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A Los Angeles woman boarded a Greyhound bus in August. She has not been seen since.

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A Los Angeles Woman Boarded A Greyhound Bus In August. She Has Not Been Seen Since.
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Last month, a 34-year-old black woman left her Hollywood apartment and boarded a Greyhound bus in Los Angeles. Her family expected her to return to Atlanta, where she grew up, but ShaLisa Pratt has not been seen since leaving.

Now Pratt’s family is desperate for her, and Pratt has become another face added to California’s missing persons list.

“I never would have imagined this in my entire life,” Pratt’s husband Keith said. “She and I used to look at the missing pictures on the walls. And how crazy how a person can disappear, you know what I mean. Like it was a missing person and I was trying to do everything I could.

Shalisa Pratt's Personal Photo Shows Her Taking A Mirror Selfie While Sitting On A Double Bed.

ShaLisa Pratt, 34, moved out of her Los Angeles apartment on August 22. (Courtesy of the family)

On August 22, Pratt’s husband called her mother, Felisha Bridget-Smith, to report that her daughter had grown away from him as she was going through a “mental health crisis.” No one has heard from him since.

“It’s very strange that my daughter isn’t calling any of us, when she was already calling to let us know everything that was going on with her,” Bridget-Smith told Yahoo News.

Pratt said his wife broke down and left him heading to the Greyhound bus station in downtown Los Angeles, likely to head back east to Atlanta, where his mother lives. He was able to locate her through his phone and found her at the train station, but he couldn’t stop her leaving on the bus, he said. He then told ShaLisa’s family that he called his wife’s phone somewhere in San Bernardino near a Greyhound station.

“It wasn’t even his stop, so we don’t know what made him get off at that stop. [in San Bernardino]like she could have gone on,” Pratt told Yahoo News during a two-hour chat.

“The worst thing for me is that I felt like I had a chance to stop her when I ran into her at the Greyhound station in LA, but I never knew she wouldn’t get from point A to point B.”

Although she hadn’t heard of her daughter, Bridget-Smith waited at the Atlanta bus station around the time a bus from Southern California arrived, in case ShaLisa was there. Her daughter never showed up, and Bridget-Smith immediately booked a ticket to Los Angeles with the help of Pratt’s husband.

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Online flyer showing ShaLisa Pratt tweeted by the Los Angeles Police Department’s Missing Persons Unit on August 30. San Bernardino police are now on the case. (Credit: LAPD)

“The biggest red flag for us is that this thing has happened before, I think a month ago. [in July]and she got a Greyhound ticket and she called us with the information,” Ebonee Best, sister of ShaLisa, an active duty member who is stationed in Germany, said in a chat with Yahoo News.

“She sent us a picture of her ticket to let us know, ‘Hey, here’s my route for my bus and I’m going to turn off my phone’ so you know her husband couldn’t track her. And then when she would arrive at a certain destination, she would turn her phone back on and contact us. She ended up getting off the bus and going back to her husband for the first time. So that’s why when he called my mother and told us all this information, we said to ourselves: OK, something is strange, because she didn’t tell us anything.

The family filed a report with the San Bernardino police on August 23 and the Los Angeles Police Department on August 26 listing ShaLisa, or Lee as they call her, as missing from her Hollywood apartment.

The LAPD’s Missing Persons Unit confirmed to Yahoo News that the San Bernardino Police Department is now solely handling the case. A representative said they would take over the case if evidence showed she could still be in Los Angeles.

Both departments said that, based on the family’s account, they consider ShaLisa Pratt to be a “voluntarily missing person,” meaning she left of her own free will.

Surveillance Footage Shows Shalisa Pratt Walking Down A Hallway In Her Unit In Hollywood On The Morning Of August 22. Surveillance Footage Shows Shalisa Pratt Walking Down A Hallway In Her Unit In Hollywood On The Morning Of August 22.

Still image from surveillance video showing ShaLisa Pratt leaving her unit in Hollywood on the morning of August 22. Her family has confirmed that the video footage shows ShaLisa. (Courtesy of the family)

ShaLisa was last seen on camera at her Hollywood apartment, according to surveillance footage from the building. Then, at the Greyhound station in San Bernardino, employees reportedly noticed someone responding to her description and said she was forced out of the station for stealing someone’s suitcase.

“That’s when [LAPD] called me first and then they said they dropped the missing person case in Los Angeles…because they are confident that through their search and investigation she was seen for the last time in San Bernardino, during the incident at Greyhound station,” Pratt said.

Police said they did not suspect foul play, Pratt said.

ShaLisa’s entire immediate family, including her sisters and stepfather, traveled to California to find her. They visited hotels, mental health centers and nearby homes, but found no trace of ShaLisa.

“She brought everyone together. We are all here in LA for her. Because she knows that my little girl is currently a student in Valdosta, Ga., my [other] my daughter is stationed in Germany, I’m in Atlanta and we’re all here,” her mother told Yahoo News. “We all put a pause in our lives to come here to find her.”

The latest development in the case is a potential video of ShaLisa captured at the San Bernardino bus station. Her family say police in that area are working to find the footage to piece together clues to her whereabouts.

Shalisa Pratt Is Shown Posing With A Takeaway Drink In Front Of A Large Plastic Santa Claus. Shalisa Pratt Is Shown Posing With A Takeaway Drink In Front Of A Large Plastic Santa Claus.

Another photo of ShaLisa Pratt, 34. (Courtesy of the family)

Darrin Giglio, a private missing persons investigator, is not involved in the case, but gave insight into how police typically investigate when someone is missing.

“The most important thing is to get the most detailed information and take statements from people who know the missing person,” he told Yahoo News. “Let’s say your wife is missing, the husband, who she lives with, will probably have the most up-to-date information. So you should immediately get all the detailed information about everything leading up to that day where all activities were missed.

