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Wisconsin state news briefs: Wausau hit-and-run driver suspected of texting; and more state news briefs

WAUSAU-- Wausau police think a 27-year-old driver accused in a hit-and-run accident was texting when her vehicle struck a pedestrian.  

Investigators say Josie Romero was using the Facebook Messenger app in the seconds before the July 19 accident. A 22-year-old pedestrian who was in a crosswalk was hit and critically injured. Her name hasn't been released  Published reports indicate Romero returned to the accident scene on foot about 30 minutes after it happened. Her car was found in a friend's garage.

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Second bicycle rider sues over accident involving streetcar tracks

MILWAUKEE -- A bicycle rider in downtown Milwaukee becomes the second to file a lawsuit after falling off her bike when a tire became wedged in streetcar tracks. Trace Matabele broke both elbows and a rib and is expected to need six weeks of physical therapy.  

Expert cyclists suggest getting 5-inch tires to avoid being stuck in the space between the pavement and the rail. Matabele is a teacher at the Lincoln School of the Arts. She says her tire became wedged and she fell when she was trying to maneuver out. She's suing the city of Milwaukee.

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Rhinelander police arrest 2 embezzlement suspects

RHINELANDER -- Rhinelander police suspect two people of stealing more than $79,000 from three gas stations. Investigators say the amount of money may be much larger because the embezzlement could have been going on for several years.  

Thirty-nine-year-old Aries Tatrow and 26-year-old Kayla Norling appeared in Oneida County Circuit Court Thursday. The missing money was taken from businesses in Rhinelander and Gleason over the last four months.

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Stevens Point offers free wi-fi in downtown area

STEVENS POINT -- People visiting downtown Stevens Point can access free wi-fi by simply using the password "MayorMike." The city is making the internet available for free in the area around the Mathias Mitchell Public Square.  

This means vendors at the daily farmers market will be able to take credit card payments from their customers. Mayor Mike Wiza says bringing more customers to the downtown area will benefit everybody. When the testing period is complete, users won't need to know the password anymore.

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Milwaukee city leaders gear up -- again -- to stop violence

MILWAUKEE -- A spokesman for the Milwaukee Office of Violence Prevention says the city has to "de-normalize" the senseless loss of life. Fourteen people were killed in 15 days ending Thursday.  

Two brothers were shot to death in the downtown area Wednesday. Reggie Moore says the violent culture isn't something which just happened overnight. That means it will take awhile to change things.  

The Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office is targeting people with outstanding warrants and an enforcement program is being aimed at high-crime neighborhoods. The city's long-term plan is being called the "Blueprint for Peace."

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Damaged downtown Sun Prairie buildings will be removed by end of August

SUN PRAIRIE-- The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is expected to begin work on a downtown Sun Prairie intersection early next month.  

The debris field from the fatal July 10 explosion and fire has been cleaned up and city officials say the destroyed buildings will be removed by Aug. 31. A contractor caused the blast by hitting a gas main and creating a leak. Firefighter Captain Cory Barr was killed and firefighter Ryan Welch seriously injured.

The intersection should be completely restored by December. Twenty-four-hour security patrols are being ended.

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Toro Company expansion means 35 new jobs in Tomah

TOMAH -- The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has authorized $350,000 in tax credits for The Toro Company over the next four years.  

The company is expanding its plant in Tomah by 180,000 square feet while adding 35 jobs to the local economy. The total extent of the state income tax credits will be based on the final number of jobs created and the total amount of capital investment The Toro Company winds up making.

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Sheboygan County Sheriff's Office takes law enforcement to the air

SHEBOYGAN -- The Sheboygan County Sheriff's Office is working with a new law enforcement tool. In a partnership with area fire departments, the county agency has started a drone program.

Drones were used for the first time last November while fighting a fatal apartment fire in Plymouth. In May, the drones were used to search for a suspect. They can spot someone hiding in a farm field or help track down a missing child or adult. Sheboygan County hopes to have five licensed drone pilots ready to go by December.

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Judge: Deadbeat dad can't collect settlement money in son's wrongful death

MILWAUKEE -- A deadbeat dad who abandoned his son at the age of 5 won't be allowed to collect any part of a lawsuit settlement.  

Milwaukee County agreed to pay Brandon Johnson's estate $1.4 million to settle a civil rights lawsuit his mother had filed after his death. Johnson's father tried to get some of the money.  Alicia Johnson told the court he sexually assaulted her when she was 15 and never helped raise Brandon over the last 20 years of his life. The father's name hasn't been released.

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Fort Atkinson pastor at center of embezzlement investigation

FORT ATKINSON -- Fort Atkinson police confirm they have taken the longtime pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church into custody as part of an embezzlement investigation.  

Bryan Engfer is not behind bars, but police say they are still pursuing the case. Engfer is accused of taking money from the church. The South Central Synod of Wisconsin says he is no longer with the church where he had served for 27 years. Police say the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office is expected to file a criminal charge against the 57-year-old pastor.

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Man suffers critical injuries when he falls from roof

WEST ALLIS -- West Allis police say a man was trying to jump from the roof of one house to another when he fell to the ground.  

Officers had been called to the address about a possible prowler Wednesday at 11:30 p.m. While they were trying to contact somebody inside the home, a man came out through a second-story window and climbed to the roof. When officers spoke to him, he tried to jump from the roof of that house to the one next door but fell more than 20 feet to the ground. His name hasn't been released. He is being treated for critical injuries in a hospital.

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Madison police use surveillance camera footage to identify beating suspects

MADISON -- A 54-year-old man who feeds the ducks every day at a Madison park finds out sharing can get out of hand.

After he shared his beer with one man, two other people started asking him for money. The victim says a woman grabbed some cash from his wallet and, when he tried to get it back, he was attacked. Police were called and used surveillance video to find and arrest the attackers.  

Thirty-eight-year-old Valerie Czebotar and 49-year-old Richard Treyo were taken into custody on suspicion of battery and robbery with use of force. The victim's name hasn't been released.

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Eau Claire student transit struggles to find bus drivers

EAU CLAIRE -- Student Transit in Eau Claire says it is short about 10 bus drivers from being fully staffed. The bus driver shortage is causing problems as thousands of students return to class.  

Officials with Student Transit say the biggest challenge is the split shift. Drivers come in early in the morning to carry students to school, then return in the afternoon to take them home. That schedule doesn’t work for many people. The 120 drivers currently on staff can handle the basic job, but it becomes more difficult when there are field trips, ballgames or open shifts when a drive is sick.

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Officials try to remove Adams County clerk

FRIENDSHIP -- The Adams County Clerk is accused of manipulating the county's computer system, leading to a security breach affecting more than 250,000 people. A verified statement of charges has been brought against clerk Cindy Phillippi and the Wisconsin Department of Justice has seized Phillippi's laptop.  

State investigators say she installed a computer logging tool which captured keystrokes for nearly every county-owned computer. Phillippi has claimed her actions were legal but county officials are trying to remove her from her elected position. The Board of Supervisors will hear the case next month.

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Kroger Division invests in midtown Milwaukee neighborhood store

MILWAUKEE -- The Roundy's division of Kroger is investing $2 million into the Midtown Center shopping development.  

The company unveiled a newly remodeled Pick 'n Save yesterday in the 5700 block of West Capitol Drive. An official from the Milwaukee-based Roundy's subsidiary says the company made the investment despite the fact that other retailers have left the area.

Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in February 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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