Anoka County Sheriff’s Office: Emergency crews on scene of ‘possible explosion’

First responders are on the scene of what the Anoka County dispatch tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS was called in as a possible house explosion.

Emergency crews were called to the 2800 block of Viking Boulevard Northeast in East Bethel around 8:30 a.m.

Dispatchers say it is an active scene and there are possibly people inside. They did not say how many were possibly inside the building.

A tweet from Anoka County Sheriff’s Office says there is no danger to the public, but are asking people to avoid the area so crews can work.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS has a crew on the way to the scene and will update this article as details become available.

UPDATE: 1 dead, no arrests made in overnight Minneapolis shooting

UPDATE 8:15 a.m.: Investigators believe a fatal shooting on Hennepin Avenue South led to a crash with another vehicle at Vineland Place overnight.

Minneapolis Police say officers were called to the intersection of Hennepin/Lyndale Avenue South at Vineland Place for a report of a vehicle crash at about 1:15 a.m. Monday.

That’s where officers found the driver of one car, identified as a man in his 20s, who was unresponsive and suffering from life-threatening gunshot wounds. He was then taken to the hospital, where he died despite life-saving efforts.

A news release issued by Minneapolis police states the other vehicle involved in the crash contained two men who weren’t injured.

Investigators say that evidence of gunfire was found at Hennepin Avenue South and Vineland Place, as well as on the vehicle that was driven by the victim. They believe the victim drove his vehicle from the intersection with Dunwoody Boulevard to Vineland Place before crashing.

Witnesses also reported seeing another vehicle leave the area “at a high rate of speed.”

A white sedan was seen by a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS camera with what appeared to be several bullet holes on the side.

As of this time, no arrests have been made.

The victim’s identity is expected to be released by the Hennepin County Medicals Examiner’s Office.

Anyone with information on the incident is asked to call CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

A previous version of this report can be found below. 


INITIAL REPORT: Minneapolis police are investigating an incident on Lyndale Avenue South in the city’s Lowry Hill neighborhood that caused the roadway to be temporarily closed during the early morning hours on Monday.

A 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS camera caught footage of the scene at about 1:30 a.m. near Vineland Place.

A car with what appeared to be bullet holes was found at the scene.

KSTP-TV has reached out to police for additional information on this developing story and will update this article as details become available.

Bill for GPS tracking of stolen vehicles without a warrant moving through Minnesota legislature

A bill that would allow law enforcement agencies to use GPS tracking on stolen vehicles without a search warrant or permission from the vehicle’s owner has passed through the Minnesota House Public Safety Committee.

Under current state law, authorities can use GPS tracking devices with a warrant or the consent of the vehicle’s owner.

The bill’s author, Rep. Kelly Moller (DFL-Shoreview), told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS it would give law enforcement the chance to respond more quickly to carjackings. Also, officers could end potentially dangerous pursuits by instead tracking vehicles and apprehending the suspect at a later time.

RELATED: Minnesota lawmaker pushes for high-tech solution to carjackings and high-speed chases

Moller’s bill says law enforcement would have to stop using the GPS tracking device after a vehicle was recovered or after 24 hours, whichever would come first.

“We also wanted to make sure this wasn’t going to be a tool that law enforcement was going to use to like, track this stolen car indefinitely to follow a suspect to figure out who are they talking to, where are they going next, to follow them for a week or something like that,” said Moller.

Ramsey County Sheriff Mike Martin told lawmakers officers could deploy GPS tracking monitors from inside their squads to attach them to the back of a vehicle, making dangerous pursuits unnecessary at times.

“We can back off, we can all monitor on our phones where that car is, and then we’re not involved in a reckless chase, or a chase that endangers the public,” Martin said.

The bill passed the Public Safety Committee unanimously with bipartisan support after concerns about its constitutionality were assuaged by support from the Minnesota Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

However, Hamline University Law professor David Schultz told KSTP there’s precedent to overcome due to similar rulings concerning the use of GPS tracking data without a warrant.

“We know a few years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a warrant is required if police are going to place a tracking device on a car for the purposes of trying to track where the car is going to go,” said Schultz. “So, this bill might violate that precedent and might violate the Fourth Amendment.”

The bill now goes to the House floor for a full vote.

Follow the movement of other major bills with KSTP’s Minnesota Legislative Tracker.

Ramsey County officials to address overcrowding at jail following reported violations

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that Ramsey County Officials will meet Monday to discuss issues at the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center. Officials say they will discuss solutions during their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday. The article has been updated to reflect this change.

Ramsey County officials say they will meet on Tuesday to find ways to fix overcrowding in the adult detention center, following orders from the Department of Corrections.

The DOC launched an investigation after receiving health and safety complaints about the jail.

The department is now ordering the county officials to reduce capacity, noting the failure to meet minimum staffing levels poses an imminent risk of life-threatening harm or serious injury.

RELATED: DOC orders Ramsey Co. jail to reduce capacity, cites multiple violations

In the report, the DOC cited four violations that break multiple state laws. It also states that the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center must submit a capacity-reduction plan to the Department of Corrections by the close of business on Monday, Feb. 6.

“Our public health staff sent multiple letters to the sheriff’s office and his team with these concerns, raising the issues,” said Ramsey County Commissioner Trista Matascastillo. “It really was from a lack of response or adequate response to actually address it so we decided to self-report to the Department of Corrections.”

Matascastillo said Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher brought to their attention last fall the jail was overcrowded.

She said action was taken and they reduced the population in the jail by about 70 people.

RELATED: DOC orders Beltrami Co. Jail to reduce capacity after multiple violations

On Sunday night, Sheriff Fletcher released another statement regarding the order:

“I share the concerns about overcrowding in our jails. In fact, it’s an issue we’ve tried to raise with the county board for months and months, including as far back as last May.

Overcrowding isn’t a new problem. It’s part of a nationwide trend and entirely predictable, caused by significant increases in crime, massive backlogs in the criminal justice system and a nationwide worker shortage.

We’ve been working hard to address the issue by aggressively recruiting and hiring corrections officers while at the same time trying to work with our county commissioners on solutions — like making better use of the Ramsey County workhouse, that’s only using 25 percent of its capacity.

We haven’t gotten there yet, but I’m heartened to see the board ready to take the challenge seriously and looking forward to working with them on a permanent solution. In the meantime, we’ll be moving some inmates to other secure facilities throughout Minnesota.  No inmates will be released.