Combining data from the Census and the National Crime Information Center, nearly 40% of people reported missing in the United States in 2021 were people of color, but black Americans make up just 13% of the population. Cases involving missing people of color rarely attract as much coverage as missing white people, studies have shown.

The Black and Missing Foundation attributes the disparity in coverage to adults of color labeled as associated with criminal, drug, or gang activity; the belief that people of color live in conditions of poverty, which leads to desensitization to such cases; and children labeled as runaways, as opposed to missing.

A 2016 study from Northwestern University broke down the phrase “missing white woman syndrome,” a term coined to highlight the more widespread media coverage of white women who go missing, as opposed to the rest of the population. The research looked at specific media outlets and the intensity of coverage devoted to missing persons from different demographic groups.

The study analyzes in part the online coverage of missing persons by four media outlets, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, CNN, the Star Tribune and the Chicago Tribune. He reports, “In Phase I of the analysis, blacks are significantly underrepresented in the missing persons population that were covered by these four websites compared to the black subset of the FBI population.”

“When you look at the number of articles published on individuals in stage I, missing black people are even more underrepresented…”

In 2021, 10,235 adults were reported missing in Los Angeles County, according to the California Department of Justice. Of these, 9,132 were designated as willfully missing, 599 were unknown and 73 were considered suspects.

“The majority of missing persons cases are resolved within days or weeks,” according to the LAPD. It has now been over three weeks since ShaLisa disappeared.

Photo Of The Missing Woman, Shalisa Pratt.  His Mother, Felisha Bridget-Pratt Says She Has Not Heard From Him Since His Disappearance.  (Credit: Lapd) Photo Of The Missing Woman, Shalisa Pratt.  His Mother, Felisha Bridget-Pratt Says She Has Not Heard From Him Since His Disappearance.  (Credit: Lapd)

Photo of the missing woman, ShaLisa Pratt. His mother, Felisha Bridget-Pratt says she has not heard from him since his disappearance. (Credit: LAPD)

Giglio said there are many variables to consider when someone goes missing, including whether they left of their own accord.

“Deadlines are super important, like: when was the last time people spoke to him [and] saw her?” he said. “How did the person disappear? Were they on foot? [Did] they have a vehicle? These are going to be very important. Everyone has their smartphones and devices, when did they access them? The [are] bank statements, do they make withdrawals after they disappear? »

Giglio noted that police departments can be busy elsewhere in smaller towns, which typically don’t have dedicated missing persons departments. Even the LAPD recommends that families hire a missing persons investigator if a relative has been missing for at least several months. Pratt said he hired one.

ShaLisa’s mother and her husband are not working together in the search, but both say they believe they will find her safe and sound.

“We feel like she’s over there. … But overall, we just pray that our thoughts are correct, that she is still alive and well, wherever she is, she just has no way to contact us,” said Bridget Smith.

Anyone with information regarding the case is urged to contact San Bernardino Police or the LAPD Missing Persons Unit at (213) 996-1800 or, after hours, 1-877-LAPD -24-7.

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Medical bills can be crippling. Mayo Clinic’s charity care may be lacking

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Ge Bai Is An Accounting And Health Policy Professor At Johns Hopkins University, Who Published Research Reports On Charity Care In 2021 And 2022. (Contributed / Ge Bai)
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The bills from Mayo Clinic were piling up, and Megan Bass felt hopeless.

Bass visited Mayo Clinic in October 2021 to get a medical device inserted to resolve her chronic bladder issues. After the surgery, she received a $3,110 bill. Just the cost of meeting her $3,000 health insurance deductible would deplete her savings.

“It’s not the most responsible thing to do, but I would hide my mail because I was too scared to look at it,” said Bass, 22, who works two jobs, as a school paraprofessional and a Kwik Trip cashier in New Prague, Minn. “I avoided my problems until the collection notice arrived.”

Fortunately, as she scrolled through TikTok one day she discovered charity care.

Every nonprofit hospital, including Mayo Clinic, is required by the Affordable Care Act to establish free or discounted care policies, known as “charity care” or “financial assistance,” for eligible, often low-income patients in order to maintain and justify the hospital’s tax-exempt status.

With support from Dollar For, a nonprofit that works with patients to relieve medical debt, Bass applied for charity care through Mayo Clinic and was approved. However, only half of her bill was covered, so Bass submitted an appeal and awaits Mayo Clinic’s decision. Mayo Clinic responded that it cannot comment on an appeal in process.

“It would be incredible if it was completely covered,” Bass said. “It would be a big lift off my shoulders.”

Ge Bai, an accounting and health policy professor who researches charity care at Johns Hopkins University, said what hospitals currently allocate each year toward charity care is insufficient, especially considering the tax subsidies nonprofit hospitals enjoy, and the prevalence of medical debt.

Ge Bai is an accounting and health policy professor at Johns Hopkins University, who published research reports on charity care in 2021 and 2022. (Contributed / Ge Bai)

This is true for Mayo Clinic, where charity care spending, Bai noted, is on the “lower end” compared to other nonprofit hospitals.

U.S. News & World Report, which has ranked Mayo Clinic as the top hospital in the U.S. seven years in a row, described Mayo Clinic’s charity care contributions as “significantly lower than other hospitals” in its 2022 rankings.

In 2021, Mayo Clinic spent 0.34 percent of its expenses on charity care. That percentage is a standard way of measuring how much free care hospitals provide. By this measurement, Mayo Clinic spent less as a percentage on charity care in 2021 than Olmsted Medical Center. In fact, every hospital with available data in the top 10 of U.S. News’ rankings, with the exception of Stanford Hospital, ranked above Mayo Clinic for charity care.

