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Liz Sawyer

Reporter | Breaking news, crime and corrections
Phone: 612-673-4648

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
St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell visited the scene outside Seventh Street Truck Park on Monday, October 11, 2021.

St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell won't seek reappointment

Axtell has not said what's next for his career, or who he might endorse as his replacement.
:Tina Thomas, grandmother of a teen accused of assaulting an Uber driver in St. Paul, pointed to where he sometimes sleeps in her home. He was not cha

New push to divert youth from juvenile court in Ramsey County stirs controversy

New Ramsey County effort aims to rehabilitate teens, but sheriff says it lets dangerous youth go free.
Dakota County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Joe Leko.

Man's death under investigation near Northfield

Authorities responded to a 911 call about a burglary in progress on the 31500 block of Foliage Avenue in Greenvale Township.
Minnesota lawmakers could end routine shackling of children in court

Minnesota lawmakers could end routine shackling of children in court

The use of restraints on juveniles varies widely from county to county.
Paul Gorder

Minnesota Department of Corrections fires guard who drunkenly confronted protesters

Citing 'deeply disturbing' conduct, DOC terminates 26-year veteran.
Dylan Shakespeare Robinson

Brainerd man sentenced to 4 years for Minneapolis police station fire

Dylan Shakespeare Robinson pleaded guilty in December.
Sgt. Paul Gorder, seen inside Stillwater prison in May 2019, has been placed on investigatory leave after he was caught on camera confronting a group

Minn. corrections officer on leave after confronting BLM protesters

Protesters were outside the home of Washington County Attorney Pete Orput.
People were arrested outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department on Friday.

Law enforcement makes arrests at Brooklyn Center protest

Early Saturday, law enforcement leaders stressed that Friday's gathering was peaceful and legal until its last few minutes, and expressed disappointment that Thursday's strategy of backing off did not work.
People protested Wednesday near the Brooklyn Center Police Department in response to the fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright.

Fewer arrests, calmer scene on 4th night of Brooklyn Center protests

Twenty-four people were arrested, authorities said. Tear gas, which prompted strong complaints earlier, was not used Wednesday as hundreds were gathered outside the Brooklyn Center police station to protest the death of Daunte Wright.
Police used flash bombs and irritants at the Brooklyn Center police station after a rally Tuesday responding to the death of Daunte Wright.

Protesters, police clash for third night after Daunte Wright's death

An estimated 800 to 1,000 protesters were outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department. Dozens of officers in riot gear, along with National Guard, stood on the other side of a metal fence. As the crowd shouted and shook the fence, police began deploying flash-bang grenades.
Kimberly A. Potter, seen in 2007, was identified Monday, April 12, as the officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright, 20. on Sunday in Brooklyn Center.

Officer who fatally shot man in Brooklyn Center is 26-year veteran

She got her police license in 1995 at age 22, according to state records.
Daunte Wright

Daunte Wright is sixth person killed by Brooklyn Center police since 2012

Five of the six were men of color, according to a Star Tribune database of fatal encounters with police.
A Robbinsdale police car crashed Friday night near North Memorial Health Hospital.

Pursuit ends in police car crash in Robbinsdale

It happened near North Memorial Health Hospital. No one had suffered serious injuries, a Robbinsdale officer at the scene said.
Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson and Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo discussed a joint effort on Dec. 15, 2020, involving helicopte

Mpls. residents demand transparency after police inflate carjacking charges

Fewer charges than claimed make south Mpls. residents question value, purpose of helicopters overhead.
Woman found dead in St. Paul home

Woman found dead in St. Paul home

Police responded to suspected overdose.
Second parent charged in death of abused 2-year-old St. Paul girl

Second parent charged in death of abused 2-year-old St. Paul girl

John Vang, 42, had a history of abusive behavior and kept the child locked in a closet for hours on end, charges say.
A security vehicle barred the entrance to the Allina Health clinic in Buffalo, Minn., where five people were shot Tuesday, killing one.

Health care shooting pushes clinics toward more vigilance, assessments

The shootings in Buffalo, Minn., are raising new concerns about how best to deal with irate patients vowing violence.
Derek Chauvin

Officers of color barred from guarding Chauvin sue Ramsey County

The officers allege discrimination and a hostile work environment.
LiHong “Linda” Burdick

LiHong 'Linda' Burdick, businesswoman and painter, dies of COVID-19 complications at 72.