Powerful quake rocks Turkey and Syria, kills more than 2,300

AZMARIN, Syria (AP) — A powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked wide swaths of Turkey and Syria early Monday, toppling hundreds of buildings and killing more than 2,300 people. Hundreds were still believed to be trapped under rubble, and the toll was expected to rise as rescue workers searched mounds of wreckage in cities and towns across the area.

On both sides of the border, residents jolted out of sleep by the pre-dawn quake rushed outside on a cold, rainy and snowy night. Buildings were reduced to piles of pancaked floors, and major aftershocks or new quakes, including one nearly as strong as the first, continued to rattle the region.

Rescue workers and residents in multiple cities searched for survivors, working through tangles of metal and concrete. A hospital in Turkey collapsed, and patients, including newborns, were evacuated from facilities in Syria.

In the Turkish city of Adana, one resident said three buildings near his home were toppled. “I don’t have the strength anymore,” one survivor could be heard calling out from beneath the rubble as rescue workers tried to reach him, said the resident, journalism student Muhammet Fatih Yavuz.

“Because the debris removal efforts are continuing in many buildings in the earthquake zone, we do not know how high the number of dead and injured will rise,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. “Hopefully, we will leave these disastrous days behind us in unity and solidarity as a country and a nation.”

The quake, which was centered on Turkey’s southeastern province of Kahramanmaras, was felt as far away as Cairo. It sent residents of Damascus rushing into the street, and jolted awake people in their beds in Beirut.

It struck a region that has been shaped on both sides of the border by more than a decade of civil war in Syria. On the Syrian side, the swath affected is divided between government-held territory and the country’s last opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by Russian-backed government forces. Turkey, meanwhile, is home to millions of refugees from that conflict.

The opposition-held regions in Syria are packed with some 4 million people displaced from other parts of the country by the fighting. Many of them live in buildings that are already wrecked from past bombardments. Hundreds of families remained trapped in rubble, the opposition emergency organization, called the White Helmets, said in a statement.

Strained health facilities and hospitals were quickly filled with injured, rescue workers said. Others had to be emptied, including a maternity hospital, according to the SAMS medical organization.

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

The U.S. Geological Survey measured Monday’s quake at 7.8. Hours later, a 7.5 magnitude one struck more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) away. An official from Turkey’s disaster management agency said it was a new earthquake, not an aftershock, though its effects were not immediately clear. Hundreds of aftershocks were expected after the two temblors, Orhan Tatar told reporters.

Thousands of buildings were reported collapsed in a wide area extending from Syria’s cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkey’s Diyarbakir, more than 330 kilometers (200 miles) to the northeast. A hospital collapsed in the Mediterranean coastal city of Iskenderun, but casualties were not immediately known, Turkey’s vice president, Fuat Oktay, said.

Televisions stations in Turkey aired screens split into four or five, showing live coverage from rescue efforts in the worst-hit provinces. In the city of Kahramanmaras, rescuers pulled two children alive from the rubble, and one could be seen lying on a stretcher on the snowy ground.

Offers of help — from search-and-rescue teams to medical supplies and money — poured in from dozens of countries, as well as the European Union and NATO.

The damage evident from photos of the affected areas is typically associated with a significant loss of life — while bitterly cold temperatures and the difficulty of working in areas beset by civil war will only complicate rescue efforts, said Dr. Steven Godby, an expert in natural hazards at Nottingham Trent University.

In Turkey, people trying to leave the quake-stricken regions caused traffic jams, hampering efforts of emergency teams trying to reach the affected areas. Authorities urged residents not to take to the roads. Mosques around the region were opened to provide shelter for people unable to return to damaged homes amid temperatures that hovered around freezing.

In Diyarbakir, hundreds of rescue workers and civilians formed lines across a mountain of wreckage, passing down broken concrete pieces, household belongings and other debris as they searched for trapped survivors while excavators dug through the rubble below.

In northwest Syria, the quake added new woes to the opposition-held enclave centered on the province of Idlib, which has been under siege for years, with frequent Russian and government airstrikes. The territory depends on a flow of aid from nearby Turkey for everything from food to medical supplies.

The opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense described the situation there as “disastrous.”

In a hospital in Darkush in Idlib, Osama Abdelhamid said most of his neighbors died. He said their shared four-story building collapsed just as he, his wife and three children ran toward the exit. A wooden door fell on them and acted as a shield.

“God gave me a new lease on life,” he said.

In the small Syrian rebel-held town of Azmarin in the mountains by the Turkish border, the bodies of several dead children, wrapped in blankets, were brought to a hospital.

The Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums in Syria said the earthquake has caused some damage to the Crusader-built Marqab, or Watchtower Castle, on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. Part of a tower and parts of some walls collapsed.

In Turkey, meanwhile, the quake damaged a historic castle perched atop a hill in the center of the provincial capital of Gaziantep, about 33 kilometers (20 miles) from the epicenter. Parts of the fortresses’ walls and watch towers were leveled and other parts heavily damaged, images from the city showed.

The USGS said the quake was 18 kilometers (11 miles) deep.

Nearly 1,500 people were killed in 10 Turkish provinces, with some 8,500 injured, according to the president of the country’s disaster management agency. The death toll in government-held areas of Syria climbed over 430 people, with some 1,280 injured, according to the Health Ministry. In the country’s rebel-held northwest, groups that operate there said the death toll was at least 380, with many hundreds injured.

Huseyin Yayman, a legislator from Turkey’s Hatay province, said several of his family members were stuck under the rubble of their collapsed homes.

“There are so many other people who are also trapped,” he told HaberTurk television by telephone. “There are so many buildings that have been damaged. People are on the streets. It’s raining, it’s winter.”

___

This story has been updated to correct the spelling of the journalism student’s name to Muhammet Fatih Yavuz.

___

Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey. Associated Press writers Bassem Mroue and Kareem Chehayeb in Beirut and Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.

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.

‘Conversion therapy’ ban again headed for vote in Minnesota House

The Minnesota House of Representatives yet again is poised to vote on banning “conversion therapy,” a label given to a variety of methods used in attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

This is at least the fourth time in the last five years state lawmakers have proposed such legislation.

House File 16, placed on the General Register after it was adopted Wednesday by the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee, would ban the practice specifically by mental health professionals for children and vulnerable adults.

