On Saturday, September 5, 2015, a citizen spotted clothing floating near the shoreline of the Mississippi River and contacted law enforcement requesting assistance. Deputies drove to the scene identified by the complainant and there they located a deceased male in the Mississippi River between Lake Irvine and Lake Bemidji about ten feet from shore floating face down in the weeds. The Bemidji Fire Department responded to assist in recovering the badly decomposed body.
The individual was identified as Francis Normen Smith age 65, of Bemidji. An autopsy was conducted on Monday by the Beltrami County Coroner and his manner of death was ruled accidental. Smith had no known address and apparently had been camping nearby.
The Red Lake Nation held a ribbon-cutting and dedication of the new Tribal Capitol Complex, Red Lake Nation College, Veterans Memorial and Pow-Wow Grounds today. Tribal, State and Federal elected officials were on hand to thank those that made the facility possible.
The complex is part of a loan from the USDA Rural Development Program. The two loans total $21 million.
On Friday August 7, 2015, at approximately 5:30 PM the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office received a request for assistance from Red Lake Police and agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who were in pursuit of fleeing vehicle traveling south on MN Highway 89 near the Red Lake Casino , which is located near Alaska Township 25 miles northwest of the City of Bemidji . The male driver was reportedly involved in an assault involving weapons on the Red lake Reservation and at the time of the pursuit was reportedly armed with a firearm and sword.
Minnesota State Patrol Troopers and Beltrami County Deputies attempted to stop the vehicle on TH 89 near Grange Rd NW (County Road 22) in northern Eckles Twp, by deploying a tire deflation device. During an unsuccessful attempt to stop the fleeing vehicle, a State Patrol Trooper was nearly struck by the fleeing suspect vehicle.
Beltrami County Deputies, MN State Patrol Troopers and Agents of the FBI continued to pursue the vehicle on rural Beltrami County Roads until a second attempt was made to use the tire deflation device on Aure Rd ( County Road 24) in Buzzle Twp. Deflating one of the suspect vehicles tires, the vehicle failed to stop and continued to flee on a deflated tire , but did so at greatly reduced speeds.
Near the junction of TH 89 on Aure Rd. a Beltrami County Deputy successfully deployed a pursuit intervention Technique (PIT) Maneuver, successfully terminating the pursuit. The suspect vehicle was barricaded in and the officers began to approach the vehicle when the suspect attempted to flee again by operating his vehicle at a high speed in reverse. This action resulted in a Beltrami County Deputy Sheriff being struck and injured by the fleeing vehicle .
The suspect vehicle struck other law enforcement vehicles before being stopped. The driver, Nodin Makwa, age 20, of Red Lake, MN was taken into custody without further incident. Makwa complained of injury from the incident and was transported to Sanford Emergency Department, Bemidji, where he was medically cleared and released.
The Beltrami County Deputy Sheriff sustained serious injury and was flown from the scene by North Memorial Air Care helicopter to North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale, MN where his current condition is reported as stable. Makwa is currently being held in the Clearwater County Jail pending a review by the Beltrami County Attorney’s Office for formal criminal charges.
The MN State Patrol, MN Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Federal Bureau of Investigation or leading the ongoing investigation.
Beltrami County’s recently deployed Project Lifesaver has received a donation of $1,000 to assist in supporting the program. The anonymous donation was made by a family familiar with the consequences of cognitive and wandering disease and disorders. Thirty years ago the family’s mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s wandered from home in the summertime. Unfortunately she was not located until several months later when deer hunters found her remains. The family wanted to contribute to Beltrami County’s Project Lifesaver and help other families prevent enduring the tragic loss they experienced.
Project Lifesaver puts technology and training in the hands of public safety to expedite recovering citizens who suffer from cognitive issues or that are prone to wandering. A grant through Autism Speaks allowed Beltrami County to send two deputies to Project Lifesaver Training, purchase the required equipment and three transmitters. Beltrami County joins the 1,400 other participating agencies across 48 states, six Canadian Provinces and Australia who have done 3,000 searches over 16 years. If you are interested in participating in Project Lifesaver, please contact the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office at 218-333-9111.
