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News Briefs: Family files suit against St. Paul officer

Editor's note: The following is a collection of news briefs from Forum Communication Company newspapers in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.


Family files suit against officer

ST. PAUL PARK, Minn. -- A St. Paul Park teen’s family alleges that an off-duty St. Paul police officer who lives in the city intentionally knocked the teen off his mini bike and verbally assaulted him.

A civil suit has been filed against officer Ronald Himes by Jessica Heroux on behalf of her son Mica Franke, 16, who was involved in a May altercation with Himes and was left scraped, bruised and with a handprint on his chest.

According to the St. Paul Park police report, Himes called police to report Franke driving on a miniature motorized bike down Pleasant Avenue at excessive speeds. In an attempt to stop Franke, who was 15 at the time, Himes “walked into the road by his mailbox and stuck out his right arm for Mica to stop,” the police report states.

Those involved have conflicting stories.

Franke told police Himes ran out into the road, hit him in the chest and knocked him off the mini bike. Franke said Himes then stood over him and proceeded to yell at him, the police report said.

The lawsuit claims Franke was not given a warning and he was subjected to a “profanity-laced tirade” from Himes.

While Himes admitted that his hand hit Franke’s chest, Himes said he did not intend to hurt Franke.

Pot growing operation busted near Alexandria

ALEXANDRIA, Minn. -- Authorities busted a marijuana growing operation in Alexandria on Friday, arresting one suspect.

Agents and officers from the West Central Minnesota Narcotics Task Force, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office and the Alexandria Police Department executed a search warrant for Warren Michael Mcardell, 46, of Alexandria, whom they believed was on property owned by William James Doraska, 53, southwest of Alexandria.

While searching for Mcardell, officers found an outdoor marijuana growing operation.

After obtaining a search warrant, officers found 44 large, mature pot plants growing on the property, along with processed marijuana, four guns and surveillance equipment.

Mcardell was arrested for an outstanding warrant and charges are expected to be filed against him soon for the pot growing operation and for being a felon in possession of a firearm. The task force said that more pot-growing-related arrests are expected soon.

Teen accused of carrying 3 pounds of pot in backpack

WOODBURY, Minn. -- A Woodbury teenager who allegedly ditched a backpack containing more than 3 pounds of marijuana behind a home faces two felony charges in connection with the incident.

According to a juvenile petition made public last week, Michael Jermaine Anderson, 17, was charged with one count each of fifth-degree drug sales and fifth-degree drug possession.

The charges stem from a July 16 incident in which a resident reported seeing a juvenile male throw a backpack into an area of nearby tall grass.

A Woodbury police officer broadcast the suspect's description and shortly after another officer spotted a juvenile who matched the description and arrested him.

A member of Woodbury's Street Crimes Unit searched the backpack, where he found two heat-sealed packages containing other individually sealed packages of a substance that allegedly tested positive for marijuana. Both packages weighed just over 1.5 pounds apiece, the petition states and also notes that at least one of the packages had been covered in a substance that may have been used to mask the smell.

Anderson's initial court date has not yet been set.

Dilworth police chief resigns

DILWORTH, Minn – The city of Dilworth will now handle administrative duties of its police department after the police chief resigned on Monday night.

The council accepted Chief Josh Ebert’s letter of resignation and settlement offer.

Ebert was hired on March 1, 2012. His original probationary period was to end on Sept. 5, but the council extended the period another 90 days at a special closed-door meeting on Aug. 29.

Ebert’s tenure in Dilworth was plagued by performance questions after a group of Dilworth officers signed a letter declaring they had “no confidence” in the chief and raised questions about his performance including scheduling, planning and budgeting.

Ebert did not attend Monday’s meeting. He could not be reached by phone after the meeting.

Duluth to restrict e-cigarettes, hookah bars

DULUTH -- New restrictions will soon confront users of electronic cigarettes in Duluth.

A series of ordinances passed Monday night by the Duluth City Council will subject people using e-cigarettes to the same restrictions that face smokers puffing on conventional cigarettes. The ordinances also will prevent hookah bars from doing business in the city.

Several councilors expressed misgivings.

Councilor Sharla Gardner supported many of the restrictions but not one that would prevent patrons of smoke shops from testing out e-cigarettes and sampling different flavored solutions on premises. She also noted that e-cigarettes have been a helpful tool in helping wean some people off yet more dangerous conventional cigarettes.

But Councilor Jennifer Julsrud, who introduced the ordinances, said they were necessary.

“I wrote these ordinances and I pushed for them because I want to protect kids, and I believe in supporting clean air,” she said.

Councilor Jay Fosle said the rules were unnecessary, as it’s already against the law to sell e-cigarettes to minors and businesses have the right to ban the use of e-cigarettes if they wish.

“What we should really be concerned about is the use of heroin and ecstasy,” he said.

Two judges named for Eighth District

WILLMAR – Kandiyohi County Attorney Jenna Fischer and Willmar attorney Rodney Hanson were appointed as District Court judges to the Eighth Judicial District

The appointments were announced Tuesday by Gov. Mark Dayton.

Fischer will replace Kathryn N. Smith and Hanson will replace Jon Stafsholt, who both retired earlier this year.

Fischer, who was elected as Kandiyohi County attorney in 2010, will be chambered in Willmar. Hanson will be chambered at Glenwood in Pope County.