Kat Rohn, executive director of LGBTQ+ advocacy organization OutFront Minnesota, spoke in favor of the ban during all three committee hearings in the last month.

“So historically, conversion therapy involves a whole range of really harmful practices, including things like electroshock therapy and you know, induced nausea and things like that,” Rohn told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Sunday.

“These days, that has shifted somewhat. While we still see that on rare occasions, a lot of it is sort of talk therapy.”

Method aside, conversion therapy — as the bill defines it — comes with the intention of changing someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

About 4% of LGBTQ youth in Minnesota have experienced conversion therapy during their lifetimes, and another 11% have been threatened with the practice, according to the Trevor Project’s “2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health.”

“It’s becoming increasingly rare, but the harm is real for the folks who have endured it,” Rohn said.

In Wednesday’s testimony, a third-year University of Minnesota medical student shared the story of a friend sent away to conversion therapy.

“It was obvious to everyone that the Steve we knew was truly gone. In his place was this child who was drowned in self-loathing and self-hate,” they said, using an alias to share their friend’s story.

“And a year later, Steve tried to take his own life.”

A review by the Minnesota Department of Health concluded in 2022 that while studies are limited, conversion therapy is “neither effective nor harmless” and has “strong associations” with adverse effects, including anxiety, depression and suicide.

The report was created as part of an executive order signed by Gov. Tim Walz in 2021 that restricted the accessibility of the practice.

Bans like the proposed state law already exist in several Minnesota cities, including Minneapolis and Duluth. Twenty other states and Washington D.C. ban conversion therapy for minors.

Two dissenters in testimony Wednesday said they’re thankful for having received the therapy.

“I oppose this bill. As an adolescent, I experienced same-sex attractions,” one said before lawmakers.

“Knowing that homosexual practice was inconsistent with my religious faith, I chose to explore my options with the help of qualified mental health professionals and pastoral caregivers.”

“I was not forced, I was not coerced and I was not abused,” the person continued.

Rep. Harry Niska (R-Ramsey) also expressed concern the bill could come with legal liability over First Amendment rights, including freedom of speech and of religion. It’s a concern that’s been raised since a state conversion therapy ban was first proposed in 2019.

“What’s added in section three to the existing bill is a bunch of language calling out a particular viewpoint or particular content as fraudulent,” Niska said Wednesday.

Niska referenced the final section of House File 16 that would also ban “misrepresentation” or “false advertising” of conversion therapy by “representing homosexuality as a mental disease, disorder, or illness, or guaranteeing to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The bill’s next step is a vote on the House floor. A companion Senate File is scheduled for its first committee hearing Wednesday.

Follow the movement of major state legislation with KSTP’s new Minnesota Legislative Tracker.


Here is a list of suicide prevention and mental health resources:

If you believe someone is at risk of suicide, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests you:

  • Ask questions about whether the individual is having suicidal thoughts.
  • Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  • Seek help from a medical or mental health professional. If it is an emergency situation, take the person to a hospital.
  • Remove any objects from a person’s home that could be potentially used in a suicide.
  • Do not leave the person alone, if possible, until help is available.

The U.S. National Suicide Prevention organization has also compiled a list of resources to help with coping during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Father and son killed in suspected murder-suicide well-remembered as musicians

As police work to piece together what happened leading up to a suspected murder-suicide that left three men dead in a truck in a Bloomington parking lot Wednesday night, friends and family began to share stories of the two identified decedents whose deaths were ruled homicides: father and son, Dale Dahmen, 55, and Dominick Dahmen, 25.

Many who knew Dale Dahmen, knew him as a musician who played together with his two sons in local band ‘Dale Dahmen & The Beats.’

Chuck Thiel, a fellow polka-style musician and concertina player known for his band the ‘Jolly Ramblers,’ said he’d guess he’s known Dale Dahmen for 30 years.

“Dale is very talented. He worked hard on the concertina, played it extremely well. He had a good band. And like I say, he worked hard at it,” Thiel shared. “I just saw a video on Facebook this morning that he had just been at the Concertina Jamboree in Blaine this past weekend.”

With the concertina in common, Thiel and Dahman crossed paths for years, playing one after the other at polka festivals across the state.

“He played better than I did,” Thiel said breaking a smile. “Dale actually played for my son Jason and Mary, his wife’s, wedding in 2007.”

Thiel didn’t meet Dahmen’s sons. One of them, Dominick, who played with his father, was found dead with Dale Dahmen Wednesday night. Both died from gunshot wounds, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner revealed Friday. Their deaths were ruled homicides.

“Pretty shocking,” Thiel reacted Saturday to the news. “My cell phone beeped last night about one o’clock, and it was Jason sending me a message. And I didn’t bother with it until I got up this morning. And there it was.”

The news then came pouring in from several sources, including messages from other friends in the musician community and in the headlines.

Thiel and his son Jason Thiel also play together and have for years, a parallel that’s kept the Thiels and Dahmens close, but made digesting the news of the father and son’s death that much tougher.

“And there’s another part of it that hurts too,” he began. “The fact that his son, one of the two boys in the band, was with him. Jason has been with me in my band for since he was eight, so 34 years, and now Jason’s three sons, my grandsons, are also playing in our band. So when it’s family, that’s pretty close.”

“I can’t fathom what happened. I really can’t. It’s a complete shock to the family. He had a lot of musician friends that, it shocks the community,” Thiel added.

The Dahmens are from Buffalo, about 40 miles northwest of where police found their bodies in Bloomington Wednesday.

Authorities Saturday did not identify the third man who died in the suspected murder-suicide, nor did police respond to additional questions about how he may have known Dale and Dominick Dahmen.

Police only said earlier in the week that he was a business associate and the three “appeared to have some business financial dealings.”

The investigation is ongoing, but police said they are not looking for additional suspects.

Gathering marks 50-year relationship of Minn. National Guard, Norwegian Home Guard

A dignified, full-dress ceremony in St. Paul Saturday night marked a very special celebration — a 50-year partnership between the Minnesota National Guard and the Norwegian Home Guard.  

“So today really gives us the authority and the recognition from the Department of Defense for a state partnership program,” declared Major General Shawn Manke, from the Minnesota National Guard.

For a half-century now, the two forces have switched out training.

Each year, about 100 Minnesota Guard members travel to Norway, and a like number of the Norwegian Home Guard come to Camp Ripley.