On July 4, 2015 at approximately 4:15 PM, the Beltrami County deputies responded to a 911 call of a female who was found unresponsive in the water on Cass Lake. Deputies learned that the victim, identified as Brenda Lois Larson, age 50 of Eden Prairie, MN, had been riding in a 17 foot Boston Whaler being driven by Matthew Allen Kinghorn, age 45 of Minnetonka, MN. While underway, Larson, Kinghorn and a four year old were thrown from the boat. The Kinghorn and the child were rescued by fishermen who were passing by. A short time later Larson was recovered from the water, unresponsive and not breathing. Larson was taken to shore by rescuers and was transported by ambulance to the Cass Lake Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Investigators learned Matthew Kinghorn was driving the boat on Cass Lake north east of Cedar Island when the boat hit a wave causing him, his passenger, Brenda Larson and his 4 year old son to be ejected from the boat. Mathew Kinghorn’s wife, Jennifer Lynn Kinghorn, also riding on the boat was not ejected from the boat. Mrs. Kinghorn flagged down some fishermen who were nearby who rescued Mr. Kinghorn and the 4 year old and returned them to their boat. At that time, Mathew Kinghorn started his boat and went to pull Brenda Larson from the water. When he got her into his boat she had stopped breathing. CPR was started on her and she was brought to shore where they were met by the Cass Lake Ambulance. Brenda Larson was transported to Cass Lake Hospital where she was pronounced dead. The four year old was the only occupant wearing a life jacket at the time of the incident.
Kinghorn has been arrested and is being held at the Beltrami County Jail. An autopsy has been conducted by the Beltrami County Coroner. This investigation is still very active and results are pending from several tests. The case will be presented to the Beltrami County Attorney’s Office for review when completed.
Deputies were assisted by the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, Leech Lake Tribal Police and Leech Lake Ambulance.
Friday morning officials from the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs gathered with military and elected officials for the first raising of the POW/MIA flag at the Capitol Veterans Memorial Garden in St. Paul. The flag was placed there at the request of State Rep. John Persell (DFL – Bemidji)
"It didn't seem right that there was no flag in the memorial garden commemorating our military service members who never came home," said Rep. Persell (DFL—Bemidji). "There is a POW/MIA flag on the North side of the Capitol building, but it can't be seen from the Veterans Memorial Garden. Now when Minnesotans come here to pay their respects and remember, there is a flag they can see."
Rep. Persell had considered offering legislation to force the Department of Administration to raise a flag at the garden, but that wasn't necessary.
"In the end, I found support for this effort, particularly from Commissioner Shellito and Lt. Governor Smith, and Commissioner Massman" said Rep. Persell. "Folks in the administration understood why it was important and necessary to get the flag up."
Bemidji Fire Department and Minnesota DNR Firefighters responded to a three wildland fires in the Bemidji area on Saturday. No injuries or structural damage from the fires was reported. Two of the fires required the use of firefighting aircraft to provide assistance with extinguishment. The largest fire, which was located on Adelia DR SE, did involve the evacuation of some homes as a precaution. The cause of the three fires included; campfire from the previous evening, children playing with matches, and hot exhaust from a vehicle. The Bemidji area was under a Red Flag warning with Extreme Fire Danger rating on Saturday. Assistance was provided to the fire department and DNR from multiple agencies, including; Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office, Beltrami County Office of Emergency Management, Minnesota State Patrol, Solway Fire Department, Bemidji Police Department, and Bemidji Ambulance.
Optivation, a custom college and outreach training program jointly operated by Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College, has won a $49,572 grant from the Minnesota Job Skills Partnership program to develop a series of employee training programs for Bemidji-based Lueken’s Inc.
Lueken’s added an aquaponics farm, which allows the store to grow plants and some fish on site, to its south-side Bemidji grocery store location during a recent expansion. It is one of the only grocery stores in the nation with an attached aquaponics farm.
Optivation’s training will help Lueken’s staff develop sustainable, economically viable strategies for maintaining the aquaponics farm, and provide support for education programs involving the farm. In addition, the training will present continuous performance monitoring practices to help the company anticipate future changes and manage the farm’s many biological variables.
Aquaponics is one element of a cultural shift that emphasizes sources of food that are closer to the populations they serve. In partnership with BSU’s Sustainability Office, Optivation’s training will help Lueken’s develop programs to educate Bemidji residents about aquaponically grown food and establish healthy eating initiatives.
The training also will emphasize enterprise thinking, which will help the company consider how decision affect an entire organization rather than just a particular department.
“This workforce development grant will help Lueken’s employees understand and implement aquaponics farming and incorporate sustainability, which is valuable to their work and growth strategy,” said Kevin McKinnon, deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
Lueken’s Inc. operates a number of Bemidji-based businesses, including north- and south-side locations of Lueken’s Village Foods; Novo, a local restaurant; and TJ Design Studio, a web development and graphic design company. Lueken’s has been an employee-owned organization since 2013.
