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Missouri man kills 2 over firewood, no charges due to ‘stand your ground’ law

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Missouri man kills 2 over firewood, no charges due to ‘stand your ground’ law

PLATTE CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City man will not be charged after prosecutors said he killed two men over a load of firewood near Parkville earlier this year. A grand jury declined to indict the gunman because of Missouri’s ‘stand your ground law,’ according to the Platte County Prosecutor.

“Missouri’s ‘stand your ground’ law means people do not have to retreat before using force to defend themselves if they are in a place they have a right to be. And while people can never use deadly force merely to protect property, they can use deadly force if they reasonably believe deadly force is necessary to protect themselves against death or serious physical injury,” Eric Zahnd, Platte County Prosecuting Attorney, said.

Kalob Lawson, 34, of Kimberling City, and Jonathan Lutz, 44, of Kansas City, were shot and killed on Feb. 10. Investigators said Lawson and Lutz were paid $200 to deliver a cord of firewood to a home in Platte County. They determined the homeowner paid for the firewood and then left as the men continued to unload the delivery.

Zahnd said the men stopped unloading the firewood and left the home shortly after the owner, delivering less firewood than the homeowner expected. The owner’s 22-year-old son saw what happened and chased after Lawson and Lutz in his own vehicle. He caught up with the men on the shoulder of eastbound 9 Highway.

According to court documents witnesses told investigators that the son stepped out of his vehicle and said something like, “Are you just going to rob my dad?”

Court documents then show that when Lawson and Lutz got out of their vehicle, Lawson was armed with a handgun. The son said Lawson and Lutz were walking toward him, and Lawson raised his gun and pointed it at the son. The son said he reached into his car, removed a gun, and fired multiple times.

Lawson was shot in the chest and face, and Lutz was hit in the abdomen and shoulder. Lawson died at the scene, and Lutz was transported to a hospital, where he later died.

“This is a tragic case in which two people died in a dispute over a mere $200 of firewood, and our thoughts and prayers are with their families. Ultimately, however, after carefully considering the facts and hearing from multiple witnesses, the grand jury found no crime had been committed in the shooting,” Zahnd said.

Lutz’s wife, Bobbie Dority, said Lutz was a father of two, and at the time of his death, they had another child on the way. Lawson left behind three children and a fiancé.

At the time of the shooting, the men’s loved ones said they were selling firewood to provide for their families.

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Trump tested COVID-positive pre-debate, ex-aide says in book

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Trump tested COVID-positive pre-debate, ex-aide says in book

By JILL COLVIN

Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19 three days before his first presidential debate in September 2020 with Joe Biden, according to a new book by Trump’s former chief of staff.

In “The Chief’s Chief,” obtained by The Guardian before its Dec. 7 release, Mark Meadows writes that the then-president received a negative test shortly after the positive test and resumed his usual activities, including attending the debate against his Democratic challenger. Trump on Wednesday called the story “Fake News.”

The revelation, if confirmed, would further show that the Trump White House did not take the virus seriously even as it spread among White House and campaign staff and eventually sent Trump to the hospital, where he required supplemental oxygen and experimental treatments.

The former president said Meadows’ story “of me having COVID prior to, or during, the first debate is Fake News. In fact, a test revealed that I did not have COVID prior to the debate.”

Meadows retweeted Trump’s statement. In an interview late Wednesday with Newsmax, Meadows said the story was being spun by the press.

“Well, the president’s right, it’s fake news,” Meadows said. “If you actually read the book, the context of it, that story outlined a false positive. Literally he had a test, had two other tests after that that showed that he didn’t have COVID during the debate.”

The book’s publisher, All Seasons Press, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The White House began a testing regimen for Trump’s senior aides and those who would be in contact with him after earlier positive cases. But aides repeatedly refused to disclose when Trump was tested the week of the debate, leading to speculation that he may have had COVID-19 while onstage with Biden.

Moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News had said previously that he believed Trump may have had COVID-19 at the time of the debate because of the virus’ incubation period. It typically takes several days between the time a person is exposed to the virus and when there is enough viral load to be detected.

Trump was 74 and Biden was 78 at the time, putting them at higher risk of serious complications from the virus. COVID-19 vaccines were not then available.

Trump announced in a tweet early on Oct. 2, 2020, that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus. He was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center later that day.

But Meadows writes that Trump received a positive test on Sept. 26, three days before the debate and the same day that he held a Rose Garden ceremony for his final Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, according to the paper. Trump traveled that evening to a rally in Pennsylvania.

Meadows, Trump’s fourth and final chief of staff, writes that he received a call from the White House doctor as Trump’s helicopter was lifting off from the White House for the rally. Meadows says he was informed that Trump had tested positive and was instructed to stop the president from departing.

When Meadows told Trump of the result, the president’s reply, according to The Guardian, “rhyme(d) with ‘Oh spit, you’ve gotta be trucking lidding me.’”

But Meadows said the test had been conducted with an old model kit and he told Trump it would be repeated with a newer version. After “a brief but tense wait,” Meadows reported that the second test had come back negative.