Minnesota members have been in Norway since Feb. 3, and Norwegian members are due to arrive at the camp on Sunday.

“It entrusts goodwill, relationships, everything,” says Major General Elisabeth Michelsen, the chief of the Norwegian Home Guard. “Then we understand each other and have a good relationship. Good ally.”

The program, called the Norwegian Reciprocal Exchange, or NOREX for short, is the longest-running partnership of its kind in the world.

“It means a lot, it does a lot,” explains Eivind Aastorp, a Norwegian Home Guard Youth member. “Seeing how the Americans use military winter survival gear. Experiencing the American military, experiencing culture, it does a lot for our understanding of our relationship and how we can work better together.”

So far, 8,000 soldiers from both countries have participated in the program.

The two-week sessions include weapons drills, shelter building, and even ski training.

“It’s all about surviving in the snow and skiing and start operating and doing your mission,” notes Minnesota Guard Master Sergeant Leon Patterson.

He says the roots of the exchange program began during World War II.

“The 99th from Minnesota and Wisconsin trained soldiers in Colorado in WWII,” Patterson explains. “They did sabotage missions, ‘cos back then, Norway was occupied by Germany, the Nazi regime.”

On Saturday, Governor Walz signed a letter of intent adding Norway as a partner in the state partnership program.

The Defense Department initiative pairs the National Guard of a U.S. state or territory with a partner nation’s military, security forces, and government agencies responsible for emergency and disaster response.

The governor is scheduled to travel to Norway the week of Feb. 15 for the official signing of that agreement.

“You’ll never forget your training, you’ll never forget the people,” Walz, a 24-year National Guard veteran says. “You’ll never forget the northern lights.”

Experts say the program sharpens combat skills and improves military readiness.

They say it also fosters cultural understanding and life-long relationships.

“I think a lot of times, when Norwegians come to the U.S., especially places like Seattle or Minnesota, into the Midwest, there’s a lot of surprise and pride at how much people carried forth their traditions,” says Ellen Ahlness, a researcher with the Veterans Health Administration. “Really pivoting to the future is the evolving interest in Arctic and winter training, that an area that both Norway and the United States have a lot of interest in, the National Guard in the military moving forward.”

Shiloh Temple’s ‘Building the Dream’ campaign hopes to raise $1 million to pay mortgage

Sitting on the corner of West Broadway and Fremont Avenues in north Minneapolis, Shiloh Temple International Ministries is nestled in a community that frequently finds itself in the midst of trauma.

But, through a lot of that distress, the church has been a staple for parishioners and community members — now to help bolster their legacy, it has a lofty goal of raising $1 million.

“It’s not just about money — it’s about providing messages of hope,” Bishop Richard Howell, with Shiloh Temple, said.

For more than 90 years, Bishop Howell’s family has been leading the church.

“I do believe that the church itself is in the driver’s seat in this community to do greater things,” Bishop Howell added.  “Such as, bringing hope to a very despairing population.”

‘Building the Dream’ campaign hopes to raise $1 million

Now to help pay off the building’s mortgage, Bishop Howell says they’ve started the ‘Building the Dream’ campaign — with the use of what they’re calling “community captains” Bishop Howell hopes to raise $1 million.

“I could bring tears to my eyes,” Bishop Howell said about talking about the campaign. “When I think about a dream that can come through, a mortgage that needs to be paid … we owe $1.2 million [and] we’re in an area a community that cannot pay that.”

As of late January, Shiloh Temple had 40 community captains — they hope to have 100 and reach their goal by July. Bishop Howell said captains themselves have donated money and that their job is to connect with a variety of people and entities in the community to reach the goal.

“If each captain raises $10,000, right, 100 captains, that’s $1 million — it’s as simple as that.”

Shiloh Temple’s community impact

From weekly worships, to a community food shelf, to a safe space for community members to meet, for many who call the north side home, Shiloh Temple is a staple.

It’s also hosted several prominent funerals — including Daunte Wright’s, Amir Locke’s, and 6-year-old Aniya Allen who was shot and killed in a car in north Minneapolis, in May, 2021.

“When you think about what to celebrate on the north side, this is it,” Sondra Samuels, founding leader of the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ), said.

NAZ supports families and children in north Minneapolis — Samuels has also called the north side home for many years.

“If this church was not here, I have no idea what the community would be like,” Samuels added.

Chief executive officer for Family Refuge Village — a partner organization with Shiloh Temple — Lynn Lewis feels the church can reach their goal.

“You hear so much negativity about what goes on, on the north side,” Lewis said. “But, when you come to Shiloh [Temple], you see healing, you see transformation.”

If they were to reach their goal, Bishop Howell said they’ll be able to strengthen their food shelf, expand educational services and be able to financially help more families in need.

House Public Safety Committee advances 4 gun bills

Gun control bills will be the latest area where Democrats who control the Minnesota House and Senate will attempt to pass legislation that’s been bottled up for years. They got a start on Friday by passing four bills through the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of reading stories in the paper and hearing about accidents where young children are killed by firearms that were not secured, not stored properly,” said Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, DFL-Roseville, author of a bill that would require gun owners to lock up their firearms at home and keep them separate from their ammunition.

Opponents say it’s an infringement on their right to defend themselves in their own homes.

“Requiring firearms to be stored unloaded and entirely separate from their ammunition is an undue burden on that right,” testified Bryan Strawser of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus.

Another bill authored by Rep. Dave Pinto, DFL-St. Paul, would require background checks for all gun sales, including those between private parties. They would have to submit applications to a local police chief or sheriff.

“I want to be clear this bill will not stop every criminal from acquiring a firearm, but I do believe that passing this legislation will reduce gun violence and save families from the devastating impact of losing a loved one,” said Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner Bob Jacobson in testimony supporting the bill.

“Representative Pinto, how many criminals will this bill stop?” asked Rep. Matt Grossell, (R) Clearbrook, clearly skeptical about what the bill would accomplish.  

“We know this is not going to prevent every transfer of an illegal gun, but what we do know is that this is an expectation we have of gun owners,” Pinto responded.

A third bill would create “Extreme Risk Protection Orders” often referred to as “red flag” laws that would allow a judge and police to temporarily take away weapons in cases where someone is deemed to be a risk due to mental health issues.

