become the league’s first 40,000-point scorer sometime next season.

“Nobody will ever, ever touch it,” said Cleveland forward Kevin Love, a teammate of James on the 2016 title team. “The scoring record now will never be eclipsed. I don’t care. It will never, ever be touched. It will never happen again.”

James could have had the scoring record long ago, if so inclined. But he always preferred passing. James is behind only John Stockton, Jason Kidd and Chris Paul on the all-time assists list. None of them were, or are, close to the scorer that James is. Of that group, Paul comes closest, ranking 38th in NBA history.

And Paul is 17,000 points behind the new scoring king.

“I hadn’t thought of it that way, but that is very true,” Silver told AP in advance of the record-setting night. “I think it even adds — right? — to this this accomplishment for a guy who became a scorer because he determined that’s what was necessary to win. And you’re right, he probably doesn’t get enough credit for his selfless play, because there’s so much focus and attention on him. … I think it makes it that much more special, that he’d rather be known for his assists than his baskets.”

James is the only member of the NBA’s triple-quintuple club: at least 10,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 10,000 assists. There are 44 players to reach five digits in two of those categories.

He’ll almost certainly be the NBA’s all-time leader in earnings whenever he retires; when adding in the $97 million he’ll make over the next two seasons, he’ll be past $500 million in on-court salary alone. He’s a 19-time All-Star selection, tying an Abdul-Jabbar record. If he plays in the game on Feb. 19 in Salt Lake City, he’ll set a record for appearances.

Others, maybe, have been this good. That’s always a debate. But no one has ever been this good, for this long. James — a two-time champion in Miami, a champion in Cleveland in 2016 and a champion with the Lakers in 2020 — is averaging 30 points per game in his 20th season; only three other players have averaged more than 10 points per game this deep into their careers, none of those averaging more than Bryant’s 17.6 in his 20th and final season.

“I never did the, ‘OK, if I play this amount of time and I average this’ thing,” James said. “I’ve never done that with anything in my career. I always said, ‘If it happens, it happens.’”

It happened.


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Charges: Man shot, killed cousin at Newport Transit Center

A man has been arrested and charged after he admitted to shooting and killing his cousin Monday at the Newport Transit Center.

Sylvester Tremaine Jones, 37, faces one count of second-degree intentional murder in connection with the death of 39-year-old Terrell McIntyre.

According to a criminal complaint, a 911 caller reported a man slumped over and unresponsive in an SUV in the transit center parking lot around 11 a.m. Monday morning. Washington County sheriff’s deputies called to the scene found McIntyre in the vehicle dead with multiple gunshot wounds.

The witness who called 911 told deputies he saw a man walking away from the area about 20 minutes earlier. Using surveillance video and speaking with businesses in the area, investigators tracked the man to a home on the 1700 block of First Avenue, a few blocks south of the shooting scene, according to the complaint.

Deputies served a search warrant at the home Monday night and arrested Jones. Authorities say he admitted to shooting his cousin, McIntyre. Deputies also recovered a gun that matched the .22-caliber rounds found at the crime scene.

Jones told deputies he had arranged for McIntyre to pick him up at the parking lot and take him to Target and that he had shot his cousin “between eight and ten times,” the criminal complaint states.

Jones remains in custody and is set to make his first court appearance on Wednesday.

3 men injured in East Bethel home explosion identified

The Anoka County Sheriff’s Office has released the names of the three men who were injured early Monday morning in East Bethel during an explosion at a construction site in East Bethel.

Tuesday, authorities said 35-year-old Keith Hyovalti of Oak Grove, 47-year-old William Swanson of Zimmerman, and 47-year-old James Wells of Coon Rapids are in stable condition at Hennepin County Medical Center.

No other information about the victims or their injuries were immediately provided.

As previously reported by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, the explosion happened at a site that was under construction on the 2800 block of Viking Boulevard Northeast.

All three men were said to be working on the home at the time of the explosion, which was around 8:30 a.m.

The cause of the explosion is still being investigated.

Rejected: Twin’s case of mistaken identity highlights impact of background check errors

Trayvon Andres Alexander has been fighting to clear his name for more than three years.

Despite letters from the State of Minnesota confirming he has no criminal record, the 24-year-old from St. Paul continues to be rejected by potential employers after they run a background check.

