The fatal beating late last year of a 95-year-old Anoka man in his home has rattled the community — especially the elderly.
Responding to those fears, Anoka police, the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office and County Attorney’s office have set up a public forum to field questions and offer tips on how to keep safe at home. The gathering will be held from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on Thursday at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, 525 Jackson St. The event will focus on seniors and those who care for them, officials said.
Albert Loehlein was living independently in his home when the break-in and fatal beating occurred over the Thanksgiving weekend. Prosecutors charged 27-year-old Isaiah M. Thomas, also of Anoka, with two counts of second-degree murder in Loehlein’s death. Police arrested Thomas less than a week after Loehlein’s family found his body.
“It was terrible for our community,” said Anoka Police Chief Eric Peterson. Loehlein “was in an environment that he should feel safe. He was defenseless. The suspect was much stronger and quicker and had an agenda.”
Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo said the death prompted at least one resident to write him a letter about safety concerns.
“To have a life ended in such a tragic way unsettles everyone,” Palumbo said.
Details on motive and whether or not Loehlein’s home was targeted have yet to be released.
At the forum, officials say they plan to offer home safety and security tips, ranging from keeping the snow shoveled and hedges trimmed to bringing in old newspapers off the front porch.
“You want to discourage people from picking out a house that appears unoccupied,” Palumbo said.
Nearly six in 10 elderly violent crime victims nationally reported being victimized at or near their home, according to a 2014 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Murders are few and far between in the city of Anoka. From 2011 to 2015, there were two homicides.
On a recent afternoon at the Anoka Senior Center, residents described the city of about 17,000 as a generally safe place to live. Dave Olavson helps drive the shuttle bus for the senior center and has talked with riders about the November killing.
“It was only three blocks from here,” Olavson said. “It’s so rare in Anoka. I’m hoping it’s a one-time thing.”
Every Wednesday, Elsie Johnson travels from nearby Ramsey to Anoka’s senior center for a hot meal and time with friends. Johnson said she does what she can to protect herself at home. She has an alarm system, locks her doors and avoids going out at night alone.
“Anoka is pretty safe,” Johnson said, “but society in general is just not as safe anymore.”