What’s making news in Minneapolis, reported by the Star Tribune’s team of city reporters. Send news tips to suzanne.ziegler@startribune.com.

Posts about Public safety

Suspects had cased Mall of America Starbucks before beating Mark Andrew

Posted by: Suzanne Ziegler Updated: December 27, 2013 - 4:32 PM

The two teenagers accused of beating a Minneapolis mayoral candidate after a cohort stole his iPhone at the Mall of America had cased the Starbucks ahead of time, according to authorities. 

Mark Andrew, also a former Hennepin County commissioner, was beaten on the head with a metal baton after a juvenile male snatched his phone as he sat in Starbucks. 

Andrew received nine stitches at Fairview Southdale Hospital, where an ambulance took him after the attack around 7 p.m. Thursday.

One of the women arrested, Letaija Shapree Cutler-Cain, 18, of Brooklyn Park, was charged with second-degree assault with a deadly weapon. The other woman was not identified because she is 17. The male who stole the phone was not identified. 

In the complaint, police said the male took off with the phone. When Andrew gave chase, the two women confronted him and kept him from leaving the store. The complaint said Cutler-Cain jumped on his back and the younger teen struck him repeatedly on the head with the baton. As Andrew struggled with the women, Cutler-Cain gouged his face with her fingernails, yelling at him: "I'm going to kill you, Let me go or I'm going to kill you!"

Police said Andrew was struck with a metal baton and was bleeding profusely from a large cut on the top of his head and from his mouth. He also had bruises and abrasions on his face.

“I was targeted because the phone was out and I’m 63 years old, and I’m sure they thought that I was easy pickins,” Andrew said by phone Friday morning, while on painkillers and on his way to give statements to the Bloomington Police Department.

The complaint said Cutler-Cain told police that the trio had checked the Starbucks several times that afternoon to determine if it was "sweet." Asked to explain what she meant, she said they were seeing if any customers had items they could steal.  

Andrew placed second to Betsy Hodges in November’s most competitive race for mayor in a generation, when voters chose between 35 candidates in the city’s first major test of ranked choice voting. He continues to work as an environmental marketing consultant.

He said he was working at a table alone at the Starbucks when someone – he thinks it was a man – whisked his phone away and ran out the door. As Andrew ran after the thief, two young women waiting outside the coffee shop tackled him, and one began beating him on the head and face with a club.

Andrew said he jumped back to his feet and physically restrained one attacker while the other continued striking him. They yelled, “We’re going to kill you! We’re going to kill you!”

No one at the packed Starbucks intervened.

“They were too afraid,” Andrew said.

He guessed the police came after about five minutes. Upon their arrival, Andrew said the women told police that he had assaulted them first, but a witness inside the shop confirmed his account. Even after authorities detained the attackers, the women told Andrew they would have him killed.

The hospital treated and released him the same night.

The person who swiped the phone apparently dropped it after seeing the commotion, and a passerby later returned it to Andrew.

“I’m not going to let someone take my phone,” Andrew said. “I’m not going to let that pass. They thought they wouldn’t get chased.”

As Andrew walked back into his south Minneapolis home, he recalled, he lifted his fist in the air and told his adult children, “We won.”

He vowed to stay involved in the case.

"“They’re damaged kids, and maybe they’re too far gone, but I think there’s redemption for everybody," said Andrew. "So we’ll try to find a way for them to get in a place where they can turn their lives around.”

Nicollet-Boom recreational bridge is closed to vehicles

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: December 23, 2013 - 5:58 PM

The 112-year-old railroad bridge linking Boom Island and Nicollet Island has been closed to all but foot and bike traffic due to advanced deterioration of the bridge below the deck that was detected by a city inspection.

The closing of the 175-foot crossing to vehicles isn't expected to have much public impact because the span is used mainly by maintenance vehicles of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, which plow trails that run across the bridge.

The 1901 through-truss bridge is safe for individuals, the Park Board said in a news release. Jersey barriers have been placed at either end of the bridge to block vehicles. It said that the Commitment Day 5K race scheduled for Jan. 1 will use the bridge as planned.

The bridge crosses the east channel of Nicollet Island, part of a corridor that extends down the east flank of the island's north half to where the line once connected with Burlington Northern tracks.