And he knows why.

Alexander has a fraternal twin brother with a remarkably similar name — Travon Andrew Alexander.

“Every time I passed an interview, they would look for my background,” Trayvon said. “And every time my background comes back, his criminal history records pop up.”

Travon Andrew Alexander has a felony conviction for “criminal sex conduct” related to a rape committed in 2016.

5 INVESTIGATES found Trayvon Alexander’s story is also indicative of systemic problems in the background screening industry, according to experts and federal investigators.

‘Not doing their job’

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued an advisory opinion in 2021 warning against “name only matching” — a practice that the agency says is “particularly likely to lead to inaccuracies in consumer reports.”

Sophie Sahaf, a policy advisor with the CFPB, says the similarity in Trayvon Alexander’s name and that of his twin brother do not let background check companies off the hook.

“That a company’s sloppy data practices is preventing somebody from getting gainful employment is just simply a travesty,” Sahaf said. “They’re not doing their job, and they are also putting themselves in the crosshairs of the law.”

It’s unknown which companies screened Alexander’s background. 

Federal agencies have taken action against several companies over the last decade.

In 2020, California-based AppFolio paid $4.25 million to settle a complaint by the Federal Trade Commission accusing the company of failing to follow “reasonable procedures to ensure the accuracy of its reports.”

The company declined to comment on the FTC’s allegations, but in a statement to 5 INVESTIGATES, a spokesperson said, “AppFolio continuously adapts our screening processes and procedures to keep pace with changing industry guidance, legal requirements and consumer expectations.”

‘Wild West’

The Professional Background Screening Association, an industry group representing background check companies, declined interview requests from 5 INVESTIGATES.

In a statement, PBSA’s executive director Melissa Sorenson blamed a “significant lack of consistency amongst public records.”

“Inaccuracies in background checks are exceedingly rare, but when they occur, there are clear, simple steps consumers can take to correct the record,” Sorenson said.

But the industry has been compared to the “wild west” when it comes to ensuring the accuracy of background checks.

“The way this process is organized is very flawed,” said Marina Duane, who researched the industry while working with the nonprofit Urban Institute.

In 2017, she co-authored a report that focused on the impact of criminal background checks on employment.

 “People who would otherwise be perfect candidates for the job might get denied because they were matched with somebody wrong,” Duane said.

Challenges correcting the record

Trayvon Alexander turned to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to try to finally distinguish his name and record from his twin brother’s.

Every year since 2020, the BCA has issued a letter to Trayvon confirming that a “fingerprint comparison” determined that he is not the subject of “any criminal record.”

But when Trayvon applied for a job at Wal-Mart in Roseville last year, he was still rejected.

“They said they would have hired me, but what showed up on my background was not good for the company, so they turned me down,” Trayvon said. “They all said the same thing to me: ‘Well, try to get your background fixed, and we can move forward.'”

Wal-Mart did not respond to requests for comment.

A 5 INVESTIGATES review of the Minnesota Court Information System revealed that a search of Trayvon’s name (his first and middle names spelled correctly) still produces his brother’s felony conviction out of Ramsey County.

Some early records in that case mistakenly include Trayvon’s name rather than his brother, Travon.

The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office confirms it is now looking into solutions to resolving the issues after being contacted by 5 INVESTIGATES.

“While the Court would need to approve any relief that we can provide, the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office will do everything in its power to help Mr. Alexander correct and expunge his record,” a spokesperson said. “This is an injustice to him and we hope others will join us in helping him.”

Trayvon Alexander says he still loves his twin brother, Travon, but now has little contact with him.

“We’re brothers, but just two different people,” Trayvon said. “I just want this to be fixed.”

1 man dead, infant and teen injured during 4-vehicle crash near Prescott

A crash involving four different vehicles resulted in the death of a man who was helping another motorist out of a ditch Monday night and also injured both an infant and a teen.

Deputies from the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office got a call just after 7:50 p.m. regarding a four-vehicle crash on State Highway 35 near 1200th Street in Oak Grove Township, about four miles southeast of Prescott.