“This is just another tool that I believe is necessary to prevent some of the unnecessary deaths,” said Rep. Cedrick Frazier, DFL-New Hope, the bill’s author.

Speaking on behalf of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said it would be a valuable tool.

“To allow for in these emergency situations to take the gun away a person that is a risk to themselves or to other people,” he testified.

Gun rights supporters questioned the legitimacy of these laws and their lack of due process protections.

“We go knock on their door. Take their firearms and now that the firearms are gone the situation’s fine. That’s an entirely false premise,” said Rob Doar of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus.

The fourth bill passed would create misdemeanor penalties for failure to report a lost or stolen weapon within a reasonable time frame.

All these bills passed on 9-6 party-line votes with Democrats in favor and Republicans against during a hearing that last more than four hours. Gun rights supporters say they will make these bills a major issue in upcoming elections if they pass.

“This whole hearing in our opinion is a goat-roping joke,” said Ben Dorr of the Minnesota Gun Rights organization. “So we’ll just say this. Minnesota Gun Rights is massive and our reach extends deep into every district in Minnesota that matters. If you pass these bills Minnesota Gun Rights will viciously expose every politician in the weakest districts in Minnesota in the 2024 elections and every election beyond.”

Democrats have a six-seat majority in the House and a one-seat majority in the Senate.

Follow the progress of these other notable bills with our Legislative Tracker.

Metro Transit gets creative in bid to attract new drivers

Metro Transit is dealing with a shortage of bus drivers that has impacted service since even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, the organization is getting creative in an attempt to attract new drivers.

Saturday morning, Metro Transit held a hiring event in Minneapolis’ North Loop that allowed visitors to test drive a 40-foot bus.

Staff was on hand to answer questions, help with applications and provide information on how applicants can get a commercial driver’s license.

Metro Transit’s Chief Operating Officer, Brian Funk, says they’re looking to hire around 200 new drivers. With a good turnout at Saturday’s event, officials are hoping to chip away at that number.

“You have a good shot. People who have a little bit of a driving background tend to move through it a little bit quicker but it’s absolutely not necessary,” Funk said.

“I’m really hoping we get drivers back in the seat because we really, really need drivers,” Jean Hammonds, a driving instructor for Metro Transit, added.

Hammonds said she enjoys her job and encourages others to give it a shot.

“I meet interesting people all the time. I just love my job,” she said.

However, she also wants applicants to understand what they’re signing up for.

“You’re not going to have an 8-5 job so you have to be willing to be patient with the hours, and the training here is great and once you get through the training, Metro Transit coaches you all the way so you just have to be patient with your hours,” Hammonds said.

Mechanics and Metro Transit police officers were also on site Saturday, as they’re also hiring and looking for more candidates.

Metro Transit says it is offering a $5,000 signing bonus, and full-time drivers start out making around $26.16 per hour.

More information is available online.

US downs Chinese balloon, drawing a threat from China

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. military on Saturday shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast after it traversed sensitive military sites across North America. China insisted the flyover was an accident involving a civilian aircraft and threatened repercussions.

President Joe Biden issued the order but had wanted the balloon downed even earlier, on Wednesday. He was advised that the best time for the operation would be when it was over water, U.S. officials said. Military officials determined that bringing it down over land from an altitude of 60,000 feet would pose an undue risk to people on the ground.

China responded that it reserved the right to “take further actions” and criticized the U.S. for “an obvious overreaction and a serious violation of international practice.”

In its statement Sunday, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that “China will resolutely uphold the relevant company’s legitimate rights and interests, and at the same time reserving the right to take further actions in response.” China’s Ministry of Defense echoed the statement later in the day, saying it “reserves the right to take necessary measures to deal with similar situations.”

The presence of the balloon in the skies above the U.S. this week dealt a severe blow to already strained U.S.-Chinese relations that have been in a downward spiral for years. It prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to abruptly cancel a high-stakes Beijing trip aimed at easing tensions.

“They successfully took it down and I want to compliment our aviators who did it,” Biden said after getting off Air Force One en route to Camp David.

The giant white orb was spotted Saturday morning over the Carolinas as it approached the Atlantic coast. About 2:39 p.m. EST, an F-22 fighter jet fired a missile at the balloon, puncturing it while it was about 6 nautical miles off the coast near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, senior defense officials said.

The spectacle had Americans looking to the skies all week, wondering whether the mysterious balloon had floated over them.

On Saturday, Ashlyn Preaux, 33, went out to get her mail in Forestbrook, South Carolina, and noticed her neighbors looking up — and there it was, the balloon in the cloudless blue sky. Then she saw fighter jets circling and the balloon get hit.

“I did not anticipate waking up to be in a ‘Top Gun’ movie today,” she said.

The debris landed in 47 feet of water, shallower than officials had expected, and it spread out over roughly seven miles and the recovery operation included several ships. The officials estimated the recovery efforts would be completed in a short time, not weeks. A salvage vessel was en route.

U.S. defense and military officials said Saturday that the balloon entered the U.S. air defense zone north of the Aleutian Islands on Jan. 28 and moved largely over land across Alaska and then into Canadian airspace in the Northwest Territories on Monday. It crossed back into U.S. territory over northern Idaho on Tuesday, the day the White House said Biden was first briefed on it.

The balloon was spotted Wednesday over Montana, home to Malmstrom Air Force Base, which has fields of nuclear missile silos.

The Americans were able to collect intelligence on the balloon as it flew over the U.S., giving them a number of days to analyze it and learn how it moved and what it was capable of surveilling, according to two senior defense officials said. The officials briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.

The officials said the U.S. military was constantly assessing the threat, and concluded that the technology on the balloon didn’t give the Chinese significant intelligence beyond what it could already obtain from satellites, though the U.S. took steps to mitigate what information it could gather as it moved along.

Republicans were critical of Biden’s response.

“Allowing a spy balloon from the Communist Party of China to travel across the entire continental United States before contesting its presence is a disastrous projection of weakness by the White House,” said Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., tweeted: “Now that this embarrassing episode is over, we need answers from the Biden Administration on the decision-making process. Communist China was allowed to violate American sovereignty unimpeded for days. We must be better prepared for future provocations and incursions by the CCP.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was more positive: “Thank you to the men and women of the United States military who were responsible for completing the mission to shoot down the Chinese surveillance balloon. The Biden Administration did the right thing in bringing it down.”