LiHong "Linda" Burdick spun a rare talent into a successful business.For 30 years, the master seamstress operated Lotus Cleaners & Tailors in Eden Prairie, tending…
A mother and two children died after a shooting Saturday at a multiunit building in the 700 block of Jessie Street in St. Paul.

Boy ID'd shooter in St. Paul triple murder before he died, charges say

TeKeith Svyone Jones was charged with three counts of second-degree murder in connection with the deaths of his pregnant ex-girlfriend and her two children.
D’Zondria Wallace, 30, left. Ja’Corbie Wallace, 11, middle. La’Porsha Wallace, 14. (Courtesy of family)

Murder charges pending for suspect in St. Paul triple homicide

Relatives have identified the 26-year-old as the victim's ex-boyfriend.
D’Zondria Wallace, known affectionately to those closest to her as “Tweety,” had moved from Mississippi to Minnesota to start a new life.

Slain mother and two kids had hoped for a new start in St. Paul

St. Paul's SWAT team arrested a 26-year-old suspect Sunday night on the 2100 block of Wilson Avenue, where he'd been hiding in an apartment building.
St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell received his first dose of the Moderna vaccine Wednesday along with other members of his department.

St. Paul police receive their first doses of COVID-19 vaccine as distribution widens

Minneapolis police are scheduled to begin shots in coming weeks.
Law enforcement officers investigate the scene on Payne Ave. N. at North St. where a shooting left two people dead Thursday in St. Paul.    ]DAVID JOL

St. Paul police identify men killed in double shooting

The two, ages 21 and 39, both died later at Regions.
Law enforcement officers investigate the scene on Payne Avenue N. at North Street where a shooting left two people dead Thursday in St. Paul.

Two men fatally shot on St. Paul's East Side

Gunfire around 3:30 a.m. continued the spate of gun violence in the city.
An estimated 100 troopers flanked the sidewalks and stood on the State Capitol steps while rallygoers gathered in St. Paul on Saturday.

Pro-Trump Capitol rally in St. Paul yields low turnout amid heavy security

About a dozen supporters of President Donald Trump who gathered for a "Freedom Fest" rally at the Minnesota State Capitol Saturday were vastly outnumbered by law enforcement.
A shooting death in September had St. Paul police investigators on the East Side.

Amid pandemic, St. Paul reports 25% increase in violent crime

Record gun violence, May riots helped drive double-digit increases in all major crime categories last year except for rape and residential burglary.
Ciashia Lee

St. Paul police identify girl, 2, found dead in family home; parents jailed

Her parents were jailed on suspicion of murder; charges are pending.
Da’Seanna D. Williams

Charges: Woman stalked, shot, pistol-whipped elderly victim in Minneapolis robbery

Da'Seanna Williams stands charged with multiple felonies.
BCA investigated near the site where a man was shot near 38th and Noble avenue N. in Robbinsdale.

Witnesses: Robbinsdale police shoot, kill knife-wielding man

Witnesses say the man brandished a knife following a chase by police from a nearby gas station. Video appears to show the officers walking backward with guns drawn.
Inmate Emmett Thomas, 68, received a COVID-19 vaccination Monday morning from RN supervisor Kelly Markham in Faribault Prison’s Linden Unit, which h

For some Minnesota prisoners, vaccine a turning point in grueling COVID fight

Edward Anderson rolled his wheelchair into the exam room and pushed up the sleeve of his white T-shirt. The nurse leaned in to pinch the…
Manslaughter charges: 2-year-old shot self when man left gun unattended

Manslaughter charges: 2-year-old shot self when man left gun unattended

Charges say he left his firearm unattended in the bathroom, where the boy accidentally shot himself
Search underway for man in investigation of 2-year-old's death

Search underway for man in investigation of 2-year-old's death

Circumstances remain unclear surrounding the shooting in the city's North End.
St. Paul Police Information Officer Steve Linders said that the toddler who was shot at the scene of a shooting that left three people injured includi

St. Paul police investigating after 2-year-old killed by gunfire

Three teenagers reportedly in the home at the time were taken downtown to be questioned by detectives. It's not immediately clear who was holding the gun when it discharged or whether there were others involved.
Crime scene investigators took photos on Monday, Dec. 14, of the scene where 17-year-old Elijah Watson was fatally shot in the 500 block of Jessamine

Cellphone pictures lead investigators to suspect in St. Paul homicide

A 17-year-old has been charged in connection with the shooting in the city's North End.
From left, former police officers Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao. ORG XMIT: MIN2011162122140463

Judge upholds decision to livestream trial of officers in George Floyd killing

Judge Peter Cahill cited courthouse space and immense public interest in the case.
Police and the FBI are looking into an incendiary device found near a squad car.

