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Mall of America tests “weapons detection system” as part of new security strategy

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BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Major League Baseball mandated them in 2014. Disney World added them in 2015. Airports, county courthouses, prisons and a host of others have had them for decades.

Mall of America may be next in 2022, joining the list of major attractions and venues across the United States to employ metal detectors as an added layer of security against gun violence.

According to an MOA spokeswoman, the mall this month is testing the use of a “weapons detection system” at its north entrance, and might be moved to another location as part of the process.

“At Mall of America, the safety and security of our guests, tenants, and team members is our top priority,” the spokeswoman wrote in a statement to WCCO. “We are always looking for innovative ways to enhance security using the latest technology. With Mall of America being such a unique property, it is important to thoroughly evaluate this technology onsite to ensure its accuracy, effectiveness, and efficiency. We are currently in the process of testing a variety of options that may allow us to further enhance our advanced security systems at Mall of America.”

The arrival of the detectors comes as MOA grapples with two shootings over the past year, including one in August at the Nike store that placed the mall under lockdown.

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April Kimball owns the Home and Beyond store just two doors down from Nike, and spoke with WCCO the day after the shooting.

“The mall was in complete chaos and people were running,” she said on Aug. 5.

On Tuesday, Kimball complimented the mall’s response since then and noted she’s seen a more robust police presence and engaged in several drills.

“I’m here every day. It’s not a scary place,” Kimball said. “It’s not a place I fear. My kids work here and I don’t fear their safety either.”

Still, asked about her thoughts about metal detectors, Kimball said she’s “thrilled.”

“You go to Valleyfair, you go to Disney World, you go to the Twins game or the Vikings game, they all have metal detectors,” she said. “What do you feel when you’re in those locations? You feel safe. You feel safe when you’re in those locations.”

Anil Chitkara, founder and chief growth officer at Evolv, said the detectors being tested at MOA are used at stadiums and other big venues across the country.

“We are looking for weapons and not personal items,” Chitkara said. “Things that might be personal items like keys, coins, mobile phones, they’ll go right through. It ignores them. The vast majority of people will go right through without ever stopping, yet they’re being screened for weapons.”

How they work and what they’ll accomplish at MOA will be evaluated over the next month, and Chitkara said any detection system should be employed among many layers of security.

“A security strategy includes people plus technology plus process,” he said.



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Murder suspect arrested in Mexico after 19-year manhunt

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Riverside police and their federal law enforcement partners arrested a man in Mexico accused of killing someone 19 years ago.

In June 2005, 38-year-old Alfonso Vera tried to stop a man from beating his girlfriend in the 4700 block of Doane Avenue in Riverside. As Vera tried to protect the woman, then 32-year-old Luis Contreras allegedly stepped in and shot Vera multiple times before leaving him to die. 

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A photo of Alfonso Vera before he was killed in June 2005.

Riverside PD


Detectives said witnesses saw two cars leaving the area. Investigators eventually arrested two of three suspects but could not track down Contreras before he traveled to Mexico. In July 2005, police issued an arrest warrant for the suspect but could not find him until 19 years later. 

In June 2024, the Riverside Police Department’s Homicide Cold Case Unit reignited the search, eventually teaming up with the department’s METRO Team and the US Marshals Pacific Southwest Regional Fugitive Task Force. 

About a month later, Mexican police arrested Contreras with the help of the Marsals. Authorities transferred him to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department jail, where he was booked for murder and awaits prosecution.

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Luis Contreras allegedly killed Alfonso Vera, who tried to stop Contreras from beating a woman. 

Riverside PD


One of the other suspects arrested in the case was charged as an accessory to the murder and served three years in prison. Authorities released another suspect due to a lack of evidence. 

Anyone with information about the case should call the Homicide Cold Case Unit at (951) 320-8000 or email detectives at HomicideColdCase@RiversideCA.gov.  



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Raging wildfire reaches resort town of Jasper in Canadian Rockies’ largest national park

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Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada — One of two raging wildfires menacing the town of Jasper in the Canadian Rockies’ largest national park roared into town Wednesday and began burning buildings.

Jasper National Park officials said the fire entered the southern edge of the community Wednesday evening and crews were battling multiple structural fires and working to protect key infrastructure. There were significant losses in some areas, they said.

Forest firefighters and others without self-contained breathing apparatuses were told to evacuate to the nearby town of Hinton, with structural firefighters staying behind.

Wildfire burns in Jasper
Flames and smoke rise from a burning wildfire, as seen from a highway, in Jasper, Alberta, Canada, on July 23, 2024, in this screen grab obtained from a social media video.

Donald Schroll via REUTERS


Parks Canada spokesperson James Eastham told reporters outside Jasper that the town is filled with smoke and there “has been structural loss,” adding that “significant loss has occurred within the townsite.”

“At this point I can’t confirm how many, locations or specific structures. The fire continues to burn,” he said.

The park said in a statement that Wednesday “has been an exceptionally difficult day for Jasperites, incident personnel and everyone who loves Jasper.”

