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Crime surprises: backyard robberies and murder acquittal

PLUS: A strange store rule, a “staged” wedding and Favre’s “real” worth.

You knew when you first heard about it that those two armed robberies — of folks enjoying the summer night in their own backyards — was going to set off a special wave of reaction. Now though, according to a story by Vince Tuss in the Strib, cops are thinking maybe the two south Minneapolis jobs are connected to more serious robbery and gun play in St. Paul. Tuss writes, “All the cases share ‘striking similarities,’ said Sgt. Paul Schnell, a St. Paul police spokesman, including young male suspects wearing hooded sweat shirts and bandanas who fire a shot into the air. All the robbers seem to be in their teens or around 20, but Schnell said descriptions in the latest cases are limited because of the clothing.” The one notable difference is the two Minneapolis crimes took place in otherwise quiet neighborhoods with very little experience with brazen gun-toting. While, on the other hand, ” ‘We hear gunshots every day, every night, and try to stay out of the way,’ said Ignacio Centeno, who has lived on the [St. Paul] street for 12 years.”

Ruben Rosario, Nancy Ngo and a handful of other Pi Pressers continue to follow Monday’s killing of a North St. Paul police officer. This morning’s key detail is that the officer appears to have been killed with his own gun after the man they had been called about lunged at them and his wife with a flaming towel. They (and other newsrooms in town) report on the dead assailant’s rap sheet, making note of the wife’s description of him as “a ticking time bomb.”

Also on the crime beat, Rochelle Olson reports for the Strib on the startling acquittal of one of the two men charged with the heavily publicized New Year’s Eve 2008 home invasion/murder of Jamie Marks in Robbinsdale. This one plays like one of those “bummer”-ending episodes of “Law & Order.” Apparently the prosecution relied too heavily on unsavory pals of the accused. (Despite being acquitted he’s still in jail on other charges, including false imprisonment and making terroristic threats.) Do note Olson’s line about the acquitted’s attorney. “Defense lawyer Michael Colich, who burnished an already formidable reputation with the acquittals, said he was happy for the defendant but sad for the victims and their families. He said, ‘I go home and tell my wife: ‘It’s the same story every time. I don’t care what race you are or where you come from; you’re entitled to the best representation there is.’ “

Fresh off his insidious socialist indoctrination of impressionable schoolchildren — you know, the televised speech Gov. Tim Pawlenty warned us about, where he urged kids to work hard, set goals, respect their parents and teachers and be everything they can be — President Obama will return to Minnesota this Saturday for another speech, this one most likely on the subject of health care.

The president’s start-of-school speech produced so many stunning examples of knuckleheadedness, i.e., adults who probably slept through too many courses, it’s hard to choose a favorite. But this one, from a New York Times story is pretty good, “The thing that concerned me most about it was it seemed like a direct channel from the president of the United States into the classroom, to my child,” said Brett Curtis, an engineer from Pearland, Texas, who said he would keep his three children home. “I don’t want our schools turned over to some socialist movement.” Those would of course be “public” schools, which are always an “option” for parents because they are funded by everyone’s taxes. Veteran Los Angeles Times columnist Patt Morrison does a contrast-and-compare that nicely sums up the lunacy.

The beat up Camden bridge over I-94 and the Mississippi
from North to Northeast Minneapolis will finally get repaired, reports Brian Johnson in Finance and Commerce. The $10 million will come from the city’s share of federal stimulus money and work will start next April.

If the relentless throbbing music of Abercrombie & Fitch’s “active retail environment” doesn’t stop you from wandering in, maybe this will. The company was slapped with a $115,000 judgment for an incident at its MOA store that is more bone-headed than bizarre. Basically, a 14-year-old autistic girl was not allowed to enter the dressing room with her older sister (a violation of the store’s anti-shoplifting rules) … despite repeatedly telling store personnel that she couldn’t be left outside on her own. James Eli Shiffer and Jane Friedman file for the Strib. Their story says, “When several complaints to the company were ignored, the girl’s mother, Elizabeth Maxson of Apple Valley, took the case to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. The investigation encountered fierce resistance from Abercrombie & Fitch, a New Albany, Ohio-based company that posted $3.5 billion in revenues last year. The company even denied that the girl, identified only as M.M. in court documents, had a disability until the first day of the administrative law hearing in April. She was diagnosed as autistic at the age of 2.” Do you think some manager might be just a wee bit too rule-bound?

Singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams
has a special place in her Louisiana born ‘n’ bred heart for Minnesota. She comes through here often and even wrote a song titled “Minneapolis.” Now, according to the Strib’s Chris Riemenschneider, she’s going to get married, not just in the state and to a former Minnesota guy, but on stage during her Sept. 18 gig at First Avenue. “Williams’ publicist at Lost Highway Records said the idea came from Lucinda’s dad, poet and fellow Hank Williams fan, Miller Williams. The plan is to squeeze a ceremony between her regular set and the encore. The couple will get a few days off, then head out on an ambitious fall tour marking her 30th anniversary as a recording artist.”

OK, OK, we make a lot of jokes
about our beer-swilling, cheese-chomping cousins to the east. But come on, sometimes the material is just too good. A story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (in the PiPress) tells the tale of two um, young adults, Adam Frame and Dustin Porter, who upon leaving, uh, a tavern decide to hunt deer on their way home … with lights … as in shining the beasts. The twist is that they filmed themselves and posted it on Facebook. The story reports, “Frame said he and Porter were on their way to Sullivan after leaving a tavern. They saw some deer and Porter stated he wanted to go home, get his rifle and shoot deer, Frame stated in the complaint. Frame posted a message on Facebook that stated, “I just posted a video from us hunting at 4am drunk in a subdivision with my headlight lighting it up.” Just to re-cap: Four a.m. Quite likely drunk. Shooting. Rifle. Residential area.

Statistically speaking, Brett Favre isn’t worth the money. That’s the conclusion of a study by BizJournals, the online cooperative of the various Business Journal publications around the country, including the Minneapolis-St.Paul version. Chris Newmarker reports for the local paper that “City Business Journals analyzed the cost-effectiveness of all 36 NFL players who threw at least 160 passes during the 2008 regular season. All of the quarterbacks near the bottom were paid between $9 million and $12 million, yet struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness. Favre, who ranked 34th out of 36 quarterbacks on the list, made $12 million during a season in which he threw for 22 touchdowns, but also made 22 interceptions.” Who might have been a better deal, at least in terms of dollars-per-completed pass?  “Gus Frerotte, the Vikings quarterback for much of last year, was a better deal than Favre was for the Jets. He was No. 20 on the bizjournals list, making a little more than $2 million.”