Year in Review: Minnesota’s top stories of 2023

Another year has (almost) come and gone, and a new year is nearly here. As 2023 draws to a close, take a look at the top news that made headlines throughout the year.

But first, 5 INVESTIGATES won a whopping SEVEN Regional Emmy Awards this year for its reporting, some of which was comprised of a series of reports. Those are:

You can find all of 5 INVESTIGATES’ reports HERE.

Sports Director Joe Schmit also won an Emmy for his Mauer Reunion story this year. Read all of our sports coverage here.

For more local coverage, check out the KSTP YouTube page. And be sure to also check out the local gems highlighted by Joe Mazan in KSTP’s So Minnesota stories.


The start of a new year always brings new goals and hopes for many, but it was a bit of a difficult month this year.

Minnesotans were interested in the new laws that took effect at the start of the year, snow fell (several times), and we marveled at a Minnesota man who made a 400-mile drive through a blizzard to transport a kidney to a hospital in North Dakota.

Then Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest during a “Monday Night Football” game. Fortunately, he survived and even returned to action this season. It also thrust the importance of knowing CPR to the national forefront and raised more than $9 million for his foundation, turning a terrifying moment into a unifying one with a positive result that could save countless lives.

Several tragic events also occurred in January.

And for those searching for a bright spot, sports provided none as the Vikings’ magical season ended in the first round of the playoffs after losing to the New York Giants.


As if all of that doom and gloom wasn’t enough, February offered its own dose of difficult news.

Thankfully, the entire month was not so glum.

The Girls State Hockey Tournament provided plenty of entertainment and thrilling storylines; The “CROWN Act,” banning racial discrimination based on hairstyles, was signed into law; And the Minnesota Department of Transportation released its snowplow name contest winners. It even resulted in a special thank-you from Lizzo to one local middle school.

It also snowed — a LOT — although that wasn’t all bad, even for those who disliked the snow.

Other big stories from the month included:


March was a busy month in the Minnesota sports world.

Plenty also happened off the court and gridiron.

A train derailment in Raymond caused evacuations but, fortunately, nobody was hurt. It was especially notable at the time due to other train derailments that had happened across the country. Investigators later determined an issue with the rail caused the derailment.

Concerns arose when Xcel Energy revealed a leak at its Monticello nuclear plant. Records showed a lack of coordination in responding to that leak, but the company insisted the leak posed no threat to the public. However, the company was fined for failing to get proper permits in the aftermath.

As issues with thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles persisted, local leaders started to pressure the companies to issue a recall. The state attorney general also announced an investigation into them, although no charges have been filed. The companies have provided updates and said they’re confident the fix will stop the targeted thefts but it’s unclear how much of an impact the update is having.

Other big stories from March:


It was another tough month for several communities in April.

Three separate shootings killed three law enforcement officers, injured three others and ended with two of the suspects dead. Western Wisconsin Officers Emily Breidenbach and Hunter Scheel were shot and killed during a traffic stop. Thousands attended their funerals and a portion of a highway was later renamed in their honor. In Granite Falls, agents serving a warrant came under fire, hurting one officer. The suspect was quickly charged and sentenced. Pope County Deputy Josh Owen was killed and one other deputy and a police officer were also hurt after responding to a domestic violence call. A funeral for Owen was held late in the month. A man was also killed in a shooting involving FBI agents.

Also in April, the search for missing Winona County mother Madeline Kingsbury started. Her body was found in June and her ex-boyfriend is charged with murder.

A few other stories captured Minnesotans’ attention that month:


The fourth officer-involved shooting in the span of a month killed St. Croix County Deputy Kaitie Leising. The suspect was also found dead. Hundreds gathered to pay respects as Leising was laid to rest. A fundraiser was later started to honor her and support the law enforcement community.

With the end of the 2023 legislative session in May, there was a lot of attention on the Capitol as lawmakers approved some very high-interest bills. KSTP’s Legislative Tracker followed all of the major bills, and Capitol Wraps offered some more in-depth coverage. Some of the bills that caught Minnesotans’ attention the most were those for marijuana (which has continued to be a popular topic), the statewide rideshare ordinance, which will likely be a big story again next year, rebate checks and the “Idaho Stop.” However, in a very busy session, many others also made headlines.

Federal prosecutors announced charges against 45 suspected street gang members, the first wave of charges in a new strategy to target violent criminals in the Twin Cities. Additional charges were announced in August and more in November, but will it work?