Bai said Mayo Clinic is probably not a “bad actor” like the hospital exposed in a recent charity care investigation by the New York Times. It’s also not alone in its insufficient spending. In recent years, none of the nonprofit hospitals ranked in the top 10 nor any in southeastern Minnesota meets the national average of 2.3%, according to Bai’s 2021 research report. Bai said a quarter of nonprofit hospitals spend less than 0.7%.

“Taxpayers are putting their faith in nonprofit hospitals and subsidizing them with the expectation that they’re benefiting the community and helping vulnerable patients avoid medical debt,” Bai said. “Financially strong nonprofit hospitals need to be doing more to make it a fair exchange.”

INSUFFICIENT CONTRIBUTIONS

Until 2021, Mayo Clinic was contributing almost twice as large a portion of its expenses on charity care — between 0.6 percent and 0.8 percent since 2015.

In 2021, Mayo Clinic spent $49 million on charity care, $40 million less than in 2020, and less than every year for the past 15 years. This drop came despite the fact that its 1.4 million patient volume was consistent with the previous year and its revenue grew by $1.8 billion.

Kelley Luckstein, Mayo Clinic spokeswoman, said the “significant reduction” in 2021 was due to a decreased need for charity care since more patients were covered by Medicaid and recipients of financial assistance through national COVID-19 pandemic relief measures. The Post Bulletin asked for data to determine if fewer people applied for charity care in 2021 compared to 2020, but Mayo Clinic declined to respond, saying it couldn’t get into that level of detail.

“Mayo Clinic is committed to providing high-quality, high-value care for all its patients, and to ensuring that financial considerations are not an obstacle between patients and the care they need,” Luckstein said.

Bai called it a “red flag” that Mayo Clinic decreased its charity care spending at such a rapid pace given the fact that more people struggled financially during the pandemic and Mayo Clinic had more financial leverage with $15.7 billion in revenue — a 13 percent growth in revenue from 2020. Although most of the top 10 hospitals with available data spent less in 2021 than in 2020, Mayo Clinic showed the sharpest decrease.

Minnesota Hospital Association said that it didn’t have complete 2021 data, but that its member hospitals collectively increased charity care spending by 7 percent from 2019 to 2020. Meanwhile, Mayo Clinic, which is not a member of MHA, decreased its spending by 8 percent, or $7 million.

While Luckstein said Mayo Clinic’s spending will likely return to pre-pandemic levels this year, Bai said that’s still not enough.

All financially-strong nonprofit hospitals, not just Mayo Clinic, should be spending more and making charity care more accessible, Bai said. They should be spreading awareness, providing application support and expanding eligibility criteria. Few patients know about charity care now, and those who do know struggle because of the burdensome application process.

Ruth Lande, vice president of hospital relations at RIP Medical Debt, agreed that what hospitals spend is insufficient, but she said it’s unfair to expect hospital charity care to solve a broken medical financial system.

“I think hospitals are unfairly blamed for contributing to medical debt,” said Lande, whose organization works to alleviate medical debt. “Financial assistance is one aspect, but it’s a multifaceted issue. We need to advocate for a new system where people don’t have high deductible plans and where people have affordable health insurance that actually covers everything.”

Erica Dowden, patient advocate lead with Dollar For, said that while she agrees that medical debt is a systemic issue, she doesn’t want to cut hospitals the same slack.

“These nonprofit hospitals receive billions of dollars in tax breaks and are supposed to be a benefit to the community,” Dowden said. “But when you have patients who are thousands of dollars in debt after going to your facility, and they can’t pay it, and they can’t afford to go back for more services because of debt owed, you are no longer a benefit to the community.”

COMMUNITY BENEFIT

“Community benefit” is an Internal Revenue Service standard for all nonprofit hospitals. Mayo Clinic meets this standard in a number of ways besides charity care, such as advancing medical education and operating an emergency room open to all regardless of ability to pay, but Bai said that charity care spending is the only quantifiable factor that the IRS uses to determine if the community benefit standard is being met.

The IRS does not specify a minimum amount that hospitals need to spend towards charity care to maintain their nonprofit status, but Bai said nonprofit hospitals, at a minimum, should contribute to the community at a dollar amount equal to the taxpayer subsidy.

Many nonprofit hospitals miss the mark.

According to the Lown Institute, a nonpartisan think tank that recently published its 2022 hospital fair share spending rankings, 83 percent of hospital systems evaluated spent less on charity care and community investment than the estimated value of their tax breaks — what Lown Institute calls a “fair share deficit.” Mayo Clinic’s fair share deficit is $328 million, the 11th worst in the country.

Mayo Clinic disagrees with Lown Institute’s methodology, which does not account for the research and education missions of academic medical centers such as Mayo, and omits other categories of community investment and assistance.

“Charity care is just one of many ways Mayo contributes to patients and communities we serve,” said Justin Furst, a Mayo Clinic spokesman. “In 2021, we provided more than $601 million in unpaid portions of Medicaid and indigent care. We contributed over $11 million in 2021 in the communities we serve to support hundreds of nonprofit organizations, address health needs and assist those in need. In 2020, Mayo committed to spending $100 million within 10 years to end racism, address health disparities, and advance equity and inclusion, and that work continues.”

While Mayo Clinic and other nonprofit hospitals may tout other public benefit spending as proof that they are meeting the “community benefit standard,” Bai said these amounts should not be lumped in with charity care and that charity care alone is the most important factor in determining whether a hospital is fulfilling its obligation to give back to the vulnerable in the community.

“Charity care spending is the most direct reflection of a nonprofit hospital’s charitable actions,” Bai said.

In fact, Bai’s research found nonprofit hospitals, on average, direct a smaller percentage of their expenses towards charity care than for-profit hospitals do, even though for-profit hospitals do not receive favorable tax benefits. She said this is a sign that high-revenue nonprofit hospitals, like Mayo Clinic, could and should be spending more.

