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Bryan Carter named new city manager
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The St. Joseph City Council has unanimously named Bryan Carter as new city manager after serving in the position on an interim basis for the last three months.

The announcement was made in Mayor Bill McMurray’s office Tuesday evening after the council spent hours Monday narrowing down a search firm’s 17 semifinalists for the position.

The council was supposed to decide on three or four finalists but ultimately named Carter city manager. The council praised his responsiveness and communication — skills lacking in past city managers.

“He is very responsive, very articulate, and he can frame the issues and we get things done,” McMurray said. “A unanimous vote of the council is in and of itself something that we don’t see every single day, so it was great.”

When named interim city manager, Carter saw himself as a placeholder. However, each day he enjoyed his role more and more, specifically working with a variety of city employees and departments, something he didn’t experience as much during his time as city attorney.

“In the interim city manager role, I was still doing a lot of the leg work, but I was also relying a great deal on others, and I really enjoyed some of that work with them,” Carter said.

Carter will be the third permanent city manager in a little over a year after Gary Edwards unexpectedly resigned in January due to family health concerns. He replaced Bruce Woody, who left for a job in Florida last spring after being appointed to the post in 2011.

Carter’s top priority is the city’s budget, as staff is currently preparing for the next fiscal year.

“We just kind of came through the budget preparation season, issued it to the city council,” Carter said. “Now we have to start working with the city council to go through that decision making process and making sure that budget reflects their priorities.”

Carter’s salary will be $169,000, a little less than the increased range of $175,000-200,000 the council determined at the beginning of the search. Carter said he asked for this amount, because he didn’t apply for the money and it’s something he can do to help with budget cuts.

“I was digging through the budget and asking department directors to really look closely and to cut things where they could,” Carter said. “Frankly, this is a way of making it a little bit personal to myself.”

Carter will officially be the city manager once his contract is approved by the council during their meeting May 3.

Ex-cop guilty of murder and manslaughter in Floyd case
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MINNEAPOLIS — Former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted Tuesday of murder and manslaughter for pinning George Floyd to the pavement with his knee on the Black man’s neck in a case that triggered worldwide protests, violence and a furious reexamination of racism and policing in the U.S.

Chauvin, 45, was immediately led away with his hands cuffed behind his back and could be sent to prison for decades.

The verdict — guilty on all counts, in a clear-cut victory for Floyd’s supporters — set off jubilation tinged with sorrow around the city. Hundreds of people poured into the streets, some running through traffic with banners. Cars blared their horns.

“Today, we are able to breathe again,” Floyd’s younger brother Philonise said at a joyous family news conference where tears streamed down his face as he likened Floyd to the 1955 Mississippi lynching victim Emmett Till, except that this time there were cameras around to show the world what happened.

Another brother, Terrence Floyd, marveled, “What a day to be a Floyd, man.”

The jury of six whites and six Black or multiracial people came back with its verdict after about 10 hours of deliberations over two days. The now-fired white officer was found guilty as charged of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

His face was obscured by a COVID-19 mask, and little reaction could be seen beyond his eyes darting around the courtroom. His bail was immediately revoked. Sentencing will be in two months; the most serious charge carries up to 40 years in prison.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson followed Chauvin out of the courtroom without comment.

President Joe Biden welcomed the verdict, saying Floyd’s death was “a murder in full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world” to see systemic racism.

But he warned: “It’s not enough. We can’t stop here. We’re going to deliver real change and reform. We can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that tragedies like this will ever happen again.”

At a park next to the courthouse, a hush fell over a crowd of about 300 as they listened to the verdict on their cellphones. Then a great roar went up, with many people hugging, some shedding tears.

At the intersection where Floyd was pinned down, a crowd chanted, “One down, three to go!” — a reference to the three other fired Minneapolis officers facing trial in August on charges of aiding and abetting murder in Floyd’s death.

Janay Henry, who lives nearby, said she felt grateful and relieved.

“I feel grounded. I can feel my feet on the concrete,” she said, adding that she was looking forward to the “next case with joy and optimism and strength.”

