What’s making news in St. Paul, reported by the Star Tribune’s team of city reporters. Send news tips to richard.meryhew@startribune.com.

St. Paul fire EMTs provide CPR training

Posted by: Nicole Norfleet under Public safety Updated: April 23, 2015 - 6:52 PM

Before there were such things as emergency medical technicians (EMTs), residents in Pittsburgh, Pa., would often be transported to the hospital in police paddy wagons. Sometimes, they'd die on the way there.

In 1967, a radical experiment called the Freedom House Ambulance Service was founded that provided emergency medical training and ambulances to unemployed black men and women who became the first mobile paramedics in the country.

Organizers of St. Paul’s Freedom House CPR program hope to continue the legacy of those first responders by providing free CPR and first aid training to veterans and low-income residents to help them further their careers and aid their communities during times of emergency.

“There’s a lot of people who want the training but can’t necessarily afford it...The Pittsburgh [program] was trying to get Pittsburgh to safety while employing people who didn’t have any other work,” said Nick Wilson, a St. Paul Fire Department EMT-cadet, who helped start the program.

Classes will be held once a month at Station 51, which was renamed the Freedom House in 2012. The station, located at 296 W. 7th St., serves as the home of the city’s EMS Academy, a program which certifies young, low-income St. Paul residents as EMTs, focusing on diversity.

The Freedom House CPR project has been in the works for little more than a year and is now in the midst of fundraising with classes probably starting in early June, said Wilson, a former graduate of the EMS Academy.

“It does make a huge difference to have someone there and able to handle the situation until a paramedic comes because that might not be for a good 10 minutes and plenty can happen in that time,” Wilson said.

After 10 minutes, a person's chance of survival plummets, he said.

Less than one third of cardiac arrest victims receive CPR from a bystander, according to the American Heart Association.

Twin Cities Safety, a company that is headed by St. Paul Fire Captain Tim Smith and provides CPR certification and other training, oversees the St. Paul EMTs who act as subcontractors to give the CPR training. The company also gives the EMTs mannequins and textbooks to use.

“The more people who know CPR the better because you never know what’s going to happen…Not everybody is able to afford a CPR class,” Smith said.

So far about $500 has been raised on the Freedom House CPR’s fundraising Web site. The funds “go toward building a network through a website, flyers, and other methods, so those in need of our services will be able to find us and connect,” the Web site says.

Recently, St. Paul Fire Chief Tim Butler donated $50 and wrote on the fundraising page, “What a great cause - teaching residents how to save a life thru CPR! Freedom House EMTs provide the CPR training - they just need help to connect with those desiring the training. Let’s help save some lives here!”

George McCary III, 20, joined the Freedom House Ambulance Service after his cousin was in the first training class and encouraged him to join. It became “one of the most significant things that ever happened” to McCary, he said.

McCary had just graduated from high school and was living with his grandmother in a housing project on the North Side of Pittsburgh when he went through more than a year of training for the ambulance service.

“It was a real treat to be away from that crime and other things that were going on in that area. To be able to go to work and actually help people…That’s a big uplift whenever you have people praise something you do,” McCary said.

McCary was with Freedom House from 1968 to 1975, when staff was given two weeks notice that city funding for the program would not be renewed. He didn’t try to get rehired into the city system or stay in the medical field. McCary, now 67, works as a cab driver in the Pittsburgh area.

However, his children -- a son who became an administrator at a hospital in New York, his twin daughters, one working in cancer research and another in orthopedics, and his youngest son who works with people with special needs -- are all involved in health care.

McCary said he supports people getting medical training because if people don’t “all you know is how to call 911.”

Gene Starzenski, who produced and directed a documentary about Freedom House, said he thought the CPR program was a great idea.

“I’m so proud of the legacy that’s going on in St. Paul,” Starzenski said.

Several original members of the Freedom House Ambulance Service are expected to travel to St. Paul next month, and viewings of the documentary are also planned.

(Photo Courtesy Gene Starzenski)

St. Paul reaches settlement with man who claimed he was kicked and tasered by police

Posted by: Nicole Norfleet under Politics and government, Public safety Updated: April 21, 2015 - 6:28 PM

The city of St. Paul has reached a settlement with a man who says he was tasered and kicked by police while he was working on a car in a garage several years ago.

The St. Paul City Council will likely approve a $12,500 settlement Wednesday with Frankie Edward Adams and his attorney. Adams sued the city of St. Paul and Sgt. Steve Anderson as well as Officers Soren Mahowald, John Pyka, Abraham Cyr and Craig Rhode.

According to the amended complaint filed in U.S. District Court:

Adams was working on a car on the night of Jan. 6, 2010, when police searched the property. When Adams saw the first officer enter the garage and point a firearm at him, he turned around and kneeled down and placed his hands behind his head.

After other officers rushed in, Adams says he was tasered in the back and kicked to the floor by Cyr. Adams alleged that Anderson continued to kick him in the head. Rhode allegedly reached down and grabbed Adams by the mouth and jaw and tried to drag him backwards and Cyr tasered Adams again. Anderson continued to kick Adams and swore at him.

Adams tried to crawl under the car he was working on so he could protect his head and neck, but was dragged out, handcuffed and walked into the apartment. Once inside, Adams was stripped and searched in front of several children. According to the complaint, one of the officers called for paramedics, but when medics arrived they were told that Adams was “going to jail, not to the hospital.”

After Adams was booked, he blacked out walking to the bathroom and fell to the ground. When he woke and went to the restroom and saw the extent of his injuries and pushed a button for help. A nurse at the jail said that Adams should be hospitalized, and he was taken to Regions Hospital.