China has claimed that the balloon was merely a weather research “airship” that had been blown off course. The Pentagon rejected that out of hand — as well as China’s contention that it was not being used for surveillance and had only limited navigational ability.

The Chinese government on Saturday sought to play down the cancellation of Blinken’s trip. “In actuality, the U.S. and China have never announced any visit, the U.S. making any such announcement is their own business, and we respect that,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

The Pentagon also acknowledged reports of a second balloon flying over Latin America. “We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,” Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement. Officials said the balloons are part of a fleet that China uses for surveillance, and they can be maneuvered remotely through small motors and propellers. One official said they carry equipment in the pod under the balloon that is not usually associated with standard meteorological activities or civilian research.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a question about the second balloon.

This isn’t the first time Chinese spy balloons have crossed into U.S. airspace in recent years, one of the officials said. At least three times during the Trump administration and at least one other time during Biden’s time as president they’ve seen balloons cross, but not for this long, the official said.

Blinken, who had been due to depart Washington for Beijing late Friday, said he had told senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in a phone call that sending the balloon over the U.S. was “an irresponsible act and that (China’s) decision to take this action on the eve of my visit is detrimental to the substantive discussions that we were prepared to have.”

Uncensored reactions on the Chinese internet mirrored the official government stance that the U.S. was hyping the situation. Some used it as a chance to poke fun at U.S. defenses, saying it couldn’t even defend against a balloon, and nationalist influencers leaped to use the news to mock the U.S.

China has denied any claims of spying and said it is a civilian-use balloon intended for meteorology research. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized that the balloon’s journey was out of its control and urged the U.S. not to “smear” it because of the balloon.

In preparation for the operation Saturday, the Federal Aviation Administration temporarily closed airspace over the Carolina coast, including the airports in Myrtle Beach and Charleston, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina. The FAA rerouted air traffic from the area and warned of delays as a result of the flight restrictions. The FAA and Coast Guard worked to clear the airspace and water below the balloon as it reached the ocean.

Television footage showed a small explosion, followed by the giant deflated balloon descending like a ribbon toward the water.

Bill Swanson said he watched the balloon deflate instantly from his house in Myrtle Beach as fighter jets circled around.

“When it deflated it was pretty close to instantaneous,” he said. “One second it’s there like a tiny moon and the next second it’s gone.” Swanson added that a trail of smoke followed the balloon as it dropped.

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Associated Press writers Chris Megerian in Hagerstown, Md.; Tara Copp and Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington; Meg Kinnard in Columbia, S.C.; Kimberlee Kruesi in Nashville, Tenn.; Huizhong Wu in Taipei; and researcher Henry Hou in Beijing contributed to this report.

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An earlier version of this report incorrectly said the balloon was spotted over Montana on Thursday, instead of Wednesday.

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

Weather grounds balloons Sunday morning, 2023 Hudson Hot Air Affair still a success

Hot air balloons come from all over the country to be a part of the Hot Air Affair in Hudson, Wis.

More than 30 balloonists from five states were in attendance this weekend.

The event draws in thousands of attendees every year, but for balloons to be able to take off, weather conditions need to be just perfect — not too cold or windy.

That was the case Sunday morning. A front caused some surface winds, grounding the balloons from launching. Balloons fly best in light, and stable winds of 4-6 mph, and winds higher than 10 mph can be dangerous.

Despite the winds Sunday morning, 18 hot air balloons were able to fly over the weekend.

Click here for more local events coverage.

Vice President Harris to visit St. Cloud next week

Vice President Kamala Harris is scheduled to visit St. Cloud next week, the White House announced on Friday.

Harris’ trip to Minnesota comes on the heels of President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, and she is expected to talk about the Biden administration’s focus on electric vehicle production.

The time and location of her visit will be revealed later on.

The vice president last stopped in Minnesota a couple of weeks before the midterm elections. She stressed the need to protect reproductive rights during a roundtable discussion at Metropolitan State University in Minneapolis.

Minnesota Department of Health report finds death rates are higher for people experiencing homelessness. How some agencies are trying to help.

This week’s brutal cold is difficult for all of us —but especially punishing for anyone living outside, or in a tent.

“It’s pretty intense, you know?” declares Damon Applebee, of Minneapolis. “It’s, what can you say, being out in the cold is being out in the cold.”

We recently met Applebee at ‘Homeward Bound’ — a shelter in the Little Earth neighborhood.

He considers himself lucky to be indoors.

“I’m dealing with being homeless,” Applebee says. “This place actually helps people get off the streets, and get into places, which is awesome.”

A new report by the health department sheds light on how risky living unsheltered during a Minnesota winter can be.

It’s not just dangerous cold creating serious health concerns — rates of everything, from heart disease, cancer, and even flu are higher.

“The risk of death was three times higher for people who’ve experienced homelessness compared to the general population,” says Josh Leopold, MDH’s senior advisor on health, housing, and homelessness. “Chronic health conditions, like heart disease and diabetes — people experiencing homelessness were at much greater risk of dying from these conditions.”  

The report says on any given night, 8,000 Minnesotans experience homelessness.

For those without shelter, the single digit temperatures add to the misery.

“Especially when it’s cold, there’s all these other concerns, such as frostbite and other issues,” notes Danielle Werder, area manager with the Hennepin County Office to End Homelessness.  “When it gets very, very cold like this, we do everything we can to make sure there’s enough shelter beds to meet the needs of people asking for them.”

The MDH report’s findings are alarming.

It says among those experiencing homelessness:

  • 20-year-olds have the same rate of death as 50-year-olds in the general population.
  • Native American people have five times higher rates of death.
  • One of three deaths are caused by drug abuse.

“The ones where the risk was greatest were substance-abuse related deaths,” Leopold says. “Particularly opioids, including fentanyl and the mix of fentanyl and other drugs like methamphetamine.”

He says unsheltered people are also at much greater risk of dying from chronic health issues like heart disease and diabetes.

“The number of preventable deaths that we’re seeing for people experiencing homelessness is a tragedy,” Leopold explains. “The nature of being homeless and not having a stable place to store your medicine or to sleep, or any number of things — see a doctor. I think we know having stable housing is a really vital component to healthcare.”

But agencies like Hennepin County’s Office to End Homelessness are trying to help.

The ‘Homeless to Housing’ team, working with Metro Transit, is trying to connect people with shelter services.

Werder says the team has found housing for 360 people in the past year.