“Nonprofit hospitals are always balancing between their financial objectives and their social objectives,” Bai said, “but in many cases, they prioritize their financial goals.”

PART OF THE SOLUTION

After falling out of her bed one morning, Brittany Leary’s knee swelled to four times its normal size. Leary, a child care provider at the Wisconsin Falls YMCA, headed to her local hospital, Aspirus Riverview in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., and was diagnosed with a torn meniscus.

Brittany Leary, 27, Applied For Charity Care After Receiving An Unaffordable Mri Bill For Her Torn Meniscus. (Contributed / Brittany Leary)
Brittany Leary, 27, applied for charity care after receiving an unaffordable MRI bill for her torn meniscus. (Contributed / Brittany Leary)

A few weeks later, the hospital served her with a lab work and MRI bill for $3,340. Her health insurance deductible was $6,500, so she was expected to pay the full cost out of pocket.

Leary and her boyfriend had been saving to buy a house, and she was planning to go back to school to get her bachelor’s degree, but her hospital put her on a $700 per month payment plan — more than her rent payment. Once the bill arrived, she said, she saw her dreams start to fade.

“With that payment plan, a house or school wouldn’t be an option,” Leary said. “It would mean not even being able to go out for a night at a restaurant. It would literally be all the money that I had.”

Unaffordable bills like the ones Leary and Bass received are often unavoidable, and hospital charity care is one of the few options available to alleviate the impact of high medical costs.

Caitlin Donovan, senior director at the Patient Advocate Foundation, said it is especially important given the current landscape of medical debt.

The Kaiser Family Foundation reported in 2022 that four in 10 adults in the U.S. have some form of health care debt. In Minnesota, nearly 750,000 adult residents, or 17 percent, have medical bills in collection, according to the 2018 U.S. Financial Capability Study.

Donovan, whose nonprofit provides free case management to anyone diagnosed with a serious or chronic health condition, said that although charity care alone won’t solve medical debt, it’s a crucial component.

“Every hospital should expand its charity care program,” said Donovan. “You can go to a hospital for four hours and come out with a $40,000 bill. It’s life-changing and there’s no protection against that. Charity care offers some relief.”

This was true for Leary, who, with help from Dollar For, applied for and received hospital financial assistance to cover her bill in full.

“It meant the world to me,” Leary said. “I had all these things planned that I didn’t think I could do anymore and once I was approved, I got hope back. I was like, OK, I can do this.”

The Post Bulletin’s Jeff Kiger contributed to this report.

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Chinese billionaire Richard Liu settles Minneapolis rape allegation

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Chinese Billionaire Richard Liu Settles Minneapolis Rape Allegation
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Chinese billionaire and JD.com founder Richard Liu agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by a former University of Minnesota student who alleged he raped her in her Minneapolis apartment after a night of dinner and drinks with wealthy Chinese executives in 2018, attorneys for both sides announced late Saturday.

A settlement amount was not disclosed.

Richard Liu, who stepped down as the CEO of Beijing-based e-commerce company JD.com this year amid increased government scrutiny of China’s technology industry, has denied raping the woman, Jingyao Liu, and prosecutors never filed criminal charges. A joint statement from attorneys for both sides called the encounter “a misunderstanding.”

“The incident between Ms. Jingyao Liu and Mr. Richard Liu in Minnesota in 2018 resulted in a misunderstanding that has consumed substantial public attention and brought profound suffering to the parties and their families,” the joint statement said. “Today, the parties agreed to set aside their differences, and settle their legal dispute in order to avoid further pain and suffering caused by the lawsuit.”

The settlement was announced just two days before the civil trial was set to begin Monday in a Minneapolis courtroom. On Friday, a jury of seven men and five women were picked to hear the case.

Richard Liu is a celebrity in China, part of a generation of entrepreneurs who created the country’s internet, e-commerce, mobile phone and other technology industries since the late 1990s. Forbes estimated his wealth at $10.9 billion on Saturday.

Jingyao Liu alleges the attack happened in 2018 while Richard Liu was in Minneapolis for a weeklong residency in the University of Minnesota’s doctor of business administration China program, geared toward high-level executives in China.

Jingyao Liu, a Chinese citizen, was at the university on a student visa and was a volunteer in the program at the time. The Associated Press does not generally name people alleging sexual assault, but Jingyao Liu has agreed to be identified publicly.

Jingyao Liu was 21 and Richard Liu was in his mid-40s at the time, the lawsuit said. They are not related.
Richard Liu, also known as Liu Qiangdong, was arrested on suspicion of felony rape in August 2018, but prosecutors said the case had “profound evidentiary problems” and declined to file criminal charges.

Jingyao Liu sued Richard Liu and JD.com in 2019, alleging sexual assault and battery, along with false imprisonment.

The case drew widespread attention at a time when the #MeToo movement was gaining traction in China. Richard Liu’s supporters and opponents waged aggressive public relations campaigns on Chinese social media; censors shut down some accounts that supported Jingyao Liu for “violating regulations.”

Jingyao Liu said in her lawsuit that she had to withdraw from classes in fall 2018 and seek counseling and treatment. Her attorney said she has since graduated but has post-traumatic stress disorder. She sought compensatory as well as punitive damages from Richard Liu.

Her lawsuit said she was seeking more than $50,000, a standard figure that must be listed in Minnesota if a plaintiff intends to seek any larger amount. She was expected to ask a jury to award much more.

On the night of the alleged attack, according to the lawsuit, Richard Liu and other executives went to a Japanese restaurant in Minneapolis and one of the men invited Jingyao Liu at Richard Liu’s request.

She felt coerced to drink as the powerful men toasted her, and Richard Liu said she would dishonor him if she did not join in, her lawsuit claimed.

