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.

Posts about Public safety

St. Paul fire EMTs provide CPR training

Posted by: Nicole Norfleet 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 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 police endorse Frazer, Glass, Noecker for City Council

Posted by: Kevin Duchschere 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.

Patient in St. Paul hospital stole video games from visiting child, charges say

Posted by: Chao Xiong Updated: April 7, 2015 - 12:21 PM
Dave A. Schmotter

Dave A. Schmotter

A Minneapolis man stole video gaming systems and games from an  8-year-old boy who was visiting him in the hospital, according to a charge filed Monday.

Dave A. Schmotter, 43, allegedly took a case containing the items and hung it on his intravenous stand while the boy and his mother were distracted. He is charged in Ramsey County District Court with one count of theft.

"Dave steals anything he can get his hands on," the boy's mother told police. "This is really low."

According to the complaint: The woman is friends with Schmotter, and visited him on Nov. 17 while he was a patient at Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul. The woman brought her son. The two also brought McDonalds food for Schmotter.

The boy had a black case containing two Nintendo DS gaming systems and between 30 to 40 video games. The total value was more than $1,000.

The boy left the case on a bench near a pool table when he and his mother went to a nearby computer area. The case was gone when they returned.

Hospital security reviewed surveillance video from the area.

"The video shows [the woman] and her son leave the area, then shows Schmotter take the case, hang it on his IV stand, then hang a shirt over the bag to conceal it," the complaint said.

The items were recovered, and police were called to the hospital.

Schmotter has a long criminal history that includes convictions for drugs, burglary and receiving stolen property.

St. Paul pizza, ice cream parlor was front for marijuana operation run by local man, his mother and grandmother

Posted by: Chao Xiong Updated: March 27, 2015 - 9:28 PM
Ryan D. Brooks, Sr.

Ryan D. Brooks, Sr.

A St. Paul man ran a marijuana trafficking business out of an old pizza and ice cream parlor with the help of his girlfriend, mother and grandmother, according to charges filed Friday in Ramsey County District Court.

In the course of their investigation, authorities discovered marijuana, cocaine, three handguns and hollow point bullets in the suspects' St. Paul homes. Although authorities locally and out of state had intercepted more than 144 pounds of marijuana associated with the suspects between 2006 to 2013, exposing the fraudulent pizza parlor took a call last year from a concerned citizen.

"On August 19, 2014, a concerned citizen made a report with the St. Paul Police Department that Papa Dimitri's Classic Pizza and Ice Cream located at 466 Hamline Avenue South ... is rarely open and does not seem to do much actual business," said the criminal complaint. "The concerned citizen reported that employees have complained about the heat not working, which the concerned citizen thought odd since the pizza ovens should have provided plenty of heat.

"The concerned citizen said that the employees ate at another nearby restaurant, the Nook, which was also odd because they work in a restaurant ... and it appeared that there were more children being babysat at the restaurant than actual customers."

That call led to police surveillance of the pizza parlor in November 2014, and criminal charges against owner Ryan D. Brooks, Sr. and his family.

The pizza parlor, which was transferred to Brooks in 2010, received $189,891.82 in cash deposits in its bank account between Jan. 1, 2013 and Oct. 31, 2014, according to the charges.

An officer who had worked at the Ramsey County Workhouse told investigators that while Brooks was incarcerated there in 2008 and 2009, he allegedly admitted to using the pizza parlor to launder drug money.

"Brooks said he utilized pizza boxes and bags to deliver marijuana under the guise of making pizza deliveries," the charges said, referring to the officer's statements to investigators.

Brooks, 32, is charged with first-degree possession of cocaine, fifth-degree conspiracy to sell marijuana, concealing criminal proceeds and possession of a firearm by an ineligible person. His girlfriend, Lena S. Kirk, 24, faces first-degree possession of cocaine, fifth-degree conspiracy to sell marijuana and possession of a firearm by an ineligible person.

Brooks' mother, Rosalyn M. Brooks, 61, is charged with concealing criminal proceeds. His grandmother, Joyce E. Merkley, 82, is charged with fifth-degree conspiracy to sell marijuana and fifth-degree possession of marijuana.

According to the complaint: Police surveillance last November 18-23 showed that Rosalyn Brooks opened the pizza parlor in the late afternoon. In six days the parlor had five customers and four pizza deliveries. Ryan Brooks stopped by once, spending 30 minutes at the parlor.

That same month, police learned from a United States Postal Inspector that between August 2012 and October 2013, three deliveries to Merkley's home and one delivery to the pizza parlor had been intercepted containing more than 37 pounds of marijuana, the charges said.

Although some of the packages had return addresses in St. Paul, the charges said that, "All of the packages went through Denver prior to delivery suggesting that they all originated in California."

On Nov. 19, 2014, the U.S. Postal Inspector told police that a 5-pound package of marijuana addressed to Merkley had been intercepted. Authorities executed a search warrant on Merkley's home the next day.

"The package was found unopened behind Merkley as she sat in a living room chair," the charges said. "Merkley initially denied knowing anything about the package she had received, but she eventually admitted she had received 3 or 4 packages from Brooks that contained marijuana. She said she never opened the packages, but she suspected what was inside."

Merkley allegedly told police that her grandson occasionally gave her money. Paperwork found at her home also showed that Brooks owed $6,972.55 in child support.

Rosalyn Brooks, who was present at the search, denied any knowledge of the packages Merkley received. Rosalyn Brooks told police she cashed out a 401K to start the pizza parlor seven years ago, and that she co-owned it with her son.

"[Rosalyn Brooks] said she delivered pizzas," the charges said.

Police found paperwork at Merkley's home showing that Rosalyn Brooks had an IRA with a beginning policy value of $52,320.96, and that on Oct. 9, 2014 she had a bank account with $959.35 in it. By Nov. 10 of that same year, $35,948.38 had been deposited into the bank account, according to the complaint.

During a search of Rosalyn Brooks' home, police found three baggies of marijuana, a Glock handgun with an extended magazine and hollow point bullets, a loaded pistol, paperwork showing that she was to receive a $35,048 disability payment and documentation that she was receiving energy assistance from Community Action because her household income was $2,805.

A search of Ryan Brooks' and Kirk's home yielded 16 bags of suspected marijuana, suspected cocaine, seven vials labeled "anabolics" and "testosterone," a handgun, $7,000 in cash, scales, packages addressed to Merkley and documents of bank transfers.

Kirk's iPhone was also later searched and revealed "a series of photos of large amounts of marijuana," a photo of a UPS receipt and texts between Kirk and Ryan Brooks about bank deposits, drug transactions and deliveries, the charges said.

Police also learned that Ryan Brooks had been on the radar of police at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport because had had booked two flights less than a day before takeoff, and never boarded either flight.

Between April 2012 and December 2014, he allegedly flew out of Minnesota more than 50 times while on probation for a previous conviction.

Police executed a second search warrant on Merkley's home, and she allegedly admitted then that she received marijuana for her grandson. Bank records showed that Merkley had received $29,762 in cash deposits since January 2013.

Ryan Brooks declined to speak with police when he was arrested.

In 2006, Brooks and his mother were arrested in Nebraska in a rental car with 107 pounds of marijuana in the trunk, the complaint said. The two were returning to St. Paul from Las Vegas. Rosalyn Brooks was never charged in the case. Her son served 90 days in the case.

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