The verdict was read in a courthouse ringed with concrete barriers and razor wire and patrolled by National Guard troops, in a city on edge against another round of unrest — not just because of the Chauvin case but because of the deadly police shooting of a young Black man, Daunte Wright, in a Minneapolis suburb April 11.

The jurors’ identities were kept secret and will not be released until the judge decides it is safe to do so.

It is unusual for police officers to be prosecuted for killing someone on the job. And convictions are extraordinarily rare.

Out of the thousands of deadly police shootings in the U.S. since 2005, fewer than 140 officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter, according to data maintained by Phil Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green State University. Before Tuesday, only seven were convicted of murder.

Juries often give police officers the benefit of the doubt when they claim they had to make split-second, life-or-death decisions. But that was not an argument Chauvin could easily make.

Floyd, 46, died May 25 after being arrested on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill for a pack of cigarettes at a corner market. He panicked, pleaded that he was claustrophobic and struggled with police when they tried to put him in a squad car. They put him on the ground instead.

The centerpiece of the case was the excruciating bystander video of Floyd gasping repeatedly, “I can’t breathe” and onlookers yelling at Chauvin to stop as the officer pressed his knee on or close to Floyd’s neck for what authorities say was 9 1/2 minutes. Floyd slowly went silent and limp.

Prosecutors played the footage at the earliest opportunity, during opening statements, and told the jury: “Believe your eyes.” And from there it was shown over and over, analyzed one frame at a time by witnesses on both sides.

In the wake of Floyd’s death, demonstrations and scattered violence broke out in Minneapolis, around the country and beyond. The furor also led to the removal of Confederate statues and other offensive symbols such as Aunt Jemima.

In the months that followed, numerous states and cities restricted the use of force by police, revamped disciplinary systems or subjected police departments to closer oversight.

The “Blue Wall of Silence” that often protects police accused of wrongdoing crumbled after Floyd’s death: The Minneapolis police chief quickly called it “murder” and fired all four officers, and the city reached a staggering $27 million settlement with Floyd’s family as jury selection was underway.

Police-procedure experts and law enforcement veterans inside and outside the Minneapolis department, including the chief, testified for the prosecution that Chauvin used excessive force and went against his training.

Medical experts for the prosecution said Floyd died of asphyxia, or lack of oxygen, because his breathing was constricted by the way he was held down on his stomach, his hands cuffed behind him, a knee on his neck and his face jammed against the ground.

Chauvin’s attorney called a police use-of-force expert and a forensic pathologist to help make the case that Chauvin acted reasonably against a struggling suspect and that Floyd died because of an underlying heart condition and his illegal drug use.

Floyd had high blood pressure, an enlarged heart and narrowed arteries, and fentanyl and methamphetamine were found in his system.

Under the law, police have certain leeway to use force and are judged according to whether their actions were “reasonable” under the circumstances.

The defense also tried to make the case that Chauvin and the other officers were hindered in their duties by what they perceived as a growing, hostile crowd.

Chauvin did not testify, and all that the jury or the public ever heard by way of an explanation from him came from a police body-camera video after an ambulance had taken the 6-foot-4, 223-pound Floyd away. Chauvin told a bystander: “We gotta control this guy ‘cause he’s a sizable guy ... and it looks like he’s probably on something.”

The prosecution’s case also included tearful testimony from onlookers who said the police kept them back when they protested what was happening.

Eighteen-year-old Darnella Frazier, who shot the crucial video, said Chauvin just gave the bystanders a “cold” and “heartless” stare. She and others said they felt a sense of helplessness and lingering guilt from witnessing Floyd’s death.

“It’s been nights I stayed up, apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more, and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” she said.

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Drug take back set for Saturday
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St. Joseph’s spring Drug Take Back Day is Saturday at East Hills Shopping Center.

As much as 1,000 pounds of prescription drugs are turned in to law enforcement during the take back every year.

That helps prevent overdoses, both purposeful and accidental, Buchanan County Drug Strike Force Cpt. Shawn Collie said.

“A lot of times you may see something with children in the home where they find some type of pill and they, you know, try it or small children who may think it’s candy or