A news release from the sheriff’s office states Douglas Whaley, 49, of Hager City, Wisc. was operating a 2019 Dodge Ram in an attempt to get a 2010 Chrysler 300 out of the ditch. A 13-year-old was listed as a passenger in the Dodge truck while a 24-year-old Prescott woman and a 3-week-old infant were inside the Chrysler.

Authorities say a freightliner box truck driven by a 44-year-old man from Dallas, Texas was northbound on STH 35 when it hit the Dodge Ram, as well as a 2004 Pontiac Grand Am.

The Grand Am was driven by a different 24-year-old woman from Prescott, and a 30-year-old was listed as a passenger in the box truck.

Whaley was taken by ambulance to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, where he later died.

The infant and the teenager were both taken to area hospitals for “undetermined injuries” according to the sheriff’s office. Their conditions haven’t been released.

The four others who were in the vehicles weren’t hospitalized.

Road conditions were considered icy at the time of the incident.

Walz signs bill that requires Minnesota-produced energy to be carbon-free by 2040

Governor Tim Walz signed a bill Tuesday afternoon that requires that all energy produced in Minnesota be carbon-free by the year 2040.

It’s a plan Gov. Tim Walz included in his full budget proposal and is supported by DFL lawmakers.

The entire bill signing conference can be viewed below:

RELATED: Clean energy bill clears Minnesota House, heads to Senate

RELATED: Minnesota Senate to vote on carbon-free energy bill Thursday

Many Republicans opposed the bill because of concerns about electrical grid problems that could happen in extreme temperatures when demand peaks.

Some lawmakers say it would make the state a leader in clean energy.

RELATED: Minnesota greenhouse gas emissions down 23% since 2005, on track to meet climate goals

Click the video player at the top of the story to watch the full bill signing.

Hastings schools food service workers begin strike Tuesday

School food service workers in Hastings are set to strike Tuesday morning for a new contract with the district.

There are a total of 35 workers represented by the union. The 10-day notice to strike was filed in late January.

Negotiations have been going on since June, and a strike authorization vote passed in December with 92% in support of the action, according to an announcement from Service Employees International Union Local 284.

The picket lines for the strike are set to begin on the public sidewalk outside of Hastings Middle School from 7:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m. and from 2 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Union leaders say that the district cannot afford to lose the cafeteria workers as staffing shortages across the country persist. They add school district leaders have enjoyed raises in their salaries while food workers start at less than $15 per hour.

Classes will remain in session, as the Hastings School District said students will be served bagged breakfast and lunch during the strike.

Some staff and students rallied with cafeteria workers during a demonstration on Monday.

“These workers deserve respect,” said Education Minnesota President Denise Specht. “They deserve more than a living wage. They deserve to be seen and heard for the important work they do each and every day.”

Hastings Public Schools issued the following statement regarding negotiations Tuesday morning:

The School Board of Hastings Public Schools met this morning for a special meeting and approved
a Last, Best and Final offer to the Food Service bargaining unit represented by SEIU Local 284.
The following is a summary of the key provisions outlined in the District’s final offer:

  • The District is offering a two-year collective bargaining agreement effective July 1, 2022
    through June 30, 2024.
  • In terms of individual impact, the District’s final offer provides substantial pay increases
    going as high as 31.2 percent spread over two years.

    o 28 percent of the employees in the bargaining unit will receive a pay increase of 20
    percent or higher spread over two years.
    o 50 percent of the employees in the bargaining unit will receive a pay increase of 15
    percent or higher spread over two years.
    o 75 percent of the employees in the bargaining unit will receive a pay increase of 10
    percent or higher spread over two years.
    o Employees hired before January 1, 2023 and making $18.32 per hour or less will
    see a minimum pay increase of 12.6 percent spread over two years, ranging from
    12.6 percent to as high as 31.2 percent depending on the employee’s date of hire
    and current placement on the salary schedule.
  • The District’s final offer removes the lowest three steps of the salary schedule in an effort
    to increase starting pay and pay for newer employees. The starting salary under the
    District’s proposal will increase from $13.85 per hour to $15.04 per hour in the first year
    of the contract. The starting salary will increase again to $15.34 per hour in the second
  • All employees hired on or before June 30, 2022 will receive a total of $1,200 in retention
    payments to be split into a one-time $600 payment to be made in each year of the contract.
  • Employees will not see an increase in their share of the premium contribution for single or
    family health insurance in year one of the contract. In year two, the District’s offer limits
    any increase an employee’s share of the cost of family coverage to a maximum of $15 per
  • The District has agreed to increase the rate at which unused sick leave and essential leave
    is paid out by $2 per hour.
  • The District has agreed to language providing employees with a contribution toward
    approved non-slip footwear in the amount of $150 per year.

