Deep skepticism over story of Little Falls shootings

The understatement of the moment is that the public, if not the authorities, are skeptical of the shooter’s story. In the weekend deaths of two Little Falls teenagers, Ben Katzner of the St. Cloud Times writes: “When deputies arrived at 14319 Elm St., they met with [Byron] Smith who immediately told them he had shot two people around noon Thursday as they attempted to break into his home. After the bodies of the two teenagers were found in Smith’s basement, they were taken to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office for identification and to determine an exact cause of death. Smith was arrested on suspicion of second-degree murder. The Morrison County Attorney’s Office is expected to file charges. [Morrison County Sheriff Michel] Wetzel told the Times on Saturday that Smith had no history with the sheriff’s office and that he had no information about whether the teenagers and Smith knew each other. In the statement, Wetzel said: ‘A person has every right to defend themselves and their homes, even employing deadly force if necessary,’ while adding that deputies believe Smith went beyond that point.”

The AP story says: “ … Wetzel said Sunday that Smith claimed the teenagers broke into his home. But Wetzel said circumstances at the scene led investigators, including some from the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, to believe that his actions were in excess of simple self-defense. Wetzel refused to release further details, including whether investigators believe that Smith shot the teenagers immediately upon finding them; and why he didn’t report the incident immediately. … ‘We do want to give the public a clear picture of what happened,’ Wetzel said. He said investigators were still actively working the case. Few details were immediately available about Smith, whose home is in a secluded area north of Little Falls and near the Mississippi River. Wetzel said he was not previously known to the sheriff’s office as a troublemaker, and his name doesn’t turn up any previous convictions in a state criminal history database. The Star Tribune quoted a neighbor, John Lange, who said Smith was a retired security worker and volunteer Scout leader who cared for his elderly mother until her recent death. ‘He’s a really decent guy. I think he just snapped … .’”

Being first hardly brings a guarantee of success. Steve Alexander of the Strib writes: “ … wireless Internet firm Clearwire Corp., which in 2010 was the first company to offer fast 4G wireless Internet service to Twin Cities computer owners. The speedy 4G technology for the first time made wireless Internet access competitive with wired Internet service from the cable and telephone companies. Two years later, Bellevue, Wash.-based Clearwire is struggling. It has never been profitable, and last year it lost $717.3 million on revenue of $1.3 billion. It needs an infusion of cash by the end of 2013.”

Kevin McHale’s daughter has died. The Strib story says: “Sasha McHale, the daughter of Houston Rockets coach and former Timberwolves executive Kevin McHale, died on Saturday at age 23. McHale has been on leave from his job as Houston’s coach to be with Sasha as she battled the auto-immune disease lupus.”

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story on the Minnesota-Wisconsin “rivalry” over tuition reciprocity has gotten a lot of play. As Karen Herzog writes, “The stakes are highest for UW campuses closest to the Wisconsin-Minnesota border, including UW-River Falls and UW-Superior, which depend the most on Minnesota students to boost their enrollments. Nearly half the total enrollment at UW-River Falls (2,953 of 6,068 students) and UW-Superior (912 of 2,321 students) came from Minnesota in the 2011-’12 academic year. ‘In the northwest part of the state, more of the Twin Cities megaplex bleeding into Wisconsin will capture more students,’ UW System President Kevin Reilly said. In 2011-’12, about 10,500 Wisconsin students attended public universities and technical colleges in Minnesota, while about 14,500 Minnesota students enrolled in Wisconsin’s state schools under the Minnesota-Wisconsin Interstate Tuition Reciprocity Agreement. The numbers have grown since the agreement started in 1965. But Minnesota consistently has sent 3,000 to 4,000 more students to Wisconsin than Wisconsin has sent to Minnesota.” I have several ideas if we really want to attract more Wisconsinites.

Betsy Bloom of the LaCrosse Tribune has a story on the 28-year-old mayor who found holding the budget line tougher than he imagined. “Matt Harter, who at age 24 became the youngest mayor ever elected in La Crosse, announced Friday he has no taste for seeking a second term in 2013. Despite being encouraged to run again, the now 28-year-old Harter said he needs to experience ‘a normal job’ in the private sector before deciding whether to carve out a career in politics. … Harter ran as a conservative determined to hold the line on taxes. He kept that campaign promise, even threatening to veto the 2013 budget a week ago unless the Common Council reconvened to adjust it and avoid a tax rate increase. He counts that fiscal stance as his top achievement in office. But his decision-making style often clashed with the council — it has overridden all but six of his 28 vetoes so far — and some city staff.”

