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Minnesota roundup: Police: Boy dies after clothing gets caught in Mankato dressing room; Customs officer shoots, kills himself at border crossing

Ryu Pena, 4, of St. James, Minn., died Saturday, March 18, 2017, after he accidentally caught his hooded jacket on a hook in a Mankato thrift store dressing room. He was asphyxiated. (

MANKATO, Minn.—A 4-year-old boy has died after his clothing caught on a hook at a Mankato thrift store on Saturday, Mankato police said.

Around 5:40 p.m., March 18, police and medical responders were called to the Again Thrift & More store after the boy was found unresponsive in a dressing room. While a relative was using a dressing room, the 4-year-old crawled underneath another dressing room door and once inside, had his clothing get caught on a hook, police Cmdr. Daniel Schisel said.

Attempts to resuscitate the boy were made on scene. The boy was then transported to Mayo Clinic Health System, where he was pronounced dead, Schisel said.

A gofundme page has been set up for Ryu S. Pena. Mankato police have not yet released the boy's identity.

Police say no foul play was involved. Police have reviewed surveillance cameras from outside the dressing rooms, Schisel said.

The death remains under investigation. The Ramsey County Medical Examiner will determine the cause of death, the commander said.


Former police chief's son dies in car crash

INVER GROVE HEIGHTS, Minn.—The 21-year-old son of former Inver Grove Heights Police Chief Larry Stanger was killed Sunday night in a western Wisconsin car crash, authorities said.

Jacob Stanger was driving his 2008 Infiniti G37 in the town of Trimbelle when it collided head-on with a westbound 2012 Ford F350 at about 10:15 p.m., said Andrew Thoms, a patrol sergeant with the Pierce County sheriff's department.

Stanger, of Cottage Grove, was pronounced dead at the scene. Trimbelle is between Prescott and Ellsworth.

The driver of the F350, Charles Hill, 38, of Ellsworth was taken to Regions Hospital in St. Paul with undetermined injuries. A hospital spokeswoman said Monday afternoon that he was in fair condition.

Cottage Grove police officers notified Larry Stanger of his son's death Sunday night. Thoms said he also spoke with Stanger.

Larry Stanger resigned as police chief of Inver Grove Heights in December after investigators determined that he inadvertently tipped off the owner of a Prescott, Wis., auto-detailing business that the building would be searched for stolen construction vehicles.

An investigation found that the business owner learned of the search beforehand because Stanger had asked his son Jacob questions about the building. Jacob Stanger and the business owner's son were friends.


Friendly committee gets prescription drug bill

ST. PAUL—Minnesota representatives have moved legislation that would require insurance companies to usually fund medicine a doctor prescribes.

A bill by Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, would limit the power of benefit managers, who control costs for insurance companies, to deny prescriptions during an insurance policy's term.

On an overwhelming voice vote, the House moved the bill out of the Commerce Committee, whose chairman would not give the bill a hearing. It now is in a more friendly health and human services committee.

Hamilton last week demanded a hearing and told reporters that Commerce Chairman Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, should not "cower behind a damned gavel."

On Monday, Hamilton apologized to the full House.

"I have said a few things that I regret and I want to apologize," Hamilton said, adding that he considers Hoppe a friend.

It is personal legislation for Hamilton, a multiple sclerosis patient who he said he was blocked from getting fatigue-fighting medication by a benefits manager.


Customs officer shoots, kills himself at Minnesota border crossing

GRAND PORTAGE, Minn.—A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer apparently shot and killed himself in the parking area of the U.S. port of entry in northeast Minnesota on Sunday afternoon.

A Customs and Border Protection spokesman confirmed that the shooting is believed to have occurred at about 4 p.m. Sunday at the Pigeon River crossing on the border between Minnesota and Ontario near Grand Portage on the North Shore.

The incident is under investigation by the Cook County Sheriff's Office, which was called to the scene at about 6 p.m., said Sheriff Pat Eliasen

Customs and Border Protection "is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of one of its own. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the officer's family, friends and co-workers during this difficult time," the agency said in a statement. "Vigilance — a core value for CBP — includes looking out for our own employees. ... CBP has an active suicide prevention and awareness program to maintain awareness among both employees and supervisors."

The name of the officer is being withheld while an investigation continues and an autopsy is completed, Eliasen said.

"This is an extremely tough loss," Eliasen said, describing the deceased as a veteran officer who had lived in the region for some time.


Duluth store sells $1 million Powerball winner

DULUTH, Minn.—Someone in Duluth has a $1 million ticket in their pocket or purse.

The Minnesota State Lottery reported Monday morning, March 20, that a Powerball ticket worth $1 million was sold at the Holiday store at 5430 Grand Ave. in Duluth sometime before Saturday night's drawing.

The winning Powerball numbers for March 18 were 13-25-44-54-67 and the Powerball was 5.

There's no hurry because the holder of the winning ticket has one year to claim the prize at Lottery headquarters in Roseville. The winner is encouraged to sign the back of the ticket and call the lottery office at (651) 635-8273 to make arrangements to claim the prize.

Meanwhile a Northstar Cash ticket worth $41,304 was sold at The Y Store near Tower, also before Saturday night's drawing, and still has not been claimed. The winning Northstar Cash numbers for March 18 were 2-3-9-12-17.


Former researcher awarded $1 in sexual harassment case

MINNEAPOLIS—A former University of Minnesota researcher was sexually harassed by a supervisor but suffered no actual damages, a federal jury in Minneapolis said Friday, March 17, after a two-week trial.

Stephanie Jenkins, a doctoral student who left school in 2012 after reporting the harassment, wanted compensation for the career she said she was unable to pursue.

But the judge instructed the jury to compensate her only for emotional pain and suffering and only that which was not caused by her quitting school.

Ultimately, the jury awarded Jenkins just $1, finding that the damages had no monetary value.

Jenkins was 29 in 2011 when she went on two two-week trips to Alaska with Ted Swem, a 59-year-old U.S. Fish and Wildlife scientist, to study falcons.

She said Swem took a photo of her backside, told sexually explicit jokes and pressed her for a romantic relationship.

Jenkins told the university about her concerns only after the second trip, when she and Swem were assigned a shared office on the Twin Cities campus. Her academic advisers moved her to a separate office but told her she would need to keep working with Swem.

Jenkins left school weeks later.

The jury Friday found the university was not liable for creating a hostile work environment, either because officials did not know about the harassment or acted quickly to correct it.