Trump took that result as “full permission to press on as if nothing had happened,” Meadows wrote, according to The Guardian. In subsequent days, he held news events, met with Gold Star families at the White House, attended several fundraisers and appeared at the debate.

On the day of the debate, Sept. 29, Meadows wrote that Trump looked slightly better — “emphasis on the word slightly.”

“His face, for the most part at least, had regained its usual light bronze hue, and the gravel in his voice was gone. But the dark circles under his eyes had deepened. As we walked into the venue around five o’clock in the evening, I could tell that he was moving more slowly than usual. He walked like he was carrying a little extra weight on his back,” Meadows was quoted as writing.

Meadows noted that both candidates were required to test negative for the virus within 72 hours of the debate, but wrote that, “Nothing was going to stop (Trump) from going out there.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s top medical adviser, who also served in the Trump administration, said he was not aware of the test results but anyone who tests positive should isolate from other people.

“I’m not going to specifically talk about who put who at risk, but I would say as I said, not only for any individual, but everybody, that if you test positive you should be quarantining yourself,” he said at a news briefing Wednesday.

Biden brushed off the report. “I don’t think about the former president,” he told reporters.

___

This story has been corrected to reflect that the book publisher is All Seasons Press, not All Season Press.

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Wizards dunk all over the Wolves

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Wizards dunk all over the Wolves

The Timberwolves’ defense that’s been so good this season was, well, not Wednesday in the nation’s capital.

The Wizards got dunk, after dunk, after dunk, after dunk in their 115-107 home victory over Minnesota. Washington scored 68 points — including 34 of its 45 made field goals — in the paint.

Washington tallied 18 dunks, per the play by play.

Minnesota looked a step slow for much of the night, as guys like Jarred Vanderbilt, Anthony Edwards and Jaylen Nowell played through illness.

The Wolves held Washington to 30-percent shooting on non-paint shots, but that didn’t matter much, because the Wizards were able to get the ball into the interior with such ease.

Washington attacked Minnesota’s point of attack pick-and-roll defense, using ball movement to find one easy look inside after another.

Minnesota relies on its wings to come down from the corner to serve as the “low man” protecting the paint on drives to the rim. That spot was rarely filled Wednesday.

“We didn’t have low man, and our weak side kept pulling out,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “I don’t know if it was fear of shooting or whatnot.”

Finch and Co. tried everything to shore up the paint defense, switching up coverages multiple times. That even included what looked to be a 1-2-2 zone late in the game. On the first possession of that look, Montrezl Harrell tallied another slam.

Harrell finished with 27 points on 11 for 12 shooting. Fellow center Daniel Gafford added 18 points and 10 rebounds on 7 for 10 shooting.

“I think guys were being a step slow. We were reacting a little late, I feel like pretty much on everything — low man, X outs, switching and stuff like that,” Vanderbilt said. “It caused a little confusion. I felt like we were so focused on the high wall, trying to contain (Wizards star guard Bradley Beal) that we opened up the roll a lot, and the roll got pretty fast, giving them a little lane. …They took advantage of that tonight.”

Minnesota was beat in every sense of the physicality battle. Improved rebounding had been the catalyst for the team’s recent run of success, but the Wizards outrebounded the Wolves 52-39 on Wednesday.

It got so bad that Finch turned to a three-man grouping of Karl-Anthony Towns, Naz Reid and Vanderbilt — Minnesota’s primary three bigs — on the floor at once late in the game to see if anyone could grab a board.

It still didn’t really happen.

“There was just too much space interior-wise, so guys were able to hop around and re-position themselves,” Finch said. “We didn’t hit first.”

Offensively, Washington single-covered Towns for much of the night, often with smaller defenders such as Kyle Kuzma. It was almost as if the Wizards were daring Towns to beat them.

He did for much of the night, finishing with 34 points on 11 for 25 shooting before exiting the game late after he slipped off the rim on a dunk and landed on his tailbone. Towns said his X-Rays were negative, and he felt “much better” after the game.

“I feel better than I thought I was going to feel. I was in extreme pain for sure. I don’t know how much I can divulge of it,” he said. “Just going to have to deal with it.”

Towns wouldn’t commit to playing Friday in Brooklyn, noting he’ll have to see how he feels Friday.

“I’m not going to rush it. I almost tried to go back in tonight,” Towns said. “I don’t know. I don’t know much it would’ve gave. But that’s the game of basketball. You got to keep fighting.”

In allowing Towns to go off, Washington (14-8) prevented Minnesota’s other players to get into a rhythm. D’Angelo Russell had an off night offensively, going 3 for 18 from the field, and 1 for 12 from deep.

“I thought he had clean looks early, and late I thought he was trying to make something happen out of nothing,” Finch said of Russell. “Shot selection in the fourth overall was not very good for us.”

The Wolves (11-11) shot just 30 percent from 3-point range as a team. Anthony Edwards finished with 25 points.

