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REGIONAL BRIEFS: Duluth police officer pleads guilty to collision

Credit Forum News Service


Franken challenges Energy Department on gas prices

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Al Franken is blaming the recent spike in Minnesota gas prices in part on the Department of Energy's decision to stop publishing refinery maintenance reports two years ago.

The reports, authorized under the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, were intended to help oil companies avoid shutting down multiple refineries in the same region of the country at the same time. The department stopped publishing the reports and collecting data from refineries in 2011, citing a reduction in funding, Franken said.

Franken, D-Minn., challenged Adam Sieminski, head of the Energy Information Administration, about the issue in a hearing Tuesday after Sieminski acknowledged that simultaneous refinery shutdowns were contributing to the price spikes.

"Gas prices in Minnesota have gone up in a startling way," Franken said. "And the spike is related to multiple refinery outages in the Midwest."

Minnesotans are paying $4.25 a gallon on average -- more than anyone else in the nation and 60 cents more per gallon than the national average.

Franken and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., sent a letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Monday urging him to resume the reports and suggest other steps to help prevent future supply problems and price spikes.


Duluth police officer pleads guilty to collision

DULUTH -- A Duluth police officer accused of twice backing his personal car into another vehicle in a parking lot outside a bar and leaving the scene while off duty admitted to his crime Tuesday in State District Court.

Brian Scott Jones, 50, pleaded guilty to the crime he was charged with -- collision with an unattended vehicle, a misdemeanor.

He was sentenced to 60 days in jail, but the time was stayed for one year of probation and 50 hours of community service. As conditions of his probation, he was told to have no same or similar violations. He was fined $585.

Jones, who was Duluth's Police Officer of the Year in 2006 when he worked as the Lincoln Park neighborhood officer, earlier apologized to the owner of the vehicle he hit, his family, co-workers, police administration and to the public. He said he made an error in judgment.

Jones has returned to duty after being placed on administrative leave.

Jones was not in his car when police responded to Mitch's bar March 14 after receiving a report of a hit and run that just occurred to an unoccupied parked vehicle. An investigation by Duluth police revealed that Jones had backed his car into the parked vehicle twice.


Beware of bogus email from ''

ALEXANDRIA, Minn. -- Police are investigating what they believe is a scam using emails designed to look like correspondence from Walmart.

The Alexandria Police Department and the Alexandria Walmart have received numerous phone calls from residents about emails they believed were from Walmart, sometimes misspelled as Wall-Mart, regarding purchases made on their account.

The email lists purchases for such items as TVs and home appliances. The shipping addresses are for places all over the United States.

Walmart and the police believe the emails are a phishing scam -- an attempt to solicit personal information from unsuspecting users by employing social engineering techniques.

Phishing emails are crafted to appear as if they have been sent from a legitimate organization or known individual. They often try to entice users to click on a link that will take the user to a fraudulent website that appears legitimate.

The user then may be asked to provide personal information, such as account usernames and passwords, that can further expose them to future compromises.

The emails the police have seen show an email address of "" There are no reports of financial loss by Walmart or email recipients.


Rain helps contain 7,100-acre grass fire

PARK RAPIDS, Minn. -- A 7,100-acre grass fire that consumed 64 buildings last week is contained. Weekend rains helped departments get the fire under control.

"We got rain and that's excellent," Jeff Edmonds, spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources, said over the weekend. "It's quieted things down. We have crews out there. We're going to be winding it down and handing it back to the local Park Rapids area office in the next few days."

All evacuations and road closures in the Green Valley Fire area have been lifted. No spread is expected.

The fire's footprint was established May 14, spreading nearly nine miles long by one to two miles wide through Becker, Hubbard and Wadena counties, Edmonds said.


Five arrested, high-grade pot seized in drug bust

MOORHEAD, Minn. -- The Moorhead Police Department arrested five people and seized 10 pounds of high-grade marijuana and a luxury SUV in a drug bust late Monday.

About 11:30 p.m., police arrested Danny Kim, 23, Rany Ahmed Dajani, 31, Levi Heath Burns, 24, and Johnathan Scott Lewis, 23, all of Minneapolis, at the Travel Lodge motel on Hwy. 10 East, police said in a news release.

David Ramiro Cerna, 35, Moorhead, was also arrested in connection with the investigation, police said.

