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Posts about Public safety

Missing U of M student went off bridge into Mississippi River, police say

Posted by: Erin Golden Updated: March 30, 2015 - 3:43 PM

A vigil for missing University of Minnesota Student Jennifer Houle was held March 29 at Stillwater Area High School. BRIDGET BENNETT /SPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE 

Minneapolis police said Monday that they've located video of a missing University of Minnesota student entering the river off of the 10th Avenue Bridge, near the university's campus.

Jennifer Houle, 22, a Carlson School of Management student, was last seen early Friday morning at the Blarney Pub at 412 14th Av. SE in Minneapolis. Police said they are not seeking suspects and are now beginning a water recovery mission with the help of the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office. 

In a statement, the department issued condolences to Houle's family and friends and thanked people who provided information after her disappearance.

A police spokesman said the video footage was captured by a police surveillance camera in the area. It showed that Houle was alone at the time she went in the water. 

Houle, a native of Lake Elmo, graduated from Stillwater Area High School.

Danita Brown Young, the university's vice provost for student affairs and dean of students released a statement Monday morning, saying the university was "deeply saddened" to learn the news about Houle, a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority.

The university is offering counseling services to students, faculty and staff members, especially for Houle's fellow Carlson students and her sorority sisters.

Developer razes one of longest-vacant Mpls homes

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: March 25, 2015 - 6:20 PM

A large backhoe began ripping apart a developer-owned duplex a block off of Lake of the Isles on Wednesday, erasing one of the longest-vacant homes in the city from a neighborhood that usually doesn't have them.

A crew from All-Metro Excavating began demolition of the 107-year-old duplex that developer Ross Fefercorn has owned for 16 years. It has been vacant for at least 10 years, and has been on the city's list of vacant building registration list since 2007. That extended period drew complaints from the property's East Isles neighbors.

Fefercorn told the Star Tribune last fall that he was debating whether to sell, rehab or raze the property at 2208 Irving Av. S., for which he paid he paid $360,000 in 1998. He said he bought the duplex with the idea that he might live there some day, but he ran into unforeseen structural problems after he began to gut it.

Fefercorn said via e-mail Wednesday that he was tied up in meetings and not immediately available for comment on future plans for the lot.

The house was a personal project for a developer who lives a few blocks away in the Wedge area.  He's developed commercial and residential projects from north Minneapolis to Mendota Heights. They include single-family housing along the Humboldt Greenway and Track 29 apartments along the Midtown Greenway.

Neighbors complained to City Hall about the house, but city officials said the house was secure and its condition didn't warrant them ordering a demolition.  The property drew complaints of unkempt vegetation, peeling paint and trash issues, attracting 22 inspection citations in 11 years.

Frustration over the property among neighbors boiled over at a East Isles Residents Associaiton meeting two years ago, where some neighbors suggested the city not approve any more deals for Fefercorn until the property was fixed up. 

The city registration fee for boarded housing doubled Fefercorn's annual property tax for the property to $16,000. The city said that Fefercorn took steps toward demolishing the building in 2009 but didn;t folow through.

(Photo: Fefercorn at the site of the Track 29 housing in 2012. Staff photo by Bruce Bisping.)


Authorities charge second man in 2014 Northeast fatal shooting

Posted by: Libor Jany Updated: March 20, 2015 - 3:14 PM

Relatives console one another after the death of Eulalio Gonzalez-Sanchez. LIBOR JANY/Star Tribune

Authorities on Thursday charged a second man in connection with the fatal shooting in Northeast of a 37-year-old man as he walked home from the bus stop last fall, officials said.

Montrell Webster, who was 17 at the time of the shooting, was charged with first-degree murder with intent after confessing to the slaying, according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday in Hennepin County District Court.

The shooting happened in the early morning hours of Sept. 21 outside an apartment building at the corner of 22nd Avenue NE. and 7th Street, the complaint said. Webster, 18, the complaint says, admitted to robbing the victim, Eulalio Gonzalez Sanchez, of Minneapolis, as he walked home to an apartment he shared with his sister.

Authorities charged another man, Jeremiah Elijah Blackwell, 20, with second-degree murder last December after matching shell casings recovered from the scene to a .40-caliber Ruger pistol they found in Blackwell’s possession during a later traffic stop.