According to text messages reviewed by The Associated Press and Jingyao Liu’s interviews with police, she said that after the dinner Richard Liu pulled her into a limousine and groped her despite her protests. She said he raped her at her apartment. At one point, she texted a friend: “I begged him don’t. But he didn’t listen.”

Her friend notified police, who went to her apartment. Jingyao Liu told one officer, “I was raped but not that kind of rape,” according to police. When asked to explain, she changed the subject and said Richard Liu was famous and she was afraid. She told the officer that the sex was “spontaneous” and she did not want police to get involved.

Police said they released Richard Liu because “it was unclear if a crime had actually taken place.” In a later interview with an investigator, Richard Liu said the sex was consensual and the woman “enjoyed the whole process very much.”

Jingyao Liu told a police sergeant that she wanted to talk with Richard Liu’s attorney and threatened to go to the media if she did not, according to police. Richard Liu’s former attorney recorded the phone call, in which Jingyao Liu said she didn’t want the case to be in the newspaper and “I just need payment money and apologize and that’s all.”

A recording of the phone call was expected to be played as evidence at trial. Surveillance videos from the restaurant, the restaurant’s exterior and the halls of the woman’s apartment complex were also expected to be played for jurors.

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Felicia Znajda carries on a family tradition as a DNR conservation officer

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Man In Uniform, Glasses And Baseball Cap With Agency Crest Stands In Front Of Truck And Building.
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She’d heard the stories from her father and grandfather — of late-night patrols, of days both nice and not-so-nice spent outdoors checking hunters and anglers, and of the adventures and occasional misadventures that go with a career in which no two days are the same.

For Felicia Znajda, that was enough to steer her toward a career in fish and wildlife enforcement.

“It always changes,” she said. “There’s no such thing as a routine day.”

A 2013 graduate of Stephen-Argyle High School in Minnesota and 2017 graduate of the University of North Dakota, Felicia Znajda (pronounced za-NAY-da) spent five years with the East Grand Forks Police Department before getting accepted into the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Conservation Officer Academy. The 16-week program trains candidates for careers in natural resources enforcement.

Upon graduating from the academy on Sept. 13, she became the third generation in her family to work in natural resources enforcement.

Like father, like daughter, you might say. And like grandfather before her.

“I wanted to start out at a police department, but I knew I wanted to get into wildlife,” she said.

Felicia’s dad, Capt. Pat Znajda of East Grand Forks, who is retiring from the DNR on Oct. 4 after 17 years with the agency and nearly 36 years in enforcement, pinned the badge on his daughter during a graduation ceremony at Camp Ripley Military Reservation near Little Falls, Minn.

He also pinned a badge on his son, Taylor, who graduated in October 2021 from the Minnesota State Patrol Academy and now is a state trooper in Hibbing. The opportunity to pin badges on both children in the past year has been a career highlight, says Pat, a Warren native and 1987 UND graduate who spent 16½ years with the Minnesota State Patrol before joining the DNR in October 2005.

If not for those opportunities, Znajda says he probably would have retired a couple of years ago. “I’m very proud of them both,” he said of Taylor and Felicia. “They work for outstanding law enforcement agencies, and they both carry on a family tradition.”

Family footsteps

Pat Znajda started his DNR career as a conservation officer in Karlstad, Minn., before being promoted to lieutenant and becoming District 1 Enforcement supervisor in October 2007. He became a captain and was Northwest Region Enforcement manager from January 2020 to July 2021, at which time he took his latest position as program manager for DNR Enforcement.

Felicia’s grandfather, Ted Znajda, started his career in 1949 as a “refuge patrolman” at Norris Camp, known today as headquarters of Red Lake Wildlife Management Area. Ted Znajda worked as a game warden and conservation officer in Warren from 1959 until retiring in 1989.

He died in December 2000 at the age of 76.

Ted Znajda was a game warden and conservation officer in Warren, Minnesota, from 1959 until retiring in 1989. His son, Pat, and granddaughter, Felicia, followed in his footsteps to become conservation officers for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. (Contributed / Pat Znajda)

“I was pretty young when he passed away — I was like 5 or 6 — but I still remember sitting on the back deck at his house and listening to him and my dad talk,” Felicia said during a recent interview at the DNR’s Northwest Region Headquarters in Bemidji. “Listening to my dad and all the stories that he’s been able to tell me is what really drew me.”

Like his daughter, Pat Znajda says his interest in fish and wildlife enforcement came from his days riding around on patrol with his dad, something that wouldn’t be allowed for conservation officers today.

The DNR changed the title of its enforcement officers from “game warden” to “conservation officer” in the late 1960s to better reflect the nature of the job.

“I can remember lots of times as a little kid, waking up in the middle of the night — 3 o’clock in the morning — hearing people talk, and I’d go out in the kitchen,” he said. “I’d sit down on the floor and there’d be three or four game wardens around the table, and they’d just come in from the night working, and I’d sit there listening to the stories and probably fall asleep on the floor.”

Graduation surprise

Felicia’s graduation from the Conservation Officer Academy came with an emotional surprise. In a break from standard protocol, she now wears Badge No. 86, the same badge her grandfather wore as a DNR conservation officer.

Capt. Pat Znajda Of The Minnesota Department Of Natural Resources' Enforcement Division Pins The Same Badge Worn By His Father, Ted Znajda, On His Daughter, Felicia Znajda, On Sept. 13, During Her Graduation From The Dnr'S Conservation Academy At Camp Ripley Near Little Falls, Minnesota. (Contributed / Lisa Dugan, Minnesota Dnr)
Capt. Pat Znajda of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Enforcement Division pins the same badge worn by his father, Ted Znajda, on his daughter, Felicia Znajda, on Sept. 13, during her graduation from the DNR’s Conservation Academy at Camp Ripley near Little Falls, Minnesota. (Contributed / Lisa Dugan, Minnesota DNR)

Originally, Felicia says, she thought she was going to receive Badge No. 671.