“For all the bad that happened tonight, I thought we gave ourselves a chance. Which is a good sign to know that even when we play probably some of our worst basketball of the year, we still felt we should’ve won the game and we were right there and we should’ve won,” Towns said. “Just minor things we have to clean up and we do that we’ll be in a better position.”

BRIEFLY

The Timberwolves’ ninth-annual broadcast auction raised more than $104,000 for the Fastbreak Foundation — a new record.

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Board votes to close six St. Paul schools over two years, moving 2,040 students

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Board votes to close six St. Paul schools over two years, moving 2,040 students

The St. Paul school board voted Wednesday night to close five schools next fall and a sixth in 2023, displacing around 2,040 students in an effort to create larger and more “well-rounded” schools with greater appeal to parents.

“This is our chance to build a strong foundation,” board member Jessica Kopp said.

The consolidation is one-third smaller than what Superintendent Joe Gothard and his administration called for in October. It was apparent at a meeting Monday that most board members weren’t going to support the larger plan in the face of vocal opposition from three school communities in particular.

Those schools, LEAP High and Wellstone and Highwood Hills elementary schools, were spared from closure in the 5-2 vote Wednesday.

“I’m not proud of this vote,” said Yusef Carrillo, a short-term board member in his final meeting, who opposed the consolidation when it included his family’s school, Wellstone, but voted in favor of the modified plan Wednesday. “I know deep down that future compositions of the board will be hesitant to pick this up again and will have to pick up a worse version of this.”

The consolidation is a response to persistent enrollment declines — due largely to increased charter competition — that have only accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic. The St. Paul district is down 3,500 students in the last three years — nearly 10 percent of its K-12 enrollment. The trend figures to continue in the coming years because of low birth rates in the city.

Gothard hoped he could turn things around by forming larger elementary schools, each with enough revenue to hire teacher specialists in the arts, social studies and gifted education, as well as a counselor, social worker and nurse.

Opposing the plan were John Brodrick and Zuki Ellis, both of whom also voted against a two-school merger in 2016. Brodrick said he expected opposition from families affected by the closures, but he heard broad complaints about the behind-the-scenes administrative process that produced the recommendations.

“We can never expect to halt declining enrollment until we restore trust,” he said.

FIVE TO CLOSE IN 2022

The schools that will close next fall are:

  • Galtier Elementary, whose 207 students are to merge with nearby Hamline as Galtier becomes an early learning hub.
  • Jackson Elementary, with 268 students. Some students would go to Maxfield, while those in the Hmong Dual Language Immersion program would merge at Phalen Lake.
  • Parkway Montessori Middle School, with 188 students. It would reopen immediately as the middle school for Phalen Lake’s Hmong studies students.
  • John A. Johnson Elementary, whose 258 students would merge at Bruce Vento and get a new building on the east half of the Vento property in the coming years.
  • L’Etoile du Nord French Immersion’s lower campus, sending its 150 students in grades pre-K-1 to the upper campus; the lower campus would become an early learning hub.

MONTESSORI MOVING, SPANISH ISN’T

The board also approved several entangled moves involving the fall 2023 closure of Obama Elementary, which has 250 students but a capacity of 875.

First, 173 students from Cherokee Heights Montessori would merge at JJ Hill’s Montessori program next year. Following a renovation, JJ Hill would close and move its students to Obama in either 2024 or 2025.

Also next fall, Cherokee Heights would become a community school, taking on 139 students from Riverview, the other West Side school.

However, breaking with Gothard’s recommendation, the district isn’t moving any new students into the West Side — leaving those campuses with 383 students divided across two buildings with a combined capacity of 1,120.

Riverview will continue to operate its two-way Spanish-English immersion program. But it will not take on immersion students from Wellstone.

Instead, Wellstone will remain open, keeping its 253-student Spanish-English immersion program and its 275 students on the BioSmart science side.

Board members balked at Gothard’s call to split up Wellstone, which already has a healthy enough enrollment to offer a well-rounded education.

SMALL SCHOOLS

LEAP High School, another program the school board saved, has 125 students, all recent immigrants. Gothard wanted to move them to existing language academies inside comprehensive high schools, but community members said students feel safer in their own alternative school.

In Highwood Hills, the school board saved a school with a capacity of 599 but just 196 enrolled — well short of what’s needed to have two classes per grade. Gothard’s administration had suggested closing the school and then working with nearby Somali-American families to create a more appealing school, but board members were not convinced.

The district today has roughly 16,000 students in elementary grades and room for around 8,000 more. The scaled-back consolidation will shrink elementary capacity by 2,100 — compared to about 3,800 in Gothard’s proposal.

TWO VOTES

Before the final vote on Wednesday, board member Jim Vue and Brodrick supported a failed motion to leave every school open in 2022.

Just before the meeting, Vue said, “My son came home from school and … said, ‘Dad, don’t close my school.’ I finally realized that I hadn’t really grappled with that I was closing his school.”

Board member Chauntyll Allen said she’s not looking forward to closing schools, but “I do know that we need to make some drastic changes. … Not closing right now could be detrimental to moving forward.”

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