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St. Paul students return to Harding High after fatal stabbing




Students trickled back into St. Paul’s Harding High School on Friday, returning to class as a district administrator held a briefing outside to note new security measures — and amid calls from educators for more action on school safety concerns.

Students had been out since sophomore Devin Scott, 15, was stabbed Feb. 10 by another student in a hallway. It was the middle of his first day at the East Side school.

Scott died a short time later at Regions Hospital. On Tuesday, Nosakhere K. Holmes, 16, was charged in Ramsey County District Court with second-degree unintentional murder.

District officials responded to last week’s stabbing by having police officers stationed outside five high schools and adding a third school support liaison to Harding’s security team. On Thursday, the district also announced new rules limiting how kids enter and move about a building that holds more than 1,700 students and staff members.

As students returned Friday, Assistant Superintendent Nancy Paez reiterated some of the new procedures at a news conference.

“This is going to be a good day at Harding,” she said.

The St. Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE) posted a letter on Facebook Thursday stating that board members and administrators had been made aware of issues involving the school’s safety climate by parents and educators, and that many of those calls and emails went unanswered.

“These events are the tragically avoidable and inevitable result of inadequate SPPS school climate policies and the refusal to listen to staff and community on how to address problems before they escalate,” the union said in its letter. It urged the school board to call an emergency meeting to hear from students, staff and community members.

When asked to comment Friday on the union’s contention that the tragedy could have been avoided and more done at Harding, Paez declined, saying, “Not at this time.”

Louis Francisco, an instructional coach who has been at Harding for 31 years, and is a graduate, too, said it had been a tough six days and there was no blueprint for how to cope with the aftermath of such violence.

“Teachers came together,” he said, “planning and grieving at the same time.”

The state’s second-largest district cut ties with school resource officers (SROs), in 2020 after George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police. They were replaced with 38 school support liaisons who are not armed but carry pepper spray and handcuffs. This week, Superintendent Joe Gothard said he is open to discuss adding SROs in new roles.

In its announcement Thursday night, the district said Harding’s new protocols are designed to “create a safe environment for all.” The rules state:

  • Students who are late must enter through the main entrance, where they will receive a pass and will have five minutes to report to class.
  • Increased hallway supervision will be in place, and students cannot access hallways during class time without a chaperone.
  • Students will be escorted to the bathroom and bathrooms will be supervised.

Paez said the new measures would be enforced through at least the coming week.

“If we are obtaining the outcomes that we want for the changes, we will adjust as necessary or extend [them],” she said.

At the end of the day, a district spokeswoman said just over half of Harding’s students attended school Friday, and staff reported that those who were there were glad to see their friends and teachers again. The shortened school day focused more on support for students than academics, she said, and additional staff will be at Harding through next week.

Last week’s fatal encounter occurred in a hallway between classes. According to the juvenile petition filed Tuesday, Holmes had words with Scott, the two started fighting, and a third student punched Holmes, too, before staff members intervened. Then, Holmes advanced toward Scott, swinging a knife at least twice, the petition said.

In its letter, signed by more than 600 educators before it was posted, SPFE said board members had been silent on climate issues since they learned in November of a $1 million federal grant aimed at identifying the root causes of school violence — and, in turn, get students the help they need before they harm themselves or others.

The grant application cited an increase in the “prevalence and seriousness” of violent incidents in St. Paul schools in 2021-22 but gave no specifics.

At Harding on Friday, students met in grade-level assemblies and were to remain in their advisory class for most of the day. Members of the district’s crisis team also were on hand to support students. Harding will resume its normal schedule Tuesday.

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Star Tribune

Foundations invest $6 million into new fund to support local journalism in Minnesota




Some of Minnesota’s largest foundations are backing a new local news fund that’s collected $6 million so far in a five-year effort to bolster local journalism across the state.

Press Forward Minnesota, which launched last January, has raised $6 million in donations so far from the McKnight Foundation in Minneapolis, the Bush Foundation in St. Paul, the Glen Nelson Center at American Public Media Group in St. Paul and the Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation.

Mukhtar Ibrahim, who is a consultant on the initiative, said Friday he hopes to get more foundations to support the fund.

“We want to keep the momentum going,” said Ibrahim, former CEO of the Sahan Journal in St. Paul and a former Star Tribune reporter.

The effort is part of a national Press Forward coalition that started last year, aiming to invest $500 million in newsrooms nationwide. Other regions have their own chapters, including Chicago, which has raised about $10 million.

Since 2005, more than 2,000 newspapers have closed in the U.S. — almost a third of all newspapers — with Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota losing the most newspapers per capita between 2005 and 2023, according to the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

That’s leaving a growing number of communities without any local news source. Research has shown that, when local newspapers close down, fewer people vote or run for local office and cities approve higher bond spending. In Minnesota, eight weekly newspapers closed earlier this year, some after operating for more than a century.