“On graduation day, when they gave me Badge 671, my dad pulls out my grandpa’s badge from the ’60s and then pinned Badge No. 86 on me,” Felicia said. “So, I think I’m the first one ever to be able to reuse a badge number.”

Col. Rodmen Smith, director of the DNR’s Enforcement Division, gave the OK to reuse the badge, Pat Znajda says.

“He was all for it,” Znajda said. “In the late ’60s, when they went from game wardens to conservation officers, they issued badge numbers by seniority, and my dad was Badge No. 86 — and he’s the only one that ever wore that badge.

“I know he would be extremely proud.”

Training continues

Felicia now is spending four months in field training with DNR conservation officer Jordan Anderson in Wadena. She’ll be stationed in Osakis beginning in January.

“Ideally, I kind of wanted to get anywhere like the Alexandria or Detroit Lakes kind of area, so Osakis was perfect,” she said.

There have been many changes in a conservation officer’s job duties even since he joined the DNR in 2005, Pat Znajda says; technology is a big one.

“Even when I started, we had tickets that we’d write out — now they’re all computerized,” he said. “People (Felicia’s) age know no different, but for me, it was a huge adjustment.”

Compared with his father’s days in fish and wildlife enforcement, the changes are even more considerable, he says.

“You go back to the 1970s, even when they were doing boat and water enforcement, they weren’t allowed to carry guns,” Pat Znajda said. “That has evolved into we’re fully armed all of the time.”

Also gone are the days of blowing up beaver dams and picking up roadkill deer.

“We’ve gotten away from some of that,” he said. “From some of that fish and wildlife (focus) to more law enforcement and education — education is a big part of what we do, as well.”

Today’s conservation officer workforce also is more diverse, both in terms of female officers and minorities, Pat Znajda says.

“I don’t know the percentage, but we have a significant amount,” he said. “We can probably still do better attracting more females and attracting more minorities, but we’re striving for that. I think we’re doing better.”

Of the 18 recent academy graduates, Felicia was one of seven to come from traditional law enforcement backgrounds. The other 11 were “preppers” who came to the DNR through the agency’s Conservation Officer Prep Program for prospective officers with at least a two-year college degree.

The differences between now and her grandfather’s day are “like night and day,” she says.

Still, the goal remains the same: protecting the state’s fish and wildlife.

“It never fails,” Felicia said. “When I go up to Warren, kind of where my grandpa used to work, I will go into a gas station, and someone will come up to me, and they’ll be like, ‘Was your grandpa Ted?’ And I’m like, ‘Yes’ — I have no idea how they know this — and then they’ll tell me a story about a contact that they had with him 50 years ago.

“I hope to make the same impact that I think that my grandpa and my dad did, going into this field.”

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Ravens coach John Harbaugh defends late fourth-down decision in loss to Bills: ‘The best chance to win the game’

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Ravens Coach John Harbaugh Defends Late Fourth-Down Decision In Loss To Bills: ‘The Best Chance To Win The Game’
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The Ravens’ 23-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday afternoon will be remembered for many things. But Baltimore’s decision to forgo a chip-shot field goal that would’ve broken a 20-20 tie and instead go for it on fourth-and-goal at the 2-yard line with 4:45 remaining left many at M&T Bank Stadium scratching their heads.

After having second-and-goal from the 1, and after Jackson’s scramble up the middle on third down came up 2 yards short, coach John Harbaugh elected to keep the offense on the field instead of sending kicker Justin Tucker out to attempt what would’ve been a 19-yard go-ahead field goal. The result? An interception, Jackson’s second of the day, in the corner of the end zone. Baltimore never had another possession, but Harbaugh said it was a decision he thought gave Baltimore “the best chance to win the game.”

“Because seven [points], the worst that happens is if they go down the field and score — and I think we’ll get them stopped — but if they go down the field and score a touchdown, the worst thing that can happen is you’re in overtime,” said Harbaugh, explaining his thought process on the Ravens trying to score a touchdown. “But [if] you kick a field goal there, it’s not a three-down game anymore, it’s a four-down game.”

Harbaugh said he didn’t want to put the defense at a disadvantage, adding: “[The Bills] got four downs to convert down the field and a chance to again score seven, and then you lose the game on a touchdown.”

Instead, Harbaugh’s plan backfired.

As a pair of Bills defenders closed in on Jackson, who had to escape the pocket while backpedaling to his right, he threw to wide receiver Devin Duvernay in the corner of the end zone, where the ball was intercepted by Buffalo safety Jordan Poyer.

Harbaugh was confident in the defense’s ability to stop the Bills near the goal line, but the interception gave Buffalo the ball at its 20-yard line, and it would go 77 yards on 12 plays to set up Tyler Bass’ game-winning 21-yard field goal as time expired.

“It didn’t turn out that way, unfortunately, and we lost the game,” Harbaugh said. “So, in hindsight, you could take the points, but if you look at it analytically, understand why we did it.”

Jackson said he was fine with going for it on fourth down, adding: “If we had executed on third down, there wouldn’t have even been that question. Nobody would be disappointed.”

The numbers agree, albeit only slightly. According to the fourth-down decision bot created by The Athletic’s Ben Baldwin, going for the touchdown instead of the field goal increased the Ravens’ chance to win by roughly 2 percentage points. A field goal in that situation gave the Ravens a 63% chance to win, but a touchdown gave them a 65% chance of victory. The Ravens had a 47% chance of scoring from the 2-yard line, according to the decision bot, while a field-goal by Tucker from that distance would be virtually automatic. However, if the Ravens had succeeded in scoring a touchdown, their chance to win would increase to 83% as opposed to 63% with a successful field goal.