Adams’ eye sockets were so bruised that they were swollen shut for several weeks after the incident. He also suffered black out episodes and cognitive deficiency for nearly a year.

Adams was never charged with a crime as a result of the search warrant, the complaint said.

While Judith Hanson, an assistant city attorney, said in the city’s response to the complaint that the city denied Adams was kicked as described in the complaint, she said that he was tasered twice. Hanson also said that Adams’ injuries were caused by his own actions or were preexisting and unrelated to the incident. Hanson said that any force officers used against Adams was reasonable.

Decades ago, Adams’ testimony helped convict gang leader Robert G. (Buster) Jefferson for the 1994 firebombing deaths of five St. Paul children. Adams was indicted on five drug charges and faced potential prison, but he agreed to testify that he overheard Buster Jefferson and his half-brother, Robert J. (Duddy) Jefferson, admit to their roles in the firebombing. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop all but one of the drug charges against Adams.

In January, Robert J. Jefferson, who was 16 at the time of the crime, saw his sentence reduced to 50 years after initially being sent away for life with no chance of parole.

St. Paul gets EPA grant to plan West Side Flats cleanup

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere under Local business, People and neighborhoods, Politics and government, Urban living Updated: April 13, 2015 - 6:03 PM

St. Paul is getting a $200,000 federal brownfields grant to plan the future cleanup of the West Side Flats, a 120-acre riverfront area opposite downtown that the city hopes to turn into a mixed-use urban village.

The Environmental Protection Agency grant, announced Monday by U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum and Mayor Chris Coleman, will pay for development of a plan to address pollution in the area, much of it now vacant after decades of industrial use.

According to a master plan adopted by the city last year, the city hopes that the area will develop into a mix of residential, commercial, industrial, office, institutional, entertainment and recreational uses.

"Developing housing and job opportunities along the riverfront for the people of St. Paul has long been part of our vision for the city. This grant allows us to take the next steps toward making that vision come to life in a way that benefits all residents," Coleman said in a prepared statement.

The area is bounded by the Mississippi River on the north, Hwy. 52 on the east, Plato Boulevard on the south and Wabasha Street on the west. It's called the West Side flats because it occupies the level floodplain on the river's west bank.

In 2003, U.S. Bank opened a $60.5 million operations center off Robert Street in the flats area, a development that required millions in public subsidy to clean the polluted site.

Harding student has his pick of the Ivy League -- and then some

Posted by: James Walsh under People and neighborhoods, Urban living Updated: April 10, 2015 - 4:37 PM

By Blair Emerson


As it turns out, there's more than one student in Minnesota faced with a choice of which Ivy League school to attend.

Alexander Roman, 17, a senior at Harding Senior High School on St. Paul's East Side, was accepted to all eight Ivy League schools — and then some. Starting in January, the acceptance letters have been pouring in. In all, he’s been accepted to 20 colleges and universities across the country.

“At first I was hesitant [to apply to 20 schools], because it just seemed kind of like a lot,” he said. “But then I kind of got encouraged by many people to kind of just [apply to] the schools that I think I would enjoy myself at.”

Alexander said he couldn’t believe it when he started getting accepted to big name schools like Harvard and Yale. “The first reaction I had, especially the Harvard one, was like, ‘Is this really happening?’” he said. “Right away I told my family, ‘We’re going to go out to eat!’”

They got Chinese.

Alexander said he’s currently weighing his options and plans to do several college tours in the coming months to find the best fit. He took a summer program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology during his junior year and enrolled in a few courses, including calculus and physics. After the program, Alexander said his interests grew in fields like the sciences and math, but he said he still plans to explore other subjects.

At Harding, Alexander is involved with the Knight Crew -- a student group that helps younger students make the transition to high school, and the Genius Squad, a tech help group. Alexander also played as the starting first baseman for the school’s baseball team until his junior year. He is a youth leader at his church.

Alexander said he will be the first in his family to graduate from college. Alexander's father was a teenager when he emigrated from Mexico. Alexander said his dad's excitement has grown with each acceptance letter.

“Just the first [letter] he was really excited … and then right after that getting the Harvard one he was really ecstatic because it really is a really big deal,” Alexander said.

Ralph Alexander, the director of Harding's College and Career Center, said in his 12 years on the job he’s never seen a student get accepted to all Ivy League schools. “He’s the consummate perfect kid to have this happen to,” he said. 

Blair Emerson is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.

St. Paul police endorse Frazer, Glass, Noecker for City Council

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere under Politics and government, Public safety Updated: April 9, 2015 - 3:15 PM

The St. Paul Police Federation, which represents the city's 650 sworn officers and communications staffers, has endorsed three newcomers for election to City Council seats this fall: Steve Frazer in Ward 7, David Glass in Ward 5 and Rebecca Noecker in Ward 2.

The federation also endorsed two incumbent council members, Dan Bostrom in Ward 6 and Chris Tolbert in Ward 3. No endorsement was made in the First Ward race, where several candidates are challenging Council Member Dai Thao, and in the Fourth Ward race, where City Council President Russ Stark so far faces nominal opposition.

The endorsements are significant. No candidates won DFL Party backing in Wards 5 and 2, both expected to be hotly contested battles. The endorsement will elevate Frazer, a police commander, who lost the DFL endorsement in late balloting to Jane Prince in the Seventh Ward race.

A screening committee interviewed the candidates last month, and made recommendations for the membership to vote on earlier this week. A federation press release said that the candidates "won overwhelmingly, with no opposing votes."

"We believe the leadership of these endorsed candidates will make for a safer St. Paul," federation president Dave Titus said.


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