Structural firefighters continue to work to save as many structures as possible and to protect critical infrastructure. Many more structural firefighters are en route to provide assistance.

As the pictures and videos circulating online show, significant loss has occurred within the townsite.   

Parks Canada said firefighters are working to save “as many structures as possible and to protect critical infrastructure, including the wastewater treatment plant, communications facilities, the Trans Mountain Pipeline and others.”

A few hours earlier, many first responders were ordered out of Jasper National Park for their safety.

Jasper is being menaced by fires from the north and south, and the town’s 5,000 residents — along with 20,000 more park visitors — fled on short notice late Monday night when the fires flared up.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said they are “mobilizing every necessary resource available.” Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said she was “heartbroken.”

A record number of wildfires in 2023 forced more than 235,000 people across Canada to evacuate and sent thick smoke into parts of the U.S., leading to hazy skies and health advisories in multiple U.S. cities.

The northern fire was spotted about 3 miles from Jasper earlier in the day. The southern fire had been reported about 5 miles away from the town, but Katie Ellsworth of Parks Canada said strong wind gusts swooping in behind it sent it racing.

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong as fire perimeters changed minute by minute.

Ellsworth said bucketing efforts by helicopter failed. Crews using heavy equipment to build fireguards couldn’t complete the work before having to pull back for safety. Water bombers couldn’t help due to dangerous flying conditions.

A last-ditch effort to use controlled burns to reroute the fire to natural barriers like Highway 16 and the Athabasca River failed due to “unfavorable conditions.”

The hope was that rain forecast overnight would bring some relief.

Ellsworth said the decision to relocate all first responders to Hinton, just outside the eastern edge of the park, “has not been made lightly.”

She said, “Given the intensity of fire behavior being observed, the decision has been made to limit the number of responders exposed to this risk.”

Jasper National Park is considered a national treasure. The United Nations designated the parks that make up the Canadian Rockies, including Jasper, a World Heritage Site in 1984 for its striking mountain landscape.

In 1953, Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe visited to make the movie “River of No Return.” More recently, the TV show “The Bachelorette” was filmed there.

Park rangers in helicopters scoured the park earlier Wednesday, looking for stragglers still there despite a mass evacuation aimed at moving visitors and residents away. Searchers looking through the backcountry trails of Jasper National Park already had picked up 245 people, and they continued the search Wednesday in two helicopters, Ellsworth said.

Residents and visitors streamed out by the thousands late Monday and Tuesday, and officials said Wednesday the evacuation of the town of Jasper was complete.

Ellsworth said park officials expected the evacuation of the park’s backcountry areas to be completed later Wednesday. Reservations are required for the park, so authorities have an idea of where people are, though Ellsworth said she wasn’t immediately sure how many people were left.

Alberta has been baking under scorching temperatures that have already forced another 7,500 people out of remote communities. About 177 wildfires were burning across the province.

Jasper resident Leanne Maeva Joyeuse was relieved but exhausted after reaching the Grand Prairie evacuation center following 20 hours on the road with her grandmother, parents and younger brother.

“We’re just waiting to go back home and see how many days we’re going to be stuck here,” Joyeuse said.



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Israel retrieves bodies of 5 hostages believed killed during Oct. 7 Hamas attack, military says

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Israeli forces recovered the bodies of five people believed to have been killed during the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants on southern Israel and brought into the Gaza Strip, where they were being held hostage, the military said Thursday.

The army said the bodies of hostage Maya Goren as well as four soldiers had been returned to Israel. The troops were identified as Sgt. Oren Goldin, Staff Sgt. Tomer Ahimas, Sgt. Maj. Ravid Aryeh Katz and Sgt. Kiril Brodski.

The bodies were recovered on Wednesday during an operation in Khan Yunis, the main city in the southern Gaza Strip, the military said.

The military had announced Goren’s death in December.

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Maya Goren, a 56-year-old kindergarten teacher believed to have been killed during the Oct. 7, 2023 Hamas attack on southern Israel whose body was being held hostage in southern Gaza. Israeli military said on July 25, 2024 that her body had been recovered by Israeli forces.  

The Hostages Families Forum / Handout via REUTERS


Thursday’s announcement came after two Israeli kibbutzim, Nir Oz and Nir Yitzhak, said in separate statements that the army had retrieved the bodies of Goren and Goldin.

“Last night, we were informed that in a military rescue operation, the body of the late Maya Goren was recovered,” kibbutz Nir Oz said, adding that her family had been informed and more information would follow. Goren was a 56-year-old kindergarten teacher.

Later, kibbutz Nir Yitzhak said the army had returned Goldin’s body.

“This evening, we were informed about the rescue operation for the late Oren Goldin, a member of the kibbutz emergency team, who fell on October 7 during the attack by Hamas militants,” Nir Yitzhak said.

On October 7, Hamas militants attacked southern Israeli communities, which resulted in the deaths of 1,197 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Militants also seized 251 hostages, 111 of whom remain in Gaza, including 39 the military says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory military campaign in Gaza has killed at least 39,145 people, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.



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