Jackson said he had a hard time looking over Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson as the play was breaking down.

“I couldn’t see what was going on,” Jackson said. “I tried to get back some more but it was too late.”

The Ravens under Harbaugh have never had a problem taking risks. During last year’s matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs, Harbaugh asked Jackson whether he wanted to go for it on fourth down with 1:04 left. Jackson said, “Hell yeah,” before running up the middle for a first down to secure the Week 2 victory.

Still, those gutsy decisions from Baltimore didn’t always have happy endings. In a Week 13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last year, Jackson’s pass to tight end Mark Andrews on a 2-point conversion attempt with 16 seconds left fell incomplete in a 20-19 loss. Two weeks later, the Ravens again decided to pass up on the chance to tie the game and failed to convert a go-ahead 2-point conversion against the Green Bay Packers.

Andrews said the Ravens needed to be “a little bit sharper” on that fourth down play on Sunday, but he remains confident in their ability to execute in those situations moving forward.

“I love that Coach [Harbaugh] trusts us to do that,” Andrews said. “Hopefully, we get another opportunity like that, and we will be ready to go.”

CB Marcus Peters animated on sideline

As the Bills’ field goal unit came out to win the game in the final seconds, cornerback Marcus Peters was clearly upset and was seen screaming in frustration as he walked toward the sideline.

Peters began to take his anger out on Harbaugh. They exchanged words while getting in each other’s faces before the veteran cornerback was held back by passing game coordinator and secondary coach Chris Hewitt and went into the locker room.

“Emotions run high. We’re on the same page, he and I. We have a great relationship; we have an honest relationship. I love him, I hope he still loves me; we’ll see,” Harbaugh joked. “I’m a Marcus Peters guy.”

Veteran defensive end Calais Campbell said he doesn’t think the team’s frustrations after blowing another double-digit lead at home will impact them moving forward.

“We all just want to win,” Campbell said. “The goal is to win the ball game, and I think with the brotherhood we have, we’re going to challenge each other, we’re going to communicate with passion because it’s a passionate game. At the end of the day though, everybody here is on the same page.”

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QBs Daniel Jones, Tyrod Taylor both hurt in injury-filled 20-12 Giants win over Bears

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Qbs Daniel Jones, Tyrod Taylor Both Hurt In Injury-Filled 20-12 Giants Win Over Bears
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The Giants have three wins after four games. Now they have to make sure they have a healthy quarterback to face the Green Bay Packers in London next Sunday.

Daniel Jones scampered for two rushing touchdowns, and the Giants ran for 262 yards in Sunday’s 20-12 win over the Chicago Bears behind Saquon Barkley’s 146 on a career-high 31 carries.

But Jones (left ankle) and backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor (concussion) both sustained significant injuries that forced head coach Brian Daboll to put Barkley at quarterback in the fourth quarter and also reinsert Jones.

“When I saw Tyrod go down I kinda realized, like, I’m up next. I’m the quarterback,” said the dynamic Barkley, who ran all day like he was shot out of a cannon.

Jones underwent X-rays after the game and said he will “do everything I can to play” at Tottenham Stadium next Sunday. But he was limping badly after Bears safety Jaquan Brisker sacked him and landed awkwardly on his ankle with 3:30 left in the third quarter.

Asked to compare his injury to high ankle sprains he has had in the past, Jones said: “Each one’s different. I still don’t know exactly what it is. So we’ll look at it.”

The Giants surely weren’t planning on needing a third quarterback in London, so it will be interesting to see if they need to expedite a passport and international clearance for practice squad QB Davis Webb.

They managed to hold on Sunday when Taylor got hurt, though, because Daboll literally grabbed a white board on the sideline and drew up plays that he and offensive line coach Bobby Johnson had run before with the Buffalo Bills.

“Like when you were eight years old playing with your friends,” Barkley said with a smile.

Barkley played QB in a Wildcat formation the next three plays, twice out of the Pistol with running backs Matt Breida and Gary Brightwell flanking him. He handed to Breida twice for 14 yards and kept it once for four yards to set up a Graham Gano field goal.

Jones came back into the game after Taylor got hurt to relay the play calls to Barkley from his head set. He lined up as a dummy wide receiver on those three plays.

Then Jones played quarterback the Giants’ final two drives, handing a total of seven times to Barkley and never attempting another pass.

It was odd to see Jones return to the game after head athletic trainer Ronnie Barnes and Daboll had been seen on the sideline telling him he was out following the ankle injury.

Daboll said they took Jones out initially because the coach told Jones: “I’m not risking you getting injured to try to protect yourself with that limp.”

But Jones, with his ankle heavily taped, said he could return to the game if needed and remained available.

Jones said he believed “part of the decision” was that his ankle injury left him unable to execute the game plan. So he knew he would go in if Taylor got hurt.

The Giants had been killing the Bears’ defense with Jones’ back-to-the-defense play action rollouts. He had rushed for 21-yard and 8-yard TDs in the first half, the first Giants touchdowns scored in any first half this season.

It marked Jones’ first game with two rushing TDs since his first NFL start at Tampa in Sept. 2019. But his third-quarter injury left him immobile. And Taylor came in to run three times for 30 yards before his injury.

“That was the communication,” Jones said. “I wanted to go in and considering the game and how it was playing out, probably wasn’t the best thing for the team. So when Tyrod went down, I knew I was going back in.”

Jones admitted “it’s frustrating” to get shut down during a game. He was understandably not pleased on the sideline and even put his helmet on when Taylor entered the game.

“You want to play and be out there with your teammates at the end of a game where you’re fighting and trying to win,” Jones said. “But I thought guys stepped up, played great and finished off the game.”

It remains to be seen how the Giants will keep winning with this offense. Jones completed only one first-half pass to a wide receiver, David Sills, with under a minute left in the second quarter.