Explosive device remnants found near St. Paul police car

Blast was heard near unoccupied squad vehicle.
Myon Burrell embraced his son, Myon Jr., moments after he stepped through the door of Stillwater Prison a free man on Tuesday, Dec. 15. At right is hi

Burrell released from prison as state board commutes sentence

Myon Burrell stepped outside of the Stillwater prison a free man Tuesday after spending 18 years behind bars for a crime he says he never committed.
Crime scene investigators took photos on Monday, Dec. 14, of the scene where someone was fatally shot in the 500 block of Jessamine Ave. W. What appea

St. Paul police on scene of deadly shooting near Marydale Park

One person was down in 500 block of Jessamine Ave. W.
Various law enforcement agencies responded to the shooting of a police officer on the 6500 block of Georgia Avenue in Brooklyn Park on Friday night.

Brooklyn Park police officer shot; suspect in custody

The officer's condition was not clear late Friday.
Outside the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis in August.

Access to public court records closed in Hennepin County

Some other public counters remain open, including one where fines are paid.
Edward Lee Grayson

Charges: St. Paul man gunned down would-be attacker after argument outside market

Edward Grayson is charged in the death of Leroy Spivey.
A stolen Toyota Camry crashed at Rose and Sylvan, where it struck a light pole and flipped on its side, on St. Paul's North End on Monday night.

14-year-old passenger dies when stolen car crashes in St. Paul; 2 teens arrested

It's the second such crash of its kind in the Twin Cities this year.
Mike Forcia raises his hands in the air as people photograph the fallen Christopher Columbus statue at the Minnesota state Capitol in St. Paul, Minn.,

Community service for American Indian leader who toppled Columbus statue near Capitol

Charge to be dropped if man who tipped over Columbus monument obeys laws.
Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell, right, expressed his sympathies to the man’s family via a statement.

Sixth Minnesota inmate dies of COVID-19

Three other Minnesota inmates remain hospitalized and connected to ventilators.
St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell, Mayor Melvin Carter and other officers stood at the podium as body camera footage played for the media on televisio

Attorney for fired St. Paul cop pushes back on police chief's account

His attorney says suspect had used knife, claimed to have gun before shooting.
Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher

Video shows Ramsey County sheriff driving past struck pedestrian

Bob Fletcher says the wet street and the man's position on roadway made it hard for him to see.
St. Paul police officers and Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigators walked near the scene where Joseph Javonte Washington was shot Saturday.

Man shot by St. Paul police over weekend charged in assault, kidnapping

Charges filed in Dakota County detail the sexual assault and kidnapping that preceded the controversial shooting.
A neighbor’s surveillance camera captured the sound of shots fired as a pair of suspects attempted to carjack a woman in south Minneapolis on Nov. 2

'Staggering' surge in violent carjackings across Minneapolis

Over the past two months, Minneapolis police have logged more than 125 carjackings in the city, a troubling surge that authorities no longer just link to small groups of marauding teens.
St. Paul police chief fires officer who shot, wounded man

St. Paul police chief fires officer who shot, wounded man

Chief Todd Axtell announced that he took "swift, decisive and serious" action against the officer, who failed to uphold department standards, after reviewing his body camera footage from the incident.
"Crime is occurring, the shootings, the carjackings, the robberies," Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said at a news conference Monday, Nov.

Mpls. mayor, chief call plan to cut police funds 'untenable'

Mayor Jacob Frey and Chief Medaria Arradondo said police reforms and community alternatives cannot come at the cost of further cuts to the department already facing historic attrition rates.
St. Paul police officers and Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) investigators walked Saturday near the scene of an earlier shooting in which St. Pa

St. Paul police shoot man after domestic dispute call, crash in North End

The shooting came after officers responded to a domestic abuse call. The man who was shot was taken to Regions Hospital and was in stable condition early Sunday.
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.
On Friday, Nov. 27, 2020, Minneapolis police were investigating a shooting inside this apartment building.

Woman arrested in shooting death at Minneapolis apartment

A man's death was the city's 79th homicide this year — and the third this week.
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.