I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.
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WILLMAR, Minn. — The lawyer for a man accused of tossing a raw pig's foot onto a table at the Willmar Farmers Market has filed another motion for dismissal, this one seeking dismissal of the most serious charge, which alleges bias.. Joseph Francis Fernkes, 61, of Willmar, faces three charges stemming from an incident in August. He is accused of throwing the raw pig's foot onto the table where Muslims from the local Somali community were selling vegetables. The vegetables could not be sold after the raw meat had been on the table.
WILLMAR, Minn. — A group of immigrants from east Africa has formed a nonprofit organization to help members of the Willmar community learn more about each other. The Community Integration Center in downtown Willmar is open to everyone, seven days a week. The center will act as a welcome center for people who have just moved to Willmar. Its founders hope they can help break down some cultural barriers, too. The services offered there will be free.
BENSON, Minn. — A Benson man faces 11 felony charges of possessing child pornography in addition to two felony charges related to his alleged attempts to solicit sex with a minor through electronic communications. Bradley Christopher Alsaker, 33, was arraigned Monday in Swift County District Court on the 13 felony charges. His next court appearance will be Dec. 18 in Benson.
WILLMAR, Minn. — Two Willmar Police Department officers are on standard administrative leave after an officer-involved shooting incident Sunday afternoon in northwest Willmar.
WILLMAR — Two men face felony and misdemeanor charges in connection with the alleged theft of a Pepsi pop machine in April from the front of the Drex Mart General Store in Lake Lillian. Dale Gary Greiner, 51, of Cosmos, and Justin Lamoine Hacker, 36, of Waite Park each face felony charges of theft and first-degree criminal damage to property, plus misdemeanor theft charges. The investigation involved deputies from three area sheriff's offices and was aided by a search warrant that had allowed placement of a tracking device on Greiner's vehicle.
WILLMAR, Minn. — After new seats have been installed in the auditorium at Willmar Senior High School, it will reopen in the fall as the Brau Performing Arts Center. The Willmar School Board approved the new name at its recent meeting. A grand opening and open house for the school's refurbished auditorium will be held in the fall.
WILLMAR, Minn. — A Willmar man who worked on a nearby dairy farm pleaded guilty Wednesday to kidnapping an 8-month-old baby in February from his ex-girlfriend. Angel Esparza-Mendez, 23, also known as Angel Esparza and Pedro Xavier Rivera-Lopez, has been held in the Kandiyohi County Jail in Willmar on $250,000 bail since his arrest Feb. 24. He is to be sentenced on the felony kidnapping with intent to terrorize conviction June 30.
SPICER, Minn. — U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson said he has co-sponsored a bill to allow foreign agricultural workers to work legally in this country. However, the bill has not had a hearing in 15 years, he said at a town hall Saturday. State Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, and state Sen. Andrew Lang, R-Olivia, joined Peterson in the 90-minute meeting. About 50 people attended the meeting at Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center in rural Spicer. The town hall started at the close of the center's Earth Day event.
WILLMAR, Minn. — Ridgewater College President Douglas Allen has told friends and colleagues that he has not been offered a contract renewal and will be leaving the college. In a letter emailed to friends Tuesday afternoon, Allen said he would be leaving the school when his current contract expires at the end of June. Allen has been Ridgewater president for 14 years. Ridgewater is part of Minnesota State, the state's network of four-year and two-year public higher education institutions. Ridgewater has campuses in Willmar and Hutchinson.