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Minnesota roundup: Man admits to driving drunk, hitting police car; Woman charged with causing brain injury to addiction recovery center employee; 5 more state news stories

ST. PAUL — A St. Paul man accused of crashing his truck into a police squad car and injuring two officers after drinking and driving this fall has pleaded guilty to the crime.

Daniel Sanchez Mendes, 25, pleaded guilty to one-count of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol in Ramsey County District Court on Tuesday.

Mendes was driving a red 2004 Nissan Titan pickup when he collided with a St. Paul Police squad car at Seventh and Madison streets Oct. 10, court documents say.

One of the officers involved estimated the truck was traveling "well above the 35 mph speed limit" at the time of the crash. He said he didn't hear the truck honk or brake prior to impact and saw the driver flee the scene afterward.

Police found seven empty beer cans and an empty beer bottle inside the car. One of the cans was cold to the touch and had liquid inside.

Hibbing woman charged with causing traumatic brain injury to addiction recovery center employee

WILLMAR, Minn. — A Hibbing woman has been charged with the June assault of a staff member at Willmar's Community Addiction Recovery Enterprise, one that left the staffer with a traumatic brain injury, blurred vision and hearing loss.

Court documents allege Stacie Lee Johnson, 47, forcefully slammed the staff member into a wall.

Immediately after, the staff member could not turn her head and reported upper back and shoulder pain. The next morning, the staffer could not hear out of one ear and was barely able to move her arms.

Later, a specialist at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis diagnosed the staffer with a traumatic brain injury and nerve bundle damage to her brain.

That assault was allegedly at the tail end of a chain of assaults, the third of three, on clients and staff at the facility on June 7. Johnson was charged Nov. 16 in Kandiyohi County District Court with felony first-degree assault and two counts of misdemeanor fifth-degree assault.

The third and most severe assault reportedly happened when Johnson allegedly climbed through an open window and onto a desk. According to the criminal complaint, she leapt onto the floor and shoved a staff member into a wall, causing the assault that resulted in a brain injury for the staffer.

Johnson has not been jailed. She was released on her own recognizance after her first hearing on Nov. 16.

Somali-American lawmaker from Minneapolis says D.C. cabbie harassed her

MINNEAPOLIS—Ilhan Omar, a Minneapolis woman recently elected the nation's first Somali-American lawmaker, said she was subjected to "hateful, derogatory, Islamophobic, sexist taunts and threats" while in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

Omar, who won a spot in the state House, was in the nation's capital on a White House visit when she said she got into a cab and was threatened by the driver.

"The cab driver called me ISIS and threatened to remove my hijab," Omar said in a Facebook post on Wednesday. "I wasn't really sure how this encounter would end as I attempted to rush out of his cab and retrieve my belongings.

"I am still shaken by this incident," added Omar, who said she is incredulous at how bold those who hate Muslims have lately become.

About the cabdriver, she said, "I pray for his humanity and for all those who harbor hate in their hearts."

Omar, a 33-year-old Democrat, will represent a district in Minneapolis that's home to the largest Somali population outside of the East African country. She immigrated to the United States after spending part of her childhood in a Kenyan refugee camp.

"I spent yesterday afternoon at the White House, learning about policy ideas (that) states could implement in the areas I am passionate about," she wrote in her Facebook post.

Robbery suspect shot dead by Eagan security guard ID'd

EAGAN, Minn.—The alleged robber fatally shot by a security guard this week in Eagan has been identified as 25-year-old Davon O'Keith Wiley of North Minneapolis.

Wiley died of gunshot wounds in the parking lot of a warehouse at 985 Aldrin Drive at 12:08 a.m. Monday, the Hennepin County medical examiner's office said Wednesday.

The manner of death is homicide, the coroner said.

Wiley was wearing a mask and carrying a gun as he attacked the armed security guard, and the guard fired in self-defense, Eagan police said.

Citing the ongoing investigation, Eagan police spokesman Aaron Machtemes said Wednesday that he could not release any more details about the shooting, including the name of the security guard and the company for which he worked.

The warehouse is being used by the nonprofit Samaritan's Purse for its Operation Christmas Child campaign in which millions of shoeboxes full of gifts are collected and distributed by volunteers to children across the world, according to its website. The site is one of eight processing centers across the United States.

City council candidate wins fight over one ballot

THIEF RIVER FALLS, Minn. — A canvassing board has decided a small mark in an oval on a November ballot does not count as a vote for a Thief River Falls City Council candidate.

The board ruled the small mark showed no voter intent, which ended Justen Lee's recount effort and made incumbent Jerald Brown the winner of Thief River Falls' Ward 4 seat.

Brown and Lee each received 301 votes in November's election for the seat. A coin toss that was meant to decide the election landed in Brown's favor, giving him the tiebreaker and the seat.

Lee, however, called for a recount and challenged one ballot that he argued was a vote for him. The ballot had a small mark near the outside of the oval next to Lee's name, City Finance Director Angie Philipp said.

The mark was not detected by the election machine, Philipp said, and other marks on the ballot were filled in with dark ovals.

Minnesota law states a technical error cannot make a ballot invalid if voter intent can be proven.

Gov. Dayton: Session deadline? What deadline?

ST. PAUL — Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt last week said in a news conference with the governor and other legislative leaders that Wednesday, Dec. 7, was the deadline for agreeing to issues to come up during a special legislative session dealing with health insurance costs, public works financing and taxes.

But on Wednesday, Gov. Mark Dayton said there was no such deadline. Dayton told reporters that work of legislators and governor's staffers to write bills can extend into next week for a proposed Dec. 20 special session.

"It was miscommunication or misunderstanding," Dayton said.

The main thrust behind a special session is finding a way to financially help Minnesotans who are buying 2017 individual health insurance policies at rates up to 67 percent higher than being paid this year.

Also to be considered if a special session is held will be a bill lowering some taxes, including those on farmland, and providing local governments with more state aid. The bill basically is one passed last May, but did not get Dayton's signature when a pricey mistake was discovered.

The third bill that could be considered would provide nearly $1 billion for public works and transportation projects around the state. The bonding-transportation bill failed as the regular session ended over a dispute about funding light rail in the Twin Cities.

Republican wins recount, GOP gains Senate control

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — A Republican Minnesota Senate candidate apparently won an election recount, meaning the GOP will control the body 34-33 when the 2017 Legislature begins Jan. 3.

The St. Cloud Times reports that the recount ended Wednesday, Dec. 7, with Republican Jerry Relph winning by 141 votes. The original count after the Nov. 8 election had him beating Democrat Dan Wolgamott by 148 votes.

The state Canvassing Board must sign off on the numbers Monday to make the results official.

Wolgamott's attorney said he expected his client to comment on the recount by week's end. He has few options short of taking the election to court.

Republicans have proceeded to reorganize the Senate, assuming Relph would maintain his win. When the regular session begins next month, it will be just the second time in more than 40 years that Senate Republicans hold more votes than Democrats.

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