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Liz Sawyer

Reporter | Breaking news, crime and corrections
Phone: 612-673-4648
Location: Minneapolis
Other languages: None

Liz Sawyer covers breaking news, crime and corrections for the Star Tribune. She previously wrote about suburban life in the south metro.

Sawyer graduated from Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Public Communications with a degree in newspaper and online journalism. She worships her alma mater's college hoops team and believes that an orange is, in fact, a suitable mascot.
Recent content from Liz Sawyer
On Friday, Nov. 27, 2020, Minneapolis police were investigating a shooting inside this apartment building.

Minneapolis police investigating shooting death at apartment

Investigators arrested a female suspect, who was later booked at Hennepin County jail on probable cause murder charges.
Minneapolis Park Police are investigating after vandals toppled a statue of George Washington in Washburn Fair Oaks. In this photo, "genocidal maniac"

Mpls. park crews assess damage to Washington, Pioneers statues

The culprits toppled the statue of the first president and covered the pioneers monument with anti-colonialist graffiti.
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo left and Mayor Jacob Frey unveiled new changes to the deadly use of force policy.

Mpls. police restrict use of 'no-knock' search and arrest warrants

Mayor Jacob Frey and Chief Medaria Arradondo announced the policy change six months after George Floyd's death.

Man wanted in St. Paul killing arrested in Chicago

The man was wanted for the shooting of 34-year-old Leroy Spivey, of Minneapolis, gunned down after an argument in the Frogtown neighborhood.
The Minnesota Correctional Facility in Oak Park Heights, pictured, along with Faribault and Stillwater, where four inmates have died of COVID-19 short

Fourth Minnesota prisoner dies of COVID-19 complications

Two other Minn. inmates remain hospitalized and breathing on ventilators.
"Officers, by nature, are used to putting others first," St. Paul Police chief Todd Axtell said. "And sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves."

St. Paul police mandate officer check-ins with therapist

Confidential mental health consults to coincide with physical fitness tests.

Teens arrested in gang shooting that injured bystander, nearly struck 4-year-old

Gunfire narrowly missed toddler in nearby car.

Police ID man fatally shot in St. Paul's Frogtown neighborhood last weekend

The 34-year-old suffered muliple gunshot wounds.
Patrons inside Blarney Pub & Grill in Dinkytown partied until the 10 p.m. closing on Friday, Nov. 13, mandated by Gov. Tim Walz in an effort to stem t

Earlier last call, but new COVID rules mostly on honor system

While some states are toughening their rhetoric and enforcement in response to a pandemic surge, Minnesota leaders said they are optimistic that a heavy-handed approach won't be necessary.
Janie McGee reflected on the last time that she spoke with her 30-year-old son Oscar Lee Stewart Jr., the Mississippi native and Twin Cities resident

In aftermath of riots, family grapples with unsolved death

Oscar Lee Stewart Jr. was missing for weeks. His family is haunted by questions.
Travelers made their way through the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The airport briefly shut down a runway and e

Security threat sparks brief evacuation at MSP airport

No device was located, an airport spokesman said.

17-year-old was directed to kill St. Paul man, charges say

The deadly dispute was over a drug deal, cops say.

3 charged in federal court in string of violent Twin Cities carjackings

Firearms used in two of the Twin Cities cases.
Roger Lee Voss III

Charges: Man said he feared for his life, fatally shot alleged drug dealer in St. Paul

Roger Lee Voss III was charged with second-degree murder and illegal possession of a firearm.
One person was killed in an overnight shooting near the intersection of 26th and Bloomington and seen Friday morning in Minneapolis. No one has been a

Increase in carjackings and robberies roils Twin Cities

"It's open season out there," one victim says.
Valerie Castile, right, is teaming up with St. Paul community activist Miki Lewis-Frost to lobby for funding allowing the wide distribution of "Not Re

$10 device could save Black motorists' lives, says Philando Castile's mom

A carrying pouch inspired by Philando Castile is designed to protect Black drivers.
Construction crews removed rubbish from Max It Pawn shop in July. Authorities found the charred body of a man in the wreckage of the south Minneapolis

Death of man found in torched Mpls. pawnshop ruled a homicide

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner has publicly identified the man whose remains were found in the wreckage of a south Minneapolis pawnshop torched during riots…
Rae Brown never planned on becoming a cop. But her path suddenly shifted after the death of Philando Castile in 2016.