    The District’s last, best and final offer is designed to address current market conditions, as well as
    to increase starting pay and wages for newer employees. For more senior employees, the District’s
    last, best and final offer will accomplish the following:
  • Top hourly pay for cooks will increase to $20.17 per hour in the first year of the agreement,
    which is higher than four of the six school districts Hastings Public Schools has identified
    as comparable school districts.
  • Top hourly pay for lead elementary school cooks will increase to $28.95 per hour in the
    first year of the agreement. Top pay for lead elementary cooks under the 2020-2022
    collective bargaining agreement already exceeded the rate of the highest comparable school
    district by $2.62 per hour.
  • Top hourly pay for lead secondary school cooks will increase to $31.66 per hour in the first
    year of the agreement. Top pay for lead secondary cooks under the 2020-2022 collective
    bargaining agreement already exceeded the rate of the highest comparable school district
    by $1.67 per hour.

    The District’s Last, Best and Final offer to the Food Service bargaining unit is consistent with
    the financial terms and conditions that were negotiated and accepted by all six other hourly
    groups whose contracts were up during the District’s most recent cycle of negotiations. It is
    important to note that the Food Service group is composed of 35 employees, all of whom only
    work during the school year (174 days). Five of these employees work 7 to 8 hours per day,
    while the majority of the employees of this group only work 2 to 5.75 hours per day.

Amid violent start to the year, Minneapolis boosts funds for violence intervention groups

The City of Minneapolis is boosting funding to violence intervention groups.

In the first 12 days of the new year, 14 people have been shot in six separate shootings.

Police said a man was shot and killed at a homeless encampment in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood Thursday morning.

That shooting happened just ten hours after another homicide in North Minneapolis, where one person was killed and two others were critically hurt in a parking lot near Lowry and Bryant Avenues.

On Monday, four people were hurt in a shooting at a South Minneapolis light rail stop on East Lake Street.

The day before, four people were shot downtown near Hennepin Avenue and North Ninth Street.

“We’ve had a number of shooting incidents over the last few days and obviously it’s very concerning for me,” said Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara. “I think this just speaks to the challenges that we are facing.”

Thursday, city council authorized support for violence intervention initiatives, including a cooperative agreement with Hennepin County for a new program called the Youth Group Violence Intervention.

“How we look at it from our office is we are part of an ecosystem of safety and it really is going to take all of us,” said Jen White, interagency engagement manager with the Office of Violence Prevention.

She said the new youth initiative expands an existing program aimed at adults, which includes mental health support, life skills courses and relocation for individuals if necessary.

“It’s really concentrated on focusing on the right people and sending that message that we’ll help you get out of this lifestyle,” White said.

City council also approved an increase in funding for Change Equals Opportunity(C.E.O.), with up to $225,000 now available for that non-profit to continue work in the community.

Executive Director Jamil Jackson grew up on the northside and is currently a high school basketball coach.

He believes it is critical to urgently address the violence.

“We have to move fast. We have to think outside the box. We have to become untraditional,” Jackson said.

He works with young men age 12 to 27, providing opportunities for exposure to other ways of life.

Jackson said he has brought teenagers on college tours, offers to buy them new shoes in exchange for good grades at school and has even taken youth from rival street groups on trips together.

“We took them to Florida, got them on a plane. They didn’t know each other was coming on the trip until they got to the airport,” Jackson said. “But then they got to realize that some of this tension we have toward other people is unfounded.”

Click here to learn more about the work Change Equals Opportunity is doing.

Thursday, the mayor told 5 EYEWITNESS News he believes many of the initiatives are helping to reduce violence but more still has to be done.

“We need to double down again on some of the progress we’re seeing because we want to have another significant drop in crime and specifically violent crime this next year as well,” Jacob Frey said.