She says they also help those without shelter to locate important documents like birth certificates and social security cards — and when needed, help them to navigate the court system.

The idea, Werder says, is to remove barriers keeping people out of housing, not just in the cold weather months, but all year around — without a one-size-fits-all approach.

“What is your community? Where would you feel most comfortable?” she says. “We know it’s out there, we know it’s happening and we know housing is the solution — and so we’re really, urgently, urgently out there, working to get more people into housing as quickly as we can.”

Minnesota legislators consider bill to prevent evictions for tenants seeking assistance

Renters were protected as Minnesota phased out its temporary eviction ban implemented during the height of the pandemic. They couldn’t be evicted as long as they’d applied for RentHelpMN assistance. The protection, however, expired last June.

“But the pandemic, COVID is still very real,” said Mary Kaczorek, managing attorney with Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid. “You have people paying a ton of their income to their rent and they get COVID, a family member dies, or their car gets in a car accident, just one thing can change their whole situation. They fall behind in their rent and because these protections are not in place their landlord can file right away.”

Kaczorek is now advocating for a bill that would block eviction for non-payment of rent as long as the renter has a pending application for rental assistance with a federal, state or local agency.

“The bulk assistance comes from the counties and the counties are just swamped so many people need help right now,” she said. “They’re doing the best they can but again it takes time to process that application and it just doesn’t make sense to put them out on the street when the government is actively working on their application and the landlord will get paid at the end of the day.”

Rep. María Isa Pérez-Vega (DFL-St. Paul) authored HF602 after hearing from constituents who needed additional time after applying for rental assistance. Receiving that assistance can take two weeks to six months, she said.

“This is an avenue to give support to both the tenant and the landlord,” said Pérez-Vega. “It costs to have evictions. It costs the landlord, and it costs the renter who just needs a little time.”

To qualify for this new protection, renters would have to show proof they have already applied for the assistance.

“It’s not ‘Oh we’re waiting to apply’, that’s not the case,” said Pérez-Vega. “It’s in the system and if it’s denied, the landlord has every action to [move forward] with an eviction.”

The Minnesota Multi-Housing Association supports the concept of the legislation. President Cecil Smith said, however, more specific information needs to be added.

“What types of rental assistance are we talking about?,” said Smith. “What are the timelines? This can’t be a repeat of RentHelpMN where it took months and months before the check came and there was incredible financial distress in our industry because we’re housing these people but we’re not collecting any income and we still have bills to pay.”

He added, “We just hope, as this law comes together, there are some fair and reasonable guidelines that help both residents and help the property owner and manager continue to have a great property to rent.”

Rep. Pérez-Vega said both Republican and DFL lawmakers are working together to address those concerns.

There was a hearing on the bill in the House Housing Finance and Policy Committee last week. It has been laid over for possible inclusion in a future Housing omnibus bill.

Fight between Magic, Timberwolves leads to 5 players ejected

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A fight broke out and punches were thrown during the game between the Orlando Magic and Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night.

Five players were ejected following the brawl, which started in front of the Orlando bench late in the third quarter. Minnesota guard Austin Rivers and Magic center Mo Bamba were the initial players involved, and it spilled over to include several others on the court.

Rivers, Jaden McDaniels and Taurean Prince were ejected from the Timberwolves. Jalen Suggs was tossed along with Bamba for Orlando, which went on to win 127-120.

“This isn’t like a cool moment for me,” Rivers said after the game. “I feel embarrassed. I’m the oldest on the team. I consider myself the leader of the team, or one of the leaders of the team. It was a weird game, and I don’t think that helped at all. If anything right now, I’m just (ticked off) that we lost, and that I had (something) to do with that. It doesn’t make me feel good.”

Bamba and Suggs were not available for comment after the game.

“You obviously want to have your teammate’s back and at the same time, you’ve got to be a professional,” said Orlando center Moritz Wagner, also involved in a skirmish with Detroit in December.

“So, that’s a challenge for a young team like us. I think this time around we did a good job compared to last time. So, yeah, I don’t really know. It’s a weird dynamic. You don’t really want to be in those situations and it’s not really the best look. You want to be professional. At the same time, there is something in me that appreciates the team sticking together like that.”

Wagner appeared to get knocked out in that fight with the Pistons in Detroit. Wagner and Detroit’s Killian Hayes and Hamadou Diallo were all ejected.

On this night, the fight began with Rivers right in front of the Magic bench as play was ongoing at the far end of the court. Bamba came off the bench and Rivers threw punches at him. Suggs later pulled Rivers away and swung him to the court. McDaniels and Prince joined the scrum.

“Their guy came off the bench and threw a punch,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “Pretty egregious. Then it’s a melee, and somehow our guys get punished a lot worse. One guy got sent for not being a peacekeeper. I just looked at the film, and I didn’t see any difference between what their guys were doing and what our guys were doing.”

The altercation seemed to stem from talk from the Magic bench, particularly Bamba. A few moments earlier, Rivers missed a 3-point attempt in front of the Orlando bench, and Bamba and Markelle Fultz could be seen reacting to the miss.

Rivers said he approached the 7-foot, 231-pound Bamba about his comments.

“I’m not gonna snitch on the dude or whatever, but I just didn’t like the way he was talking to me,” said Rivers, listed at 6-4 and 200 pounds. “For no reason, too. I don’t even know that dude. I don’t know anything about him. Obviously, I just know he’s a player for the Magic. And he proceeded to talk, so that next possession, when I went down there, I just said, pretty much, ‘Just keep it respectful, bro.’”

Rivers later added: “I went up to him and I pressed him, and at that point, it can go one of two ways. I didn’t think we were going to get in a fight. But when you stand up that fast and put your hands up — he threw a punch and missed, thankfully. At that point, I’ve got to protect myself. Ain’t no one worried about him.”

The fight came one night after an on-court altercation between Memphis Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks and Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell.

Brooks swung and struck Mitchell in the groin area during the third quarter Thursday after the Grizzlies guard had fallen to the floor. Mitchell retaliated by throwing the ball at Brooks and then shoving him.

Both players were ejected from Cleveland’s 128-113 win. Afterward, Mitchell accused Brooks of being a dirty player.

The NBA announced punishments for both players Friday, with Brooks getting suspended one game without pay and Mitchell fined $20,000.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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

Mushers and their dogs prepare for Klondike Dog Derby race on Saturday

This year’s Klondike Dog Derby in Excelsior is featuring some of the youngest mushers in the race’s history.