Minn., U.S. departments struggle to attract and retain officers of color

Of about 11,000 law enforcement officers in Minnesota, just 2% — 270 officers — are African American, according to one official's estimate.
“I can tell you unequivocally we would have no one [housed out of facility] today if it weren’t for COVID,” said Department of Corrections Commi

Pandemic leaves many prisoners warehoused in county jails

More than 100 Minnesota inmates have been warehoused in county jails this year to ease crowding, where they have limited access to rehabilitation services — and the COVID-19 pandemic means that's likely to continue.
St. Paul police spokesman Steve Linders, shown in 2019.

Suspect in gunfire exchange with St. Paul officer is shot by police and killed in St. Cloud

Several officers fired after police say suspect got out of vehicle with a firearm.
A Minneapolis police officer talked with a member of the Minnesota National Guard in downtown Minneapolis after a night of looting in August.

Minneapolis police overtime in 2 weeks after Floyd death: $3.3M

Costs associated with the summer unrest doubled the Minneapolis Police Department's allotted overtime budget for 2020.
St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell: “At a time when police departments have no margin for error, I am certainly concerned about this.”

Chief: Budget cuts mean St. Paul police force will be smaller, less diverse

Chief Todd Axtell said 2021 budget cuts will mean canceling the police academy.
Instructor Chad Weinstein ran through a session of Moral Courage for sworn St. Paul police officers at the Rowan Training Center on Tuesday in St. Pau

Police ethics training takes on added resonance after death of George Floyd

In St. Paul, more than 600 officers will complete training this fall about doing what's right even if — and especially when — it's difficult.
St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell, seen in 2019, said he has recovered from COVID-19 after two weeks of self-isolation.

St. Paul police chief reveals he has recovered from COVID-19

St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell revealed Monday that he has recovered from COVID-19 after two weeks of self-isolation. Axtell tested positive for the virus…
Police are investigating an armed robbery Wednesday morning at a Caribou Coffee in St. Paul's Highland Park neighborhood.

Caribou Coffee in St. Paul, Jimmy John's in Bloomington robbed at gunpoint Wednesday

No word as to whether the two robberies are related.
Somali activist Abdirizak Bihi, seen in 2011, said a group of teenage attackers doused him with pepper spray during a car jacking Monday, Sept. 7, 202

Back-to-back Labor Day carjackings in Mpls. may be linked

A Somali American community organizer and another driver were attacked on Labor Day.

Two charged with murder in July shooting in St. Paul

Investigators say Bajuan Adams was caught in the crossfire during a fight.
A shooting death early Thursday has investigators on the scene on the East Side of St. Paul. The killing occurred in the 800 block of E. Cook Avenue,

Woman shot, killed in St. Paul; city's 2020 homicide tally now at 23

This is the city's second homicide in three days, both on the East Side.

St. Paul police arrest 14-year-old in shooting death of teenager

The victim was discovered with a gunshot wound to the head.

Body of 6-year-old boy recovered from Mississippi River

6-year-old was one of 3 children who waded too far into the Mississippi.
St. Paul police were investigating a homicide on the city's East Side last week.

19-year-old charged with murder in separate Minneapolis, St. Paul homicides

Christopher M. Todd remains jailed in lieu of $1 million bond on both cases.
Teresa Bearribs

St. Paul grandmother found shot dead in backyard of East Side home

The victim's grandchildren were in the home at the time she was shot.

Former St. Paul gang member charged in young makeup artist's fatal shooting outside bar

James J. Fields remains jailed in lieu of $1.5 million bail.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, shown in January.

St. Paul looking at $20M deficit; no layoffs or levy increase proposed

Mayor Melvin Carter is proposing widespread cuts to avoid raising the property tax levy.
Eric J. Young

Charges: St. Paul man stabbed teen brother nine times during domestic dispute

Davant Coppage, 17, was killed during an argument with his brother, according to the complaint.

Teenager fatally stabbed in St. Paul, brother in custody

St. Paul is on track to surpass its highest number of murders in 25 years.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter.

Pandemic throws wrench into St. Paul mayor's plan to curb gun violence

As violence in St. Paul eclipses last year's pace, some council members impatient for action, information.
Mike Forcia, of the Black River Anishinabe, celebrated after the Christopher Columbus statue was toppled.