You also might have watched or read coverage of:


As summer started, the U.S. Department of Justice released the results of its investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department. Afterward, the city was critical of parts of the DOJ’s report but will be spending millions to carry out the required changes when a consent decree is finalized.

5 INVESTIGATES highlighted the alarming pattern at Minnesota’s largest railroad. A subsequent report highlighted secret recordings at the company captured by a whistleblower.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on President Joe Biden’s student loan plan, and the president then offered a new plan. Other initiatives have since been announced by the president but aren’t as extensive as he wanted.

The community was devastated again after a crash in Minneapolis killed five women. The man police say is responsible is facing both state and federal charges.

And in another heartbreaking development, a missing St. Paul woman was found dead. Her boyfriend is facing murder charges and he’s also been linked to another missing woman, although he hasn’t been formally charged in that case yet.

Also in June:


After months of conversation, multiple delays, concerns from many Minnesotans, and evaluation by the state’s attorney general, Fairview and Sanford called off their planned merger in July. The announcement came eight months after the planned merger was initially announced, but many were skeptical or downright opposed right from the start. Due to Fairview’s partnership with the University of Minnesota, the plan even led state lawmakers to pass legislation preventing U of M health care facilities from being owned or controlled by an out-of-state entity. Later, Fairview also elected to not renew its partnership with the university, although a new deal could still be reached.

A shooting in Fargo killed one officer and seriously hurt two others. Jake Wallin, the officer killed in the shootout, and Tyler Hawes, one of the officers injured, have ties to Minnesota. Wallin was remembered at his funeral as a “true guardian.” Hawes, thankfully, continues to recover and recently opened up about the shootout.

Several new laws took effect at the start of July, many of which were approved by the Legislature just a couple of months earlier. The laws ranged from the universal free school meals legislation to the elimination of TEFRA’s parental fee and many others, impacting all Minnesota businesses and workers.

Near the end of July, a driver who tried to flee a traffic stop was fatally shot on Interstate 94. Questions arose over the potential conflict of interest during the investigation but the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office is now reviewing the findings.

Other stories that caught viewers’ attention in July:


Concerns over a change to a law regarding school resource officers’ use of force suddenly popped up just weeks before the start of the new school year and quickly spread like wildfire. Around three dozen law enforcement agencies ultimately suspended their SRO programs due to the controversy, although many also continued their programs, and GOP lawmakers and many law enforcement officials demanded a special session for lawmakers to provide more clarity in the law. However, Gov. Tim Walz and many DFL lawmakers opposed any special session and, after Attorney General Keith Ellison provided his legal opinion, opted for community meetings to hammer out the perceived issues. After over a month of drama, the issue slowly faded into the background, although it may reignite during next year’s legislative session.

While that law change flew under the radar for a while, several others went into effect on Aug. 1 and got a lot of attention, mainly marijuana legalization and expungement. A controversy quickly developed over what is OK to sell and a quirk in the law regarding possession vs. sales caused a lot of discussion.

Heartache for the law enforcement community returned as a Minneapolis police officer was shot in the line of duty. Fortunately, he was treated and released from a hospital later that same night and was publicly honored for his work. Two of those charged in the incident have court appearances in the coming months while the juvenile already pleaded guilty.

Also on many Minnesotans’ minds in August:


As marijuana legalization continued to make headlines, the state’s management office lost its first director before she even started. That forced the process to restart and Gov. Tim Walz to adjust his approach to what he’s looking for in the agency’s director. The agency continues to be led by an interim director.

Minneapolis also dealt with a leadership change in September as Cedric Alexander retired from his role as community safety commissioner after just 13 months on the job. 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS first broke the news of his retirement back in July. Todd Barnette was chosen to replace Alexander later in September.

Additionally, an apartment building in Minneapolis was sued for an alleged “bait-and-switch” scheme after failing to have units ready for students by move-in day. The ordeal left many in housing limbo as a new school semester started and also led city leaders to implement a new pre-lease protection ordinance.

And Minnesota’s newest sports team started its formation. Minnesota, one of six markets in the inaugural season of the Professional Women’s Hockey League, signed three Olympians with local ties as its first players, then drafted another local player with the first overall pick in the inaugural draft. The league will officially kick off in January and just made a sudden coaching change.

Here are some other popular stories in September:


October brought more heartbreak — on several fronts — but also provided some thrilling moments.

The tragic death of Adam Johnson during an English hockey game hit the hockey community and many Minnesotans hard. He was remembered as having a “heart of gold” and was honored in several ways, both locally and abroad. While police arrested a man in his death, criminal charges may never come.

Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel started a horrific war in the Mideast. Appalling pictures and videos of the war posted online caused concerns for parents; many protests have called for peace; antisemitism has increased globally and locally; and some Minnesotans in Israel have described their terrifying new reality. However, the war rages on and an estimated 20,000 people have been killed in the conflict. For anyone wishing to help those affected, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit is accepting donations.

The violent year for law enforcement continued as five task force members were shot while executing a warrant in Benton County. Documents later showed they were searching for meth when it happened. Fortunately, all survived. The man suspected of shooting them has since been charged and will be back in court in February.

And on Capitol Hill, the turmoil in the U.S. House of Representatives was a daily story after Kevin McCarthy was ousted from the speakership. A Minnesota congressman was briefly in line to fill the role, which would’ve made history, but that quickly fizzled and Mike Johnson was elected after three weeks.

While those stories dominated the news cycle throughout the month, there were several other big stories locally.

The Twins carried fans on a thrilling ride, ending ridiculously long playoff droughts and creating optimism, despite the season ending earlier than we wanted. The run also allowed a Minnesotan to continue a family tradition.

The Vikings season changed drastically when Kirk Cousins tore his Achilles, then Joshua Dobbs arrived and quickly dazzled to start his stint in purple and gold. And yet so much has happened since then. The rollercoaster season looks like it’ll go right down to the wire. And speaking of the Vikings, safety Cam Bynum made a public appeal to help his wife get a visa, which worked quite well.

And we can’t forget these stories:


The process of selecting new state flag and seal designs captivated Minnesotans and public discourse. The public submitted thousands of designs before that number was whittled down by the commission. The new designs were chosen in December and could debut before the midway point of 2024. By the way, the failed designs do still have some life.

Two Minnesota natives were killed in military accidents. Sgt. Cade Wolfe, of Mankato, died when an MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed in the Mediterranean Sea. He was 24. Later in the month, 32-year-old Maj. Jeffrey Hoernemann, of Andover, died when a CV-22B Osprey crashed off the shores of Japan. His family later released his last messages to his mother, sent right before the flight.

Election Day was much quieter this year without any state or federal offices up for grabs, but it still produced historic results in St. Paul and St. Louis Park, changes for Minneapolis City Council, and the thinnest of margins in a Hopkins City Council race.

Amid a brutal start to the season, the Wild fired its head coach and an assistant, then quickly replaced them. Former coach Dean Evason was kind enough to discuss his firing and Wild tenure with KSTP Sports. The Wild had more turmoil in December and also got an update on their broadcast deal.

As the holidays arrived, 5 INVESTIGATES highlighted a serial shoplifter that targeted Minnesota retailers. He was then arrested on Thanksgiving but was later released on $500 bail despite multiple warrants.

Viewers also took notice of these stories in November:


The unusually mild weather was a popular topic for Minnesotans throughout December. After a light coating of snow early in the month, viewers were curious about the state’s snow outlook for this winter. However, the snow and cold temps have been mostly absent so far this season. That has contributed to several ice rescues and has also been difficult on some businesses, including ski resorts. However, some Minnesotans have enjoyed the warmth, which has even allowed golfers to get a few more rounds in.

Despite the warmer-than-normal weather, the arrival of winter brought more attention to homeless encampments. In particular, one in Minneapolis has been the center of attention because of crime, including a fatal shooting. Minneapolis city leaders have made plans to close the encampment but delayed those ideas multiple times. Amid it all, the city also declared unsheltered homelessness a public health emergency.

In St. Paul, a police officer was wounded in an exchange of gunfire, which also resulted in a man’s death. Police released bodycam video of the shooting the following week but it remains under investigation.

Also, a cougar sighting in Minneapolis caught Minnesotans’ attention. A short time later, the cougar was hit and killed by a vehicle. Since then, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has announced plans to taxidermize the cougar and feature it in an educational display.

Several other stories caught viewers’ attention in December:

Looking back, the world also lost several influential people this year, from Jerry Springer, Gordon Lightfoot and Matthew Perry to Tina Turner, Tony Bennett and Sandra Day O’Connor. CLICK HERE to review those we lost.

Looking ahead, several new laws will take effect on Jan. 1. CLICK HERE to review those.

Finally, last but not least, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS thanks all of our viewers and readers for their support this past year. If you’ve got something for us to consider covering in 2024, CLICK HERE to let us know! Happy New Year!