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REGIONAL BRIEFS: Police investigate flag burnings in Willmar

From the Forum News Service


Police investigate flag burnings in Willmar

WILLMAR, Minn. -- Willmar police are investigating two incidents of someone burning a U.S. flag early Saturday.

Police Chief David Wyffels said there are two confirmed incidents, at Kitchen Fair on Fifth Street Southwest and the Midas Auto station on Litchfield Avenue Southwest.

The incidents are believed to be connected and happened within a close time proximity, Wyffels said in a news release. Police have video footage of one of the incidents recorded just after 1 a.m. Saturday.

In the release and an interview Monday, Wyffels stressed that community response and citizen statements received by police accusing people from the Somali community are unfounded and "only cause additional speculation, resentment and animosity within the community at large."

The video, which is being reviewed by investigators, shows otherwise, Wyffels said. The footage shows that multiple young males are involved.

Wyffels also stressed that there is no evidence suggesting a connection to terrorism, a bias offense or some larger subversive effort. The charges relating to the burnings include arson and criminal damage to property.


Halstad mayor may keep job with rape case pending

HALSTAD, Minn. -- Unless he resigns, the mayor here will keep his job while rape charges against him are pending.

Vice Mayor Shane Carlson said in a special council meeting Monday that legal counsel has advised council members not to comment on the charges filed against Mayor Steve Sortland.

Sortland, 44, was charged Wednesday in Norman County District Court with first-degree criminal sexual conduct and third-degree criminal sexual conduct. He's accused of raping a female acquaintance in late May.

"Unless the mayor voluntarily resigns, there is no action the council can take until the legal process is complete, and he either pleads guilty to the crime or is found guilty by a jury," Carlson said, reading from a prepared statement.

The council did unanimously approve adding Carlson's name to the city's signature cards, which are used to pay the city's bills and must be signed by two council members, usually Sortland and Treasurer Ron Gotteberg.

A jail staffer at the Northwest Regional Corrections Center in Crookston said Monday that Sortland posted bail Wednesday. He was not at the council meeting Monday.

A felony conviction would mean the removal of a mayor, according to the League of Minnesota Cities.


Woman arrested in fatal Carlton County crash

CARLTON, Minn. -- Authorities believe alcohol was a factor in the rural Carlton County crash that killed a Cloquet woman and injured her husband Saturday.

Kari Renee Luoma, 34, was killed and Jeremiah Luoma injured when their vehicle was hit by a vehicle driven by Megan Dana Dickenson, 25, of rural Esko, the Carlton County Sheriff's Office said.

Sheriff's office personnel arrested Dickenson on Monday. Formal charges of criminal vehicular operation are pending through the Carlton County Attorney's Office.

Dickenson was under the influence of alcohol when she ran a stop sign, sheriff's Lt. Rick Lake said Monday. Blood was drawn, and it will take some time to determine her exact blood-alcohol content.

The crash happened about 5:40 p.m. in Thomson Township, about two miles north of Esko. According to the sheriff's office, a vehicle driven by Jeremiah Luoma turned east onto North Cloquet Road and was struck by Dickenson's vehicle, which was northbound on Canosia Road.

Dickenson "failed to stop at the intersection, just continued through and ended up hitting the Luoma vehicle on the passenger side," Lake said. The intersection is a four-way stop.

Jeremiah Luoma was airlifted to Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth, where he was listed in fair condition Monday. Dickenson was transported to St. Luke's hospital.

The crash remains under investigation by the sheriff's office and Minnesota State Patrol.


Body may be that of missing man

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. -- A body found Monday apparently is that of a man who has been missing for two weeks, Grand Rapids police said.

Police issued a news release Monday afternoon saying it believes the body is that of William Russell Martin, 53, who has been missing since May 20. The body was recovered within city limits.

The St. Louis County Medical Examiner's Office will conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death and to confirm identification.


North Dakota

Firefighters pull woman from Red River for second time

FARGO -- A 41-year-old Fargo woman who police say was rescued from the Red River on May 24 was taken to the hospital early Monday and in critical condition after Fargo firefighters found her again floating in the Red River.

According to reports from the Fargo police and fire departments, police received a 911 call from a cellphone about 1:25 a.m. Monday. The caller was unable or unwilling to provide any information, but dispatchers determined the call was from the same phone used May 24 when a woman reported she was in the Red River.

Police and fire units were sent to the Midtown Dam, and police found a phone on the shore. A fire crew in a boat spotted a woman floating in the river.

Firefighters pulled the woman to shore. Emergency workers performed CPR on the woman and she was taken to a hospital.

On Monday afternoon, her condition was listed as critical, according to Fargo Deputy Police Chief Pat Claus, who said authorities believe the woman is the same person who called 911 on May 24 to report she was in the Red River.

Claus said police are not publicly identifying the woman because the matter remains under investigation and because the department does not, as a matter of procedure, release victim information on calls for service involving medical or health issues.



Driver rams into corrections office, starts fire

HUDSON, Wis. -- An unidentified person drove a vehicle into the front doors of the Wisconsin Community Corrections office here early Monday and lobbed a device into the office to start a fire, authorities said.

The Hudson Police Department is asking for the public's help in identifying the driver in the incident, which took place between 6:15 a.m. and 6:25 a.m. The building is in the St. Croix Business Park.

Police Chief Marty Jensen said that after smashing into the front doors, the person threw a device into the foyer, starting the fire. The fire was put out quickly by the sprinkler system, but it did severe damage to the foyer and adjoining rooms. Also, several state vehicles parked near the entrance had their tires slashed.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Hudson Police Department at (715) 386-4771.