Prior to being elected as the Kandiyohi County attorney, Fischer was a partner at Jones & Fischer and, prior to that, served as an assistant public defender for the Eighth Judicial District. She earned her bachelor’s degree from St. Cloud State University and her law degree with honors from William Mitchell College of Law.

Hanson is a partner with Anderson, Larson, Hanson & Saunders, where he practices primarily in civil litigation. He has maintained a local practice in Willmar since 1985 and is a qualified neutral arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association.

He earned his bachelor’s degree with honors from Concordia College and his law degree from the William Mitchell College of Law.

Minnesota’s Eighth Judicial District consists of Big Stone, Chippewa, Grant, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Meeker, Pope, Renville, Stevens, Swift, Traverse, Wilkin and Yellow Medicine counties.


Dispatcher fired after releasing confidential information

JAMESTOWN, N.D. -- A Stutsman County dispatcher has been terminated for allegedly breaking confidentiality rules and then leaving town while on administrative leave.

"She knows that she made a serious error. And she was a good dispatcher," said Jerry Bergquist, Stutsman County Emergency Manager/911 Coordinator. "Information regarding ongoing investigations is not information that can be released."

According to the letter of termination in her county personnel file, dispatcher Miranda Meisch was placed on paid administrative leave Aug. 12, after an Aug. 9 incident regarding a phone complaint reporting suspicious activity at a Jamestown address.

The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation was asked to conduct an investigation into the matter, and determined that Meisch provided confidential information to the suspect in the incident, along with the name of the complainant.

"Doing so severely jeopardized the ongoing police investigation and could have placed the complainant in physical danger," Bergquist wrote in the termination letter.

Victim in garbage truck rollover identified

MCVILLE, N.D. -- Authorities identified the victim of a one-vehicle fatal accident Monday morning as Ernest Brager, 50, of Cooperstown.

According to the North Dakota Highway Patrol, Brager died at the crash scene after the garbage truck he was a passenger in slid off the road, rolled and ejected him.

Brager and the 19-year-old driver, also from Cooperstown were going north on 109th Avenue N.E., about 3 miles northwest of McVille, N.D., when the Freightliner truck slid on wet gravel and went into a ditch, according to the Patrol.

The driver was treated for injuries in McVille.

Wind farm project progresses

HETTINGER, N.D. — Despite strong opinions for and against the project, both the Adams County Planning and Zoning Board and the Adams County Commission voted Monday to approve a proposed wind farm in southwest North Dakota.

The Planning and Zoning Board approved the controversial project by a six-to-one vote.

After a 10-minute break at the Adams County Courthouse, the County Commission convened and its three members voted unanimously to approve the project.

There was opposition to the proposed 75-tower Thunder Spirit Wind farm by Bill and Ellen Elders, who brought legal representation in addition to each addressing the board.

“And I know that the argument ‘not in our backyard’ is not a very powerful argument, but it will be in our backyard,” Bill Elders said. “I could ask each one of you if you would like it — I don’t think any of you would.”

The Elders expressed worry about the way the wind farm would change the view from their yard and the noise from the turbines.

Many more citizens spoke out for the project, citing the financial benefit to individuals and the county.

Belfield bar shut down

BELFIELD, N.D. -- The city of Belfield shut down one of its oldest businesses Monday night.

City councilmembers voted to immediately and indefinitely suspend the liquor license of Randy Wolfgram, who runs Mike’s Bar, after repeated incidents that they say endangered the community and used up city resources.

After fights, extreme intoxication and similar problems, the city in southwest North Dakota last month gave Wolfgram one last chance to prove he could run the bar safely. But in the time since, a woman had to be taken to the hospital after she blew a 0.30 blood-alcohol content -- nearly four times the legal limit -- and Wolfgram himself was arrested for alleged domestic assault.

At the meeting Monday, Wolfgram’s lawyer, Sean Foss, said Wolfgram would give up ownership of the bar but asked for two more months to transfer the liquor license to the new owner and take care of similar business. A new owner is already planning to buy the bar, and Wolfgram plans to leave the community entirely.

But council members said even two months was too much time to risk more of Wolfgram’s management.

The bar was to shut down effective 1 a.m. Tuesday.


Man to serve 30 days for voting twice

MITCHELL, S.D. -- Craig Guymon, formerly of Mitchell, was sentenced Tuesday to 30 days in jail for voter fraud. Guymon, who has since moved to Platte, voted twice in the June Mitchell school board election.

"I just wanted to express that on June 4, I made one of the most foolish decisions of my life," Guymon said Tuesday during court at the Davison County Public Safety Center in Mitchell.

Judge Tim Bjorkman imposed a 180-day jail sentence but suspended 150 days on the condition that Guymon successfully complete a two-year probation period after his release. Guymon will serve his jail time in 10-day increments at the Davison County Jail. He'll serve 10 days immediately, followed by 10 days in September 2014 and the final 10 days in September 2015.

Bjorkman denied Guymon's request for a suspended imposition, which would give Guymon the chance to wipe the felony conviction from his record if he successfully completes his probation without any violations. Bjorkman did say, however, that he'll allow Guymon to make another request for a suspended imposition toward the end of the probation period, assuming Guymon's probation has been successful to that point.

Besides the jail time, Guymon was ordered to pay about $1,200 in fines, court costs and restitution within 30 days.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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