The Giants’ leading receiver was tight end Daniel Bellinger with three catches for 23 yards.

Primarily, Don Martindale’s defense was the difference, keeping Chicago’s NFC-best running game in check at 149 yards, 37 below their average. Jaylon Smith rotated in at inside linebacker in his season debut.

Martindale’s crew blitzed young Bears QB Justin Fields into indecision and sacked him six times, twice by Dexter Lawrence, who talked a lot of trash and backed it up.

“I’m just playing my game,” Lawrence said with a smile. “If they got beef, we got beef, you know what I mean? You wanna talk junk, I’m good at that. So it’s like, whatchu wanna do? Let’s line up.”

Rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux recovered a second quarter Fields fumble forced by Azeez Ojulari that led to a Giants touchdown drive. And Brightwell recovered a fourth quarter muffed punt by the Bears’ Velus Jones Jr. to offset a second quarter muffed punt and lost fumble by the Giants’ Richie James.

But the Giants also lost a ton of players to injury: Jones, Taylor, safety Julian Love (concussion), right tackle Evan Neal (neck), corner Aaron Robinson (knee), receiver Kenny Golladay (knee), defensive lineman Henry Mondeaux (ankle), Ojulari (calf) and Thibodeaux (back spasms). Right guard Mark Glowinski (ankle) and Jihad Ward (unknown) missed time and returned.

The focus, though, is on the quarterback position and who will start against Aaron Rodgers next week.

***

The Giants’ inactives were LB Austin Calitro, OL Tyre Phillips, DL Leonard Williams (knee), WR Wan’Dale Robinson (knee), WR Kadarius Toney (hamstring), CB Cor’Dale Flott (calf) and CB Nick McCloud (hammy).

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Chicago Bears defense laments mistakes after allowing 262 rushing yards to New York Giants: ‘Player for player, we felt like we had ups on them’

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Chicago Bears Defense Laments Mistakes After Allowing 262 Rushing Yards To New York Giants: ‘Player For Player, We Felt Like We Had Ups On Them’
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When New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones faked a handoff to Saquon Barkley in the first quarter Sunday at MetLife Stadium and then spun to his left, a clear 21-yard lane to the end zone lay before Jones.

With Chicago Bears defenders Trevis Gipson, Jaquan Brisker and Dominique Robinson in chase mode, Jones picked up speed. Cornerback Kyler Gordon was unable to shake tight end Tanner Hudson’s block near the goal line, and Jones squeaked into the corner of the end zone behind Hudson for his first of two touchdown runs in the first half.

The Giants never trailed again in their 20-12 victory, and Jones contributed 68 rushing yards to his team’s 262 for the day, a season high by a Bears opponent.

“He’s a good athlete,” linebacker Nicholas Morrow said of Jones. “He’s got some long legs, so he’s got a good stride and can get out there a little bit. But there are some rules we’ve got to follow to make sure we can contain some of those runs.”

Jones’ second touchdown came in similar fashion — a fake to Barkley, a sprint to the left corner of the end zone, an 8-yard touchdown.

Coach Matt Eberflus said the Bears made adjustments to stop similar bootleg plays in the second half, but they needed to come quicker. The damage of two touchdowns was done, and coupled with a Bears offense that failed to get in the end zone, it was too much to overcome.

“It’s just eyes — you’ve got to keep your eyes in the right spot,” safety Eddie Jackson said of defending Jones on play action. “They were doing a good job setting it up, running with Saquon. Running, running, then slip the boot here and there. We just have to do a better job with our eyes and on the edges.”

The threat Barkley posed helped the Giants pull off the plays. After injuries limited him the last couple of seasons, Barkley continued his bounce-back season with 31 carries for 146 yards and two catches for 16 yards.

His performance also continued a concerning trend, as the Bears have allowed more than 175 rushing yards in three of their four games this season.

“He came out and played a great game, but there were a lot of mistakes on our behalf,” linebacker Roquan Smith said. “He’s a heck of a player, but that’s no excuse. We’ve just got to all get better and look ourselves in the mirror, including myself.”

Jones was hobbled by a left ankle injury midway through the second half, and backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor left to be evaluated for a concussion. The Bears held the Giants to two second-half field goals from kicker Graham Gano.

Jackson came up with a big interception early in the fourth quarter — his third in four games — but the Bears offense failed to capitalize on the takeaway that gave them the ball at their 4-yard line.

Through four games, the Bears defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown after halftime, giving up just 18 second-half points.

But the running thread in the Bears locker room from defenders was that mistakes here and there kept the unit from putting together the game-altering performance the team needed — especially as the offense struggled and special teams made costly mistakes, such as the muffed punt by returner Velus Jones Jr. in the fourth quarter.

Morrow lamented a missed tackle on a short pass from Jones to Barkley on the Giants’ second touchdown drive. On third-and-9, Morrow was right on Barkley when he caught the ball, but Barkley spun out of his grasp for a 15-yard gain.

Gordon was called for a 40-yard pass interference penalty on the Giants’ first field-goal drive of the second half. And Smith wasn’t pleased that Taylor twirled out of his grasp on third-and-4 on the Giants’ final field-goal drive.

“Self-inflicted wounds. That’s the biggest thing. That’s what hurts the most,” Jackson said. “Player for player, we felt like we had ups on them. We just have to do the little things right. We can’t keep shooting ourselves in the foot, myself included, and both sides of the ball I’m sure, even on special teams.”

Eberflus said a focus this week for the whole team as the Bears prepare for the 3-1 Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium will be putting together a full game after Sunday’s first-half miscues.

“We just have to be consistent all the way through,” Eberflus said. “That’s going to be something we’re going to preach this week and do a better job of. Apparently we’re doing some good things in this second half, but we have to play 60 minutes in this league.”

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