The suspects were being held in the Clay County Jail while a complaint is filed with the Clay County Attorney's Office for felony fifth-degree controlled substance charges, police said.

Police said they seized 10 1-pound bags of high-grade marijuana that was transported from Minneapolis to Moorhead for distribution.

Also seized was a Lexus RT300 SUV that some of the men were driving, police said.


Villard man killed in crash

VILLARD, Minn. -- A Villard man was killed Tuesday in a two-vehicle crash near the city, the Minnesota State Patrol reported.

Clifford Euerle, 75, was driving a Buick LeSabre west on Pope County Road 29 about 10:30 a.m. when he reportedly stopped at an intersection but then pulled out into the path of a 2003 Ford Super Duty truck driven by James Hoppe, 51, of Freeport, who was southbound on Highway 28.

Hoppe was not injured, the patrol said.

Highway 28 south of the crash scene was closed for about 90 minutes, and traffic was detoured along County Road 29.

(AEP) Crash scene photo

North Dakota

Autopsy shows rape suspect died of drug overdose

FARGO -- Initial autopsy results showed a suspect in a Moorhead rape who died unexpectedly in his home here two weeks before his trial died of an accidental drug overdose, police said Tuesday.

Richard Lee Haaland Jr., 46, was found dead in his Fargo home April 16.

Haaland had pleaded not guilty to raping and beating a Moorhead woman in her car in a downtown parking lot in the early morning of Sept. 6, an attack police said left her with a jaw broken in three places.

Pat Claus, a deputy police chief in Fargo, said Tuesday that a report from the state medical examiner showed Haaland died of combined opioid and antihistaminic drug poisoning, in lethal quantities in combination with prescription-type drugs. Opioids are a class of drugs that includes prescription painkillers such as oxycodone as well as heroin, morphine and methadone. Antihistamines are commonly used in cold and allergy medications.

The medical examiner ruled the manner of death was accidental, Claus said.


Tioga crew camp resident airlifted after stabbing

TIOGA, N.D. -- A resident of the Capital Lodge crew camp near here was the victim of a stabbing and airlifted to Trinity Hospital in Minot, the Williams County Sheriff's Office said.

Tioga police notified the sheriff's office at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday that the 30-year-old man was brought to Tioga Medical Center. The man was found walking through the Capital Lodge camp with his wound, authorities said.

The man was in stable condition. Authorities did not release his name.

It's unclear where the stabbing occurred, the sheriff's office said.

This is the second stabbing the Williams County Sheriff's Office has investigated at the Capital Lodge this year.


Man charged with taking inappropriate photos of children

BISMARCK -- A Killdeer man was charged Friday in South Central District Court in Burleigh County with promoting sexual performance by a minor, a Class C felony.

A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

According to an affidavit, a then 5-year-old girl reported to her mother that Weston Bruce, 28, took inappropriate photographs of her at her Bismarck home while he was watching her Jan. 19-22 when the child's mother was at work. Bruce was the boyfriend of the child's mother at the time.

A forensic interview was conducted at Sanford Children's Advocacy Center, where the girl reported that Bruce told her and one of her friends to take their pants off, according to the affidavit.

He allegedly made the children put on a particular kind of socks before taking photos at the 5-year-old girl's residence. The child's mother said Bruce had a sock fetish that would sexually arouse him, according to the affidavit.


South Dakota

Hotel tax moves closer to reality in Mitchell

MITCHELL, S.D. -- The Mitchell City Council has moved a step closer to approving a $1 tax on all of the city's rented hotel rooms.

The council on Monday night adopted a resolution that expresses the city's intent to create a business improvement district, or BID, and impose a $1 tax on rented rooms at the city's 17 hotels and motels. The BID would support the construction of a second indoor ice sheet in the city and kickstart the creation of a local sports authority.

A hearing was scheduled for the July 1 council meeting to allow any of the affected business owners to express opposition to the BID. The council will then have to adopt the BID as an ordinance and establish a start date at a future meeting.

In a petition presented to the council last month, 13 of the city's 17 hotel and motel owners were in favor of the business improvement district.

None of the owners addressed the council at Monday's meeting.

A BID is a self-taxation arrangement in which businesses agree to pay a fee, with the money going toward a specific project.