The 1901 through-truss bridge was for the Wisconsin Central Railroad as part of its railyard that replaced lumberyards on Boom Island that were destroyed in an 1893 fire. The railyards were cleared in the 1970s in anticipation of the routing of Interstate 335 across Boom Island before opponents stalled that project. Roundhouse foundations are buried in the park that replaced rails on Boom Island.  

Audit targets Green Central PTO treasurer

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: September 5, 2013 - 2:01 PM
 
An outside auditor for the Minneapolis school district has concluded that checks written by the treasurer of the parent-teacher organization at Green Central Park Community School were fraudulent.
 
Auditor Barry Rogers said that a total of $3,060 in “possibly abusive payments” were written by treasurer Mary Ann Robinson, although she returned most of the money after the audit began.
 
Robinson tells a different story. She said that she segregated in her Wells Fargo account money reserved for various projects that the PTO had discussed. “I needed to do what was convenient for me,” she said of that decision.
 
She also attributed the monetary dispute to differences she had with the school’s former principal and family liaison over proper use of federal poverty aid, to cross-language communication difficulties at the dominantly Latino school, and to a brain illness that she said causes her memory problems.
 
She said that she was drafted reluctantly into the treasurer role, didn’t have any background in bookkeeping, and wasn’t given any training.
 
“I feel they set me up. Now I look like the bad guy,” she said. She also accused the school of illegally opening mail from the bank and addressed to her that arrived at the Central neighborhood school.
 
The audit found that Robinson made what appeared to be restitution payments, but was still $160 short. Robinson said that she has not yet paid the remaining funds, which were due by mid-June.
 
Robert Doty, the district’s chief financial officer, said that the district has not referred the findings of the audit to authorities for potential prosecution.  He said that the findings were reported to the Green Central PTO, which is not affiliated with the state PTA organization. Efforts to contact the PTO leadership through the school were unsuccessful.
 
Doty also said the district hasn’t billed the PTO for the cost of the audit, deciding that the district will eat it because it's  within the scope of the district’s “audit universe.”
 

Police ask for help in case of girl, 17, missing for 23 years

Posted by: Suzanne Ziegler Updated: August 28, 2013 - 4:49 PM

Minneapolis police put out a plea to the public Wednesday for help in a 23-year-old cold case.

Police said that 17-year-old Victoria Jane Owczynsky disappeared on Aug. 26, 1990 and has never been seen since. Foul play is suspected.

She was last seen at her house in 1800 block of University Avenue NE after planning to meet a friend at a park. But she never showed up.

“We are always reviewing cold cases as our goal is to bring closure to every victim and their family,” Sgt. Gerhard Wehr of the Homicide Unit said in a statement. “With the continuing advances in forensic technology, any new information that we receive could help solve cold cases.”

Anyone with any information about this case is asked to call Sgt. Wehr at 612-673-3406.
 

Gun violence activist grapples with son's shooting

Posted by: Maya Rao Updated: August 21, 2013 - 10:28 AM

Peace activist K. G. Wilson has been a faithful presence at many crime scenes on the North Side over the years, pleading for the shooting to stop.

This month, someone shot his own son.

Jimmy Allen, 19, was shot at the corner of West Broadway and Fremont Avenues North three weeks ago. Police officers found him lying on the ground at 10:20 p.m. on August 1 with two males in their early 20s standing near him. They identified three suspects – one female and two males, between 18 and 20 years old – but no one has been arrested in connection with the case.

An ambulance took Allen to North Memorial Medical Center. His injuries were not life-threatening, and he was released with a bullet still in his neck, according to Wilson.

“Some kids just came up and started shooting,” said Wilson.

He said his son did not wish to speak with the media. He and the suspects are black.

Wilson slammed the incident as “black on black hatred” and said he would be addressing the matter at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Golden Thyme Coffee & Café in St. Paul.

Wilson said another son was robbed and shot in Chicago years ago, but this was the first time one of his children was shot in Minneapolis. His nephew was also shot at the downtown Pizza Luce in June. A distant cousin of Wilson’s, Cordell Dalton, was shot to death last October on the North Side after winning several thousand dollars in a dice game.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a pastor, minister, activist, whatever, your children who live in the community are an endangered species,” said Wilson, a former gangbanger who has made ending gun violence his life's work.

He posted today on Facebook that he prays his son returns to the God that saved his life that night – and that the deadly streets of Minneapolis have no love for anyone.
 

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