Webster was charged after admitting to the shooting during an interrogation earlier this week, authorities said. He reportedly told police that he shot Sanchez after ordering him to get on the ground and taking his wallet.

Webster is being held on $2 million bond. 

Relatives and friends described Sanchez, 37, who had moved to Minnesota from Mexico in the 2000s to be closer to his sister and nephew, as a homebody who worked two jobs to pay his share of the rent.

Officials: Person killed in Lowry Hill condo fire

Posted by: Libor Jany Updated: March 20, 2015 - 11:56 AM

Minneapolis fire officials said a person died early Thursday in a blaze in an condo in the Lowry Hill neighborhood.

Firefighters were summoned about 4:15 a.m. to Groveland Terrace Condos, 48 Groveland Terrace, for a report of a fire in a first-floor unit. While battling the blaze they discovered the victim, whose identity hasn’t been released, Assistant Fire Chief Chérie A. Penn said Thursday afternoon.

The person was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center and later died, Penn said. An autopsy is still pending.

Residents were hastily evacuated from neighboring units in the three-building condo complex across from the Walker Arts Center, while firefighters worked to knock down the blaze. No other injuries were reported. A neighbor said the fire started in the easternmost apartment in the middle of the three buildings.

Thursday fire fatality was the fourth in the city this year, Penn said in a news release, adding that the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

No further details were immediately available.

Minneapolis protected bike lane list for 2015 swells

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: March 18, 2015 - 11:46 AM

Four protected bike lane projects have been identified that will be paid for by $790,000 set aside in this year’s budget by Mayor Betsy Hodges. They total 5.6 miles.

The list of projects includes Plymouth Avenue N. and 8th Av. NE between Fremont Av. N. and 5th Street. NE, Oak St. SE between East River Road and Washington Avenue SE, S 9th Street between Hennepin and Chicago avenues, and East 26th and 28th streets between Hiawatha and Portland avenues.

Three of the four are atop previously announced plans to add protected lanes as part of street repaving or park projects. The exception is 26th and 28th, where the money will cover a $160,000 gap in an already planned street resurfacing project that’s also expected to include better pedestrian crossings.

Protected bikes lanes involve separating bike lanes from motor vehicles with a barrier. In Minneapolis, that separation has usually come in the form of flexible plastic tubes, although parked cars are used on 1st Avenue N. downtown.

The new projects represent one on the South Side, one on the North Side, one downtown and one in the University of Minnesota. The downtown and Oak projects will serve higher-volume biking areas. S. 9th now has a narrower bike lane bur Oak has none. Bikers generally eschew 26th and 28th, which have three traffic lanes and no bike lanes.

The Plymouth project will extend the current protected bike lanes on the roadway’s river bridge. Bike traffic on that bridge has shot up since the addition of the addition of protected lanes. The east end of the new lanes will connect with the 5th St. NE bike boulevard, while the west end will connect with bikes lanes on Fremont and Emerson avenues.  Those currently have wider buffered bike lanes, but protected bike lanes are proposed for one or both avenues in the future. Planners will retain narrower bike lanes west along Plymouth from those two streets to Wirth Park.

Also proposed for 2015 are protected bike lanes or off-road lanes at other locations in the city.  They include portions of  26th Avenue N., five downtown blocks of Washington Avenue, the Franklin Avenue Bridge, the Intercity Trail leading south from Lake Nokomis, Broadway St. NE between Stinson and Industrial boulevards, the East Bank Trail between Boom Island Park and Marshall St. NE , a new trail on Ridgway Parkway, and a Bryn Mawr trail,

The protected lane proposals are intended to help meet a city-set goal, promoted by the bike lobby, to add 30 miles of protected bike lanes by 2020. Advocates argue that lanes that are wider and bordered by the plastic markers create space that makes timid cyclists more likely to ride, especially in congested areas near downtown. Hodges proposed spending an extra $1.5 million this year and next to jumpstart the effort.

(Photo:  Protected bike lanes on the Plymouth Avenue Bridge will be extended east and west under a 2015 plan by the Department of Public Works. Photo from city of Minneapolis)  


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