About 300 dogs and their mushers put together final preparations for Saturday’s race in Friday’s bitter cold temperatures.

For some of the younger mushers, this is a thrill.

“I trust them more than I trust a lot of people, they’re my best friends,” said Eva Robinson, a musher from North Dakota.

“We have 60 dogs, they just feel special to me,” said Elena Freking, the youngest musher in the field.

This year’s youngest mushers are 12, 13, and 16 years old.

“It’s a lot of fun being so young and racing against so many people that are older than you,” said Morgan Martens, a musher from Wisconsin.

The Klondike Dog Derby is a 40 mile race around Lake Minnetonka that draws big crowds this time of year. The competitors under 18 say family history of mushing goes a long way.

“My mom’s been running it since she was 8 years old so I was kind of born into the sport,” Freking said.

“Just grew up doing it I guess, my dad always had dogs,” added Liam Conner, a musher from Canada.

Young or old, the hope is events like this keep the fire burning for this sport.

“Being able to keep that going, the next generation it’s so important, I don’t want it to fade away, i want to keep it alive,” Robinson said.

The Klondike Dog Derby kicks off Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. with an opening ceremony and the race starts at 10 a.m.

For more information on where to watch the race and all the other festivities, click here.

DOC orders Ramsey Co. jail to reduce capacity, cites multiple violations

For the second time this week, the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) has ordered a county jail to reduce capacity, citing multiple violations.

Friday, the DOC ordered the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center to submit a capacity reduction plan by the end of the day Monday.

It comes after the department said it investigated a complaint regarding multiple licensing rule violations stemming from inadequate staffing levels at the jail. Those violations included the facility’s refusal to take inmates to get offsite emergency medical care.

“As the state’s licensing authority, any risk to the life and safety of those in custody must be addressed immediately,” DOC Commissioner Paul Schnell said. “When the stakes are this high, taking decisive action quickly is a must.”

Those impacted included a person who suffered a stroke, another who’d ingested drugs, someone who had just been in a car accident and a person who was bleeding for two hours without medical attention, the DOC says.

The DOC says its investigation determined the Ramsey County jail’s failure to meet minimum staffing levels “poses an imminent risk of life-threatening harm or serious injury to individuals within the facility.”

According to the department’s order, DOC’s inspection of the Ramsey County jail in November showed the failure to meet minimum staffing requirements, which led DOC to direct the county to submit a staffing plan by the end of 2022. On Dec. 30, 2022, the jail sent in its plan and said it was meeting required staffing levels. However, an audit determined 12 shifts failed to meet staffing levels from Jan. 7-25, 2023.

“Ramsey County ADC has a long-documented history of failing to comply with the requirements of Rule 2911.5000, subp. 5 by failing to conduct timely and appropriate well-being checks of those in its custody,” DOC’s order says in part.

That order now will reduce the 500-bed Ramsey County jail’s approved capacity to 360 inmates — and its operational bed capacity to 324 inmates — until the end of November unless changed sooner by DOC.

RELATED: DOC orders Beltrami Co. Jail to reduce capacity after multiple violations

It all comes after DOC ordered a similar capacity reduction for Beltrami County’s jail on Monday, also due to multiple violations of minimum staffing levels.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher released a statement saying he shares DOC’s concerns and needs the county board to take action to address overcrowding.

“I share the DOC’s concerns about overcrowding in the Ramsey County Jail. It’s something I’ve been actively trying to draw attention to. And it was totally predictable, caused by significant increases in crime, massive backlogs in the criminal justice system, and a nationwide worker shortage.

“That’s why we’ve been aggressively recruiting and hiring corrections officers while at the same time asking County Commissioners for resources and support. Specifically, we need to make better use of other facilities such as the Ramsey County Workhouse.

“Like I’ve been saying for weeks and Commissioner Schnell echos: This can’t wait. We need the County Board to take action to address the jail overcrowding.

“In the meantime, we’ll keep working with the limited staff and support we have to keep inmates safe.”

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher

DOC’s full order to Ramsey County, which details more of the violations, can be found below or by clicking here.

Minnesota lawmakers and task force seek answers on medical marijuana prices

Some state lawmakers and members of the Medical Marijuana Task Force intend to ask the two companies licensed by the state to sell medical marijuana products, Green Goods and Rise, to explain pricing for their upgraded list of products.

Lawmakers approved the use of marijuana flower in the state’s medical marijuana program with the goal of reducing the overall costs of products, which are now used by nearly 40,000 people registered in the program.  Flower became available to patients March 1.

But some patients told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the costs of the oil and topical creams they were using before March have remained the same. Stefanie Mulrooney told KSTP she spends about $300 a month on her vape oils and topical creams which, she said, is expensive and tough on her monthly budget.

“The vapes, capsules, topicals and everything else I use has stayed the same price pretty much since I started using them a few years ago,” said Mulrooney.

Patrick McClellan told KSTP he has multiple sclerosis and uses vape oils, too, and said their price has not changed since March 1 and would like both companies to explain their pricing to the public.

“I think we were lied to,” said McClellan.  “They need to be held accountable and they actually need to lower the prices like they said they would.”

Dr. Kyle Kingsley, with Green Goods, told a Minnesota House committee in March, 2020, that his company was confident introducing flower would reduce prices overall in the program.

“Adding regulated flower products to the program would provide an immediate benefit to patients,” said Kingsley. “We estimate that many patients will be able to access the same level of medicinal plant content for approximately one-half to one-third the cost because medical cannabis in flower form does not require the extensive processing that the oil products require.”

Sen. Mark Koran(R), North Branch, said he and other lawmakers who sit on the Medical Marijuana Task Force are looking forward to hearing from the companies and hearing how they explain their pricing right now.

“The goal was when we added the leaf was to drop the costs you know 30 to 50 percent and so to bring them forward to determine where that is,” said Koran.

Dr. Kingsley declined an interview requested, but issued a statement to KSTP which said, in part, “We anticipated a significant decrease in the average cost of medical cannabis for our patients with the addition of flower in March and this has come to pass. Since the addition of flower, our patients have spent an average of 30% less per visit.”

The Medical Marijuana Task Force is set to meet at the state capitol sometime next week.  A specific date and time has not yet been announced.