AIM leader charged in toppling of Columbus statue at State Capitol

Michael Forcia led a group of protesters who tore down the statue.
Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell testified at a joint hearing of the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform and Corrections comm

Citing budget shortfalls, DOC to close two Minnesota prisons

A $14 million budget shortfall is forcing significant cuts, says DOC chief Schnell.
Minnesota Correction Commissioner Paul Schnell, shown at a March briefing about coronavirus preparations.

Minn. Corrections Dept. lays off 48 employees in wake of coronavirus

The state agency could face deeper cuts without aid from the Legislature.
St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell

St. Paul chief: $9.2M cut requested by mayor will mean fewer cops

The proposed cut would mean eliminating jobs, Chief Todd Axtell said.
Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder of George Floyd. Kueng, Lane and Thao have b

Bodycam video shows officer pulled gun on Floyd early on

Video from body cameras worn by two of the officers involved in the killing of George Floyd was viewed by the public for the first time.

Judge dismisses lawsuit against Department of Corrections over coronavirus

Evidence does not support "deliberate indifference," she said in the ruling.
Demonstrators with sparklers marched peacefully through downtown Minneapolis late Saturday.

Minneapolis July 4th protesters say they're marching for justice for all

Two Minneapolis events call for racial equity and an overhaul of police.
Soren Stevenson, a recent University of Minnesota graduate student, was protesting following George Floyd’s death when he was hit in the left eye wi

Complaints skyrocketing in wake of Mpls. police response to Floyd protests

Since George Floyd's death, allegations of misconduct and excessive force have poured into the Office of Police Conduct Review in Minneapolis, which is now investigating more than 400 such complaints against MPD.
Megan Culverhouse, an employee at the John Fluevog shoe store in Uptown, cleaned up broken glass from a window hit by gunfire from an early morning sh

Surge in gun violence tests Minneapolis leaders

Officials blame the grim trend on the coronavirus pandemic, shattered public trust following the killing of George Floyd and the reluctance of some Minneapolis officers to take initiative amid intense scrutiny.
Adrian Raymaar Keys

Faribault prisoner who tested positive for coronavirus dies, another critical

More than 200 inmates at the facility have tested positive for COVID-19.
Minneapolis police officers faced off with protesters outside the Third Precinct station on May 26. Morale has plummeted in the department since the F

Seven Mpls. police officers resign after Floyd protests

Morale has sunk to new lows in recent weeks as officers reported feeling misunderstood and squeezed by all sides: by the state probe, and by protesters, city leaders and the media.
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Minority officers kept from monitoring Chauvin in jail

As Derek Chauvin arrived, all officers of color were ordered to a separate floor, and a supervisor told one of them that they would be a potential "liability," according to charges filed by eight Ramsey County corrections officers.
Cells in Stillwater prison.

Minn. corrections officer fired for excessive force on restrained prisoner after brawl

'This one's for George Floyd,' a prisoner allegedly said during the fight.
A Stillwater prison guard who made a supportive remark about former officer Derek Chauvin during a moment of silence Tuesday for George Floyd was esco

Minn. corrections officer under investigation after outburst during George Floyd moment of silence

'Is this for the injustice of having Derek Chauvin locked up?' the officer reportedly said.
David Cornelius Smith with sister Angela Smith. David Smith died in 2010 after Minneapolis police pinned him to the floor, face down, while handcuffed

Family of man who died in Mpls. police custody in 2010 wants to know if settlement was followed

David C. Smith's family asks if the department ever fulfilled its promise to require all sworn officers to undergo training on positional asphyxia.
Imani Jaafar, a lawyer who directs the Minneapolis Office of Police Conduct Review, defended what she called “a very good layered civilian oversight

Minneapolis police officers disciplined in fraction of cases

Each year, hundreds of complaints of police misconduct — from citizens and from inside the Minneapolis Police Department itself — land before a civilian review board tasked with investigating them.
This combination of photos provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office shows Derek Chauvin, from left, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou

Personnel records shed light on 4 officers charged in Floyd's death

The officers had varied work lives, including military service, according to personnel records from the Minneapolis Police Department.
Gawkers made their way to the corner of E. Lake Street and Minnehaha Avenue to look over the damage to the area Sunday in Minneapolis.

Condition of burned Mpls. liquor store cuts short search for possible body

Witnesses said someone didn't make it out, but it's unclear who, if anyone.
Protesters on Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenue in Minneapolis on Saturday.

