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Attorneys: Winston Smith’s passenger did not see him with a gun in car

Plus: Omar says she wasn’t equating terrorists with U.S., Israel; Minnesota Capitol building reopens to visitors; southwest Minnesota high school softball coach goes into labor during game, delivers baby in car; and more.

Winston Smith
Winston Smith
In the Pioneer Press, Deanna Weniger writes: “The female passenger who was in the car with Winston Smith when he was fatally shot by members of a federal U.S. Marshals Service task force in Minneapolis on June 3 says she did not see Smith possess a gun in the car. The passenger released a statement Thursday through her attorneys, Christopher X. Nguyen and Racey Rodne out of the Bloomington law firm McEllistrem, Fargione, Rorvig, and Moe. The attorneys also held a news conference announcing their client’s statement on the shooting. ‘She never saw a gun on Winston Smith leading up to the shooting, and she never saw a gun inside the vehicle at any time,’ her attorneys said. Authorities have not named the passenger and her attorneys say she doesn’t want her name released publicly. They said she was on a lunch date with Smith.”

For the AP, Alan Fram writes: “Rep. Ilhan Omar tried edging away Thursday from a bitter fight with Jewish Democratic lawmakers who’d accused her of likening the U.S. and Israel to Hamas and Afghanistan’s Taliban, saying her remarks were ‘in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries.’ A three-sentence statement by the Minnesota Democrat also said her comments were ‘not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel,’ and seemed to dial back a more confrontational tone she’d taken earlier. In a series of tweets, Omar had said her critics’ public rebuke of her was ‘shameful,’ accused them of ‘islamophobic tropes’ and said she was merely seeking justice ‘for all victims of crimes against humanity.’ Minutes after Omar released her latest remarks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the other top five House Democratic leaders issued an unusual joint statement making clear they’d disapproved of Omar’s initial comments.”

Liz Navratil writes in the Star Tribune: “A Minneapolis City Council committee on Thursday recommended releasing an additional $5 million to cover police overtime, a move that would offset some of the cuts it made to police funding last fall. Police Chief Medaria Arradondo told council members the money would help cover a small percentage of the overtime shifts needed amid an officer shortage and costs associated with the trial of former officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of murdering George Floyd.…Minneapolis’ debates about police funding have drawn national attention as a dramatic increase in violent crime tests the commitment of some council members who pledged to ‘begin the process of ending’ the Police Department after Floyd’s death.”

Josh Verges writes in the Pioneer Press: “Students throughout the University of Minnesota system will face 1.5 percent tuition increases next year, pending approval from the Board of Regents later this month. Regents on Thursday mostly expressed support for President Joan Gabel’s recommended $4 billion budget, which calls for nearly all students at all five campuses to take the same percentage increase. On the Twin Cities campus, Minnesota residents would pay $13,532 (up $202) next school year and non-residents $32,096 (up $480). Increases in state and federal grants should more than cover the bump in tuition for low-income students. And students from families making less than $50,000 a year would get aid that exceeds the price of tuition under the U’s expanded Promise Program.”

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Also in the Star Tribune, Briana Bierschbach writes: “Brany Guevara and her daughter looked up in awe at the masonry dome inside the Minnesota Capitol on Thursday, admiring nearby paintings before climbing the smooth marble steps leading to the state Senate chamber. They were among the first members of the public to stand inside the building in 440 days, after the pandemic shut people out of the People’s House for the longest period in state history. …  The reopening of the Minnesota Capitol to visitors on Thursday marked a kind of normalcy. The historical society office in the building opened its doors as families wandered in for self-guided tours. Advocacy groups held news conferences in the building to make their cases for a bite out of the state’s $52 billion budget, which lawmakers are still debating.”

Says Paul Huttner at MPR, “The steamy summer of ‘21 is rapidly causing issues with drought and fire danger across Minnesota. I posted yesterday that I expected today’s U.S. Drought Monitor report to show drought expanding across Minnesota. Today’s update delivered that unwelcome news. One hundred percent of Minnesota is now either ‘abnormally dry’ or in drought conditions. The percentage of abnormally dry areas in Minnesota grew from 73 to 100 percent. The percent of Minnesota in drought grew from 13 to 46 percent.”

Also in the Star Tribune, this from Faiza Mahamud, “Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey wants to use $28 million of American Rescue Plan money for affordable housing, including rental assistance to low-income tenants, pathways out of homelessness and new homeownership opportunities, particularly for Black and Indigenous people and people of color. At a news conference at the Elliot Twins public housing complex Thursday, Frey said his plan will help keep people in their homes as the city anticipates a wave of evictions after a statewide ban is lifted. The federal government is expected to end its eviction moratorium on June 30.”

At KSTP-TV, Ellen Gallas reports, “Some Twin Cities residents are waiting weeks to get their air conditioners fixed during this heat wave. Laura Itman from Golden Valley is one of them. ‘I don’t know what I am going to do these next few days. It’s just going to get hotter and hotter’, Itman said. Her air conditioner quit on her last week, and she says she has to wait until June 16 for a service call. Itman says she is a CenterPoint Energy customer and has had the Service Plus Plan since 1967.”

For FOX 9, Mitti Hicks writes: “With three children at home, the most valuable parents, Tiffany and Christopher Eichten, have outdone themselves with their grand slam child: Baby Andie. A pregnant Coach Eichten was in the middle of the Wabasso Softball team’s second playoff game when she had to quickly come up with her next play because after nine months, baby Andie was ready for the home run. … ‘It was the top of the seventh inning when Assistant Coach Andrea Ellanson sent me a message and said, “You have to have the vehicle ready. Your wife is going to have a baby very soon,”‘ Christopher added. … Everyone quickly got into position because the next move involved getting Tiffany to the nearest hospital, which was located 15 miles away. Coach Ellanson sat in the backseat with Tiffany as Christopher rushed to the hospital. … When she’s not coaching, Ellanson is a registered OB/GYN nurse and knew just what to do as baby Andie made it to home base. She came right there in the car as Christopher was seven minutes away from the hospital.”

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