Minnesota’s fund will be administered by the Minnesota Council on Foundations, which will start accepting grant applications this fall. Ibrahim said it’s too early to say how much grants will be, but for-profit and nonprofit news organizations statewide will be eligible to apply.

“This will benefit the whole state,” he said. “We need to see journalism as essential [to fund] as much as public works … it affects the health of a society.”

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Shooter fired from behind fence, killed north Minneapolis man in his car




A Bloomington man was charged with murder Friday after police said they used surveillance video to place him behind a fence where shell casings were found at the scene of North Minneapolis shooting last month.

Dameon Markese Collins, 23, of Bloomington faces second-degree murder charges in the death of Carl Maurice Woodard, 55, of Minneapolis and is being detained in Hennepin County jail on $1 million bail.

According to the charges:

Police were dispatched to a shooting on the 3500 block of Penn Ave. N. a little before 11 p.m. on June 28. They found a parked car with 13 bullet holes in it. Woodward was in the driver’s seat, unresponsive. His death was later ruled a homicide.

Officers determined the shooting likely came from a hole in a fence that was situated directly next to the passenger seat of the car where Woodard was found. The Minneapolis crime lab found 23 shell casings behind the fence.

Surveillance footage from the area later identified a white Chevy Tahoe that was parked two houses down from Woodard’s car. Police say Collins got out of the car and proceeded to navigate to a nearby alley before walking between two houses on the 3500 block of Penn Ave. to a fenced area near the victim’s car.

The video then shows several muzzle flashes. Shortly afterward Collins is seen running from the scene and getting back into the Tahoe. Phone records also place Collins at the scene of the crime.

After being placed under arrest, Collins gave a statement to police where he acknowledged that he drives a white Tahoe, was wearing the same clothes as the man seen in the surveillance videos and that he knew there was a hole in the fence on the 3500 block of Penn Ave. Collins stated then when he got out of his car it was because he was going to talk to a girl.

Collins is also charged with possessing a pistol without a permit, a misdemeanor. He is due in court next week.

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Rare officer v. officer lawsuit over Hennepin County K9 mauling ordered thrown out by federal appeals court




A rare excessive force lawsuit pitting Minnesota law enforcement officers against each other after one officer was mauled by another’s K-9 must be dismissed, a federal appeals court ruled this week.

A three-judge panel from the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals sided with Hennepin County Sheriff’s Deputy Keith McNamara in his bid to dismiss a civil suit filed against him last year by a former Champlin police officer attacked by McNamara’s K-9 as the two pursued a suspect together.

Daniel Irish, who now works as a police officer in Brooklyn Park, had alleged that McNamara did not warn others that he had released the K-9 named Thor as police tracked a suspect who had led them on a pursuit into Osseo in March 2022. Irish sued over his Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force and unreasonable seizure.

U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery in August 2023 denied McNamara’s request to dismiss the complaint after he argued that he was entitled to qualified immunity. Montgomery noted that the mauling was a “highly unfortunate accident” but concluded that it was “clearly established” that a seizure occurred within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. Irish had argued that McNamara willfully deployed Thor during the pursuit and “objectively intended for him to bite the first person he encountered.”

McNamara countered that he did not “subjectively” intend to seize Irish and that because “the law is unclear as to whether subjective or objective intent should be considered,” it was not clearly established that Thor’s bite was a seizure. The Eighth Circuit panel this week agreed with McNamara and reversed Montgomery’s ruling. The lawsuit now goes back to Montgomery with instructions from the appellate court to dismiss.

Megan Larson, a spokesperson for the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office said Friday that the office was “satisfied with the court’s decision and we have no further comment.”

Irish’s attorneys said he still suffers from the effects of C. difficile and other gastrointestinal ailments brought on by antibiotics taken to treat a deep skin infection caused by Thor’s attack.

“Officer Irish did exemplary policework that day,” said Andrew Noel, an attorney representing Irish. “He is disappointed by the court’s ruling but he continues to serve the people of Brooklyn Park every day.”

Writing for a panel that included Judges Ralph Erickson and Duane Benton, Judge Jonathan Kobes concluded that this case “fits best in the unintended-target line of cases.”

McNamara commanded Thor to go after the fleeing suspect less than a minute before the dog bit Irish. He repeatedly ordered Thor to disengage from Irish and refocused the K9 toward the suspect.

“All told, we cannot say that it was ‘sufficiently clear that every reasonable official [in Deputy McNamara’s shoes] would understand’ that he acted unlawfully — or even within the scope of the Fourth Amendment. Contrary to Officer Irish’s warning, our decision today does not mean that one police officer could never seize another,” Kobes wrote in the 9-page ruling. “We hold only that it was not clearly established as of March 2022 that an officer in Minnesota could seize a fellow officer with a K9 without subjectively intending to do so.”

The ruling was the second order issued this week from an appellate court regarding a police K-9 attack. On Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court ordered that the State Patrol can be sued for liability after an unprovoked attack by one of its K-9s on an Owatonna car dealership employee, saying that qualified immunity for the agency does not apply under the state’s dog bite statute.

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