Fire investigators have determined that the recent Palsburg Fire, which burned more than 4,500 acres of wild lands in Roseau County, originated from a slash pile the Department of Natural Resources burned last fall. Slash is branches and other woody debris that remains after a logging operation.
“This shows us, that under current conditions, you can’t be too cautious,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “The state is very dry and we need to take extraordinary precautions with fire.”
Left by the logging operation in November, the DNR burned the slash pile Nov. 25 while the ground was snow-covered. Slash is burned as part of routine fire-prevention efforts and in preparing a harvested site for tree planting.
DNR foresters checked the burned pile in December, found some embers inside but determined they didn’t pose a problem because it was early winter.
Foresters checked the slash pile the week of March 16 and determined the fire was cold.
Almost five months after the pile was originally burned, on April 15, smoke was spotted in the area during a fire-detection flight.
Due to warm temperatures, low humidity and strong winds, the fire spread quickly. The active fire was controlled the next morning, but the Palsburg Fire burned 4,550 acres of mostly pine. No structures were lost or injuries reported. Nearly all the land was DNR-administered forest land; a small portion was tribal land.
Fire investigators, who are currently finalizing their reports, determined that an ember that stayed hot two feet underground in the original slash fire caused the wildfire. An extremely dry spring due to below normal snowfall and lack of rain added to the problem.
The DNR’s Forestry Division will pay the cost of putting out the Palsburg Fire, said the division’s director, Forrest Boe. “After fire investigations, parties responsible for starting a fire are held responsible for paying for fire suppression efforts. The responsible party here is the Division of Forestry,’’ Boe said.
A final cost has yet to be determined.
The DNR plans to ask an independent government agency, with relevant forestry expertise, to conduct a review of this incident. The independent reviewer hasn’t been determined yet.
Boe said it is rare for a DNR-burned slash pile to cause a wildfire.
However, the unusual weather conditions, the lack of snowfall and low humidity have led to extreme fire conditions in northwestern Minnesota this spring. The DNR is on high alert when it comes to checking on extinguished fires and others should be as well.
Boe said the DNR will learn valuable lessons from this incident and will implement any new recommended practices immediately. He said he hopes to share those lessons with others in the forestry and fire-prevention community so that incidents like this don’t happen again.
Plans for salvage of the trees left from the Palsburg Fire have already begun. Merchantable trees will be sold for forest products.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has issued Beltrami County a large trap range grant toward development of the Northland Regional Shooting Sports Park located off Highway 89 south of Jackpine Road.
The $419,732 grant was the largest grant awarded to any facility across the state as part of a statewide effort to promote the development and enhancement of trap shooting facilities.
The Minnesota Legislature last year authorized more than $2 million for matching grants to recreational shooting clubs for developing or rehabilitating trap shooting sports facilities for public use, with an emphasis on enhancing youth participation opportunities.
“It’s great to see greater Minnesota receive this money. This is a fantastic opportunity to move forward in developing the Northland Regional Shooting Sports Park,” said Dick Moore, Beltrami County land commissioner and director of Beltrami County Natural Resources Department. “This is a result of a lot of hard work by so many local people dedicated to moving this project forward.”
The Northland Regional Shooting Sports Park is part of the Northland Regional Sports Park, which will be a multi-use sporting facility that promotes outdoor recreation. The Shooting Sports Park facility will serve as a firearms training center and provide a venue for youth and families to learn how to shoot, compete in local and statewide shooting sports events and develop hunting skills that ensure the future of the hunting and shooting sports tradition. It will provide safe, family-friendly recreational shooting opportunities to northwest Minnesota.
“The DNR grant, combined with a generous gift from the George W. Nielson Foundation and donations from individuals and businesses, will allow the project to break ground in 2015,” said Mark Farabee, chairman of the Headwater Shooting Sports Association. “We’ve still got a ways to go with the fundraising efforts, though.”
Farabee adds that additional funding is still required in order to complete the project’s two-year, Phase 1 range infrastructure plan. Tax-deductible gifts or pledges can be made to the Northland Regional Shooting Sports Fund through the Northwest Minnesota Foundation (www.nwmf.org).
Development of the DNR trap grants program follows a significant rise in youth trap shooting, especially by high school students who are part of a statewide league. Existing trap ranges sometimes struggle to meet demand.
“This is great news for the Bemidji High School clay target team, as well as other school districts in the region,” said Bryan Hammitt, Bemidji High School Clay Target team coach. “Greater Bemidji area teams will be able to use the facility to compete in sectional and invitational high school clay target league matches.”
Hammitt added that the growth of the high school clay target team, now in its second year, has been phenomenal and the team has quickly become highly competitive in the statewide league.