2016 was marked by joy, profound sadness and shock. Lives were changed and new political and cultural landscapes emerged. Here’s a look at a few of Minnesota’s biggest stories.
The ending no one wanted
Nearly 27 years after Jacob Wetterling was abducted, his remains were recovered and his killer was sentenced to prison. Danny Heinrich, who was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison, confessed to sexually assaulting and killing Jacob and led authorities to a shallow grave. It was a heartbreaking ending to a mystery that began Oct. 22, 1989, when 11-year-old Jacob was kidnapped by a masked man near his house in rural St. Joseph. The brazen crime ripped at the hearts of Minnesotans and changed the way parents watch over their children. Minnesotans had turned on their porch lights each anniversary of the abduction, signaling hope that Jacob would be found.
Pop superstar Prince Rogers Nelson died of an accidental overdose of the powerful drug fentanyl at his Paisley Park recording studio and home in Chanhassen. Grief-stricken fans took to the streets, purple lights lit up cities, and musicians around the world paid tribute to the musical genius and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. While a legal tussle over his estate continues, Paisley Park has been converted into a museum that pays homage to the global superstar who stayed rooted in Minnesota.
Jamar Clark decision
Four months after Minneapolis police shot and killed 24-year-old Jamar Clark, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman decided no charges would be filed against the two officers. The North Side shooting sparked an 18-day encampment at the city’s Fourth Precinct police headquarters and months of protests, widening a chasm between police and black residents. Saying he wanted to be transparent, Freeman meticulously laid out the investigation that led to his decision. Afterward, angry, frustrated activists took the streets, declaring the system broken.
The death of Philando Castile
Philando Castile, a 32-year-old St. Paul school cafeteria worker, was shot seven times by a St. Anthony police officer within moments of being pulled over for a traffic stop in Falcon Heights. His girlfriend, who was in the car with her small daughter, livestreamed the aftermath, and the world watched blood soak through Castile’s T-shirt as he slumped in his seat and took his last breaths. The shooting and viral images sent protesters into the streets. Four months later, the Ramsey County attorney charged officer Jeronimo Yanez with three felonies, including second-degree manslaughter, in connection with the shooting. It’s the first time in modern Minnesota history that an officer has been charged in an on-duty killing.
Vikings come home
Three years after the Metrodome was deflated and demolished, U.S. Bank Stadium opened its massive pivoting glass doors and welcomed Minnesota Vikings fans to their new downtown Minneapolis digs under a translucent roof. The $1.1 billion stadium, which dwarfs the old Dome, is the most expensive public-private partnership in state history. As it rose, so did the development of a park, office towers, condos and a hotel that brought new vitality to downtown’s east end.
Nine Somali-Minnesotans who were ready to fight for ISIL were sentenced on terror conspiracy charges as a result of a nearly decadelong probe into terrorism recruitment in Minneapolis. Six men pleaded guilty; three others were found guilty after a three-week trial — one of the nation’s largest ISIL-related federal prosecutions to reach trial.
It’s all right
Rock ’n’ roll legend Bob Dylan was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature for creating “new poetic expressions with the great American song tradition.” That’s a far cry from 1956, when the Hibbing High School principal pulled the curtain on the young performer in the school’s talent show. Born Robert Zimmerman in Duluth and raised on the Iron Range, the singer-songwriter didn’t always feel the love of Minnesota. But the times, they are a-changin’.
Ilhan Omar became the country’s first Somali-American legislator. The 34-year-old Muslim woman defeated Rep. Phyllis Kahn — the longest-serving member in the Minnesota House — during a three-way DFL primary that also included another formidable Somali-American opponent. Ilhan went on to handily win the seat in the November general election.
University of Minnesota football is reeling after 10 players were suspended from the team in connection with an alleged sexual assault. The suspensions triggered players to boycott all football activities and threaten to back out of a bowl game in protest. Coach Tracy Claeys sparked more controversy with a tweet in support of his players. Once details of an 80-page sexual assault investigation report emerged, players ended their two-day boycott and agreed to play in the bowl game. The Hennepin County attorney reviewed the investigation conducted by the university, but declined to pursue charges.
An investigation into allegations that more than a dozen University of Minnesota wrestlers were using and selling Xanax on campus brought down the team’s storied coach J Robinson, who won three national titles, was named Big Ten wrestling coach of the year eight times and was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame during his 30-year-career. U officials fired Robinson because he reportedly tried to take matters into his own hands rather than report the drug allegations, and then refused to cooperate with the investigation.
Riding high at Ryder
The Ryder Cup came to Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, where more than 250,000 people watched top golfers from the United States compete against the best from Europe. The six-day event in the international spotlight was a boon to the local economy, and to the American ego when the U.S. team recaptured the cup.
Gwen Jorgensen of St. Paul crushed her competition in Rio de Janeiro to become the first U.S. triathlete to win an Olympic gold medal. The Wisconsin native had gold in her sights after the 2012 Olympic Games in London, when she finished 38th. In Rio, she finished the 1,500-meter ocean swim in 23rd place, powered her way into the lead pack on the 38.5-kilometer bike race and sprinted the 10-kilometer run to win the top spot on the Olympic podium.
The Minnesota political landscape is becoming less blue and more red. The DFL took it on the chin in November, giving Republicans control of both legislative chambers. The GOP gained six Senate seats to eke out a one-seat majority. And in the House, Republicans strengthened their majority with a 19-seat lead.
More than 4,000 nurses at five Allina Health hospitals in the Twin Cities went on strike during a contentious nine-month contract negotiation that spawned a weeklong strike in June and a 37-day strike in the fall. Allina kept its hospitals open with replacement nurses, a strategy that cost $104 million.
Sealing a megadeal
St. Jude Medical, a 40-year-old Minnesota-based maker of advanced pacemakers and other medical devices that became a global enterprise, struck a $30 billion deal to sell itself to Abbott Laboratories. The company employs about 18,000 people worldwide, including about 3,000 employees split between the company’s headquarters in Little Canada and its facilities in Roseville, Minnetonka and Plymouth.