The “First Amendment Zone”? Uh, that’s over there, in the parking lot. John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune reports: “Two Northland preachers are back in federal court alleging that the city of Duluth and Bentleyville Tour of Lights are again violating their constitutional rights to profess their faith inside the holiday lighting display. The preachers – Steve Jankowski of Duluth and Peter Scott of Hibbing, along with the religious freedom groups Alliance Defending Freedom and the Center for Religious Expression — filed a motion Tuesday in federal district court in Minneapolis asking a judge to order the city of Duluth to let them into Bentleyville. City officials have countered that the preachers can be limited to a new ‘First Amendment zone,’ near a parking lot outside one of the entries to the lighting display. Jonathan Scruggs, attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom representing the preachers, said it’s not acceptable for the city to deem a large area of a public park as closed to First Amendment rights.

All they need now is a conservative legislature to push forward two or three dozen related bills … . Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writes: “The state’s largest anti-abortion group sees opportunities to place further regulations on abortion, including requiring women seeking the procedure to view an ultrasound of their fetuses. Wisconsin Right to Life is also proposing banning abortions that would cause pain to the fetus, barring abortions that are sought based on the sex of the fetus and prohibiting the ability of state employees to use their state health care plans to get access to abortions. ‘I support all those measures and would gladly be a lead or co-sponsor on any of them,’ said Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc. ‘Any measure to protect life is of the utmost highest priority.’” To they have anything broader on the Castle Doctrine?

At last … some place to buy sneakers and purses … within five miles of the Mall of America. Nick Ferraro of the PiPress says: “In two years, holiday shoppers should be crowding the south metro’s first major outlet mall for its nearly 100 brand-name stores offering deals on shoes, purses and other cut-rate goods. The Eagan City Council this week green-lighted preliminary plans by Baltimore-based Paragon Outlet Partners for a 441,000-square-foot, open-air outlet center on 29 acres near the intersection of Cedar Avenue and Minnesota 13. Paragon Outlets at Cedar Grove would be the closest major outlet mall to the Twin Cities and the only one within the seven-county metro area. … The proposal calls for the stores to be situated in a ‘racetrack’ design — facing each other around the open-air pedestrian concourse.”

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/26/2012 - 07:15 am.

    Skepticism seems justified

    …in Little Falls.

    As for “Any measure to protect life is of the utmost highest priority.” Presumably, Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc is among Wisconsin’s leading anti-war activists, and is also widely known in the state for his outspoken support of social programs (e.g., health care) that directly benefit children. If not, he’s merely a Wisconsin version of Missouri’s “legitimate rape” senate candidate, Todd Akin.

  2. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 11/26/2012 - 09:08 am.

    “First Amendment Zone?”

    If the presumably “conservative” preachers wish to hawk their faith at public gatherings whose attendees have not come to an event with the expectation of being preached at/to,…

    I’d suggest they might want to look into the precedent set by the campaign and presidential appearances of George W. Bush where people almost had to sign a loyalty pledge to be allowed in the door,…

    and identified protestors were generally fenced off in areas well away from the event or parade at which they were attempting to protest.

    Indeed, it won’t take much research to reveal that it is their fellow “conservatives” who have set the precedents that so routinely limit their freedom to speak freely in public.

    They might also want to consider that speaking personally to individuals is a far more effective way of bringing people to an awareness and appreciation of your faith stance, of “bringing people to Jesus,” than yelling at a crowd of strangers in a public place has ever been,…

    (well, except for that ONE time wherein Peter preached in the streets of Jerusalem on the day of the Christian Pentecost more than 2000 years ago).

    In our own time, the need to loudly preach to disinterested strangers generally arises out of the desire of those preaching to meet their own psychological/emotional needs and likely has very little to do with any genuine desire to provide something useful or helpful to those who hear the preacher(s) haranguing them.

    No matter how powerful or useful or important the message we’re trying to deliver, if the methods we use to deliver that message ensure that people will not hear it or will reject it, we haven’t really delivered that message at all.

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