After four nights without police presence, Mpls. neighborhoods protect themselves

Days of violence and damage led up to Saturday.
George Floyd

First responders worked nearly an hour to save Floyd before he was pronounced dead

Hennepin Healthcare EMS chief says he believes that paramedics did everything right after getting the medical distress call.
Demonstrators confronted Minneapolis police trying to push them south on Minnehaha Ave. late Wednesday night.

Mayor Frey calls for peace as looting, flames erupt around police station

State Patrol troopers moved in to help with growing looting, and the mayor said he asked the governor to consider calling in the National Guard as violence turned deadly.
St. Paul officers responding to a call in the 200 block of Belvidere Street East on Saturday morning found a man unconscious and not breathing with si

St. Paul police identify man fatally shot in West Side home

Cary F. Schmidt, 60, was shot in the chest, police said.
When a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee to George Floyd's neck Monday night, he used a restraint once taught by the department that is no l

Law enforcement experts denounce Minneapolis police use of force in George Floyd's death

Legal experts say officer acted wrongly in putting his knee on Floyd's neck.
Jeanette Sackett was comforted by her son, Jim Sackett Jr., her daughter, Julie and son Jerel as she was overcome with emotion Friday during a memoria

Rolling memorial 50 years later remembers slain St. Paul officer

A procession of hundreds of current and retired officers paid tribute to James Sackett, felled by a sniper's bullet on May 22, 1970.
Anthony J. Trifiletti has been charged with second-degree murder.

Bail remains set at $500,000 for shooter in St. Paul roadside argument

Anthony Trifiletti, 24, did not enter a plea.
Anthony Boelter (GoFundMe)

U.S. marshals nab suspected gunman in fatal St. Paul drive-by shooting in Arkansas

Olando Franklin faces two coujnts of second-degree murder.

Police identify St. Paul man, 28, fatally shot Friday outside housing complex

St. Paul police have identified a man shot and killed outside a housing complex Friday night in the city's North End.Kenneth Hayes Jr., 28, of…
Hailey Flynn

Charges: Little Canada woman kidnapped, held at Bloomington hotel for $5,000 ransom

Two people remain jailed on charges of felony kidnapping.
Anthony J. Trifiletti has been charged with second-degree murder.

Bail lowered to $500,000 for man charged with murder after roadside argument in St. Paul

The family of Douglas Lewis attended Anthony Trifiletti's first appearance.
A memorial near the site of the fatal shooting of Douglas Lewis in St. Paul.

Experts: Self-defense claim in fatal St. Paul shooting may be difficult to prove

Anthony Trifiletti stands charged with second-degree murder.
Ts’John Thomas Reed

Charges: Dispute at St. Paul gas station leads to fatal shooting

Ts'John Reed faces two counts of second-degree murder.
Anthony J. Trifiletti

Murder charges: Shooter with permit to carry shot and killed an unarmed man after fender bender

Argument escalated; Anthony Trifletti held in lieu of $1 million bail.
Around 50 mourners gathered on the Burns Avenue scenic overlook in St. Paul on Sunday afternoon for a memorial balloon release in honor of Douglas Lew

Family grieves St. Paul man in suspected road rage killing

Family and friends grieve for St. Paul man killed in suspected road rage incident.
A man was shot and killed Friday on the 1100 block of E. Maryland Avenue, St. Paul police said.

2 in custody after two fatal shootings within 10 minutes in St. Paul

Two men died and two suspects were arrested after a pair of fatal shootings that happened 10 minutes apart on St. Paul’s East Side. A…
A man was shot and killed Friday on the 1100 block of E. Maryland Avenue, St. Paul police said.

Two in custody after two fatal shootings on St. Paul's East Side

One that left a man dead happened at a gas station, the other 10 minutes later after a crash, police said.
Criminal justice advocates protested outside the Maple Grove home of Sen. Warren Limmer, chairman of Senate Judiciary Committee, on Saturday, April 25

Judge orders Minnesota to explain why it can't keep prisoners safe from virus

A Minnesota judge ordered the state Department of Corrections to provide just cause for why it can't meet its legal duty to keep prisoners safe from the rapidly spreading coronavirus.
Bobby Leroy Woody

Murder charge: Enraged man chased down adversary in St. Paul as passenger fired fatal shots

Bobby Leroy Woody, 43, has been charged with with two counts of second-degree murder.

Glencoe man arrested in connection with weekend St. Paul homicide

A 43-year-old Glencoe, Minn., man was booked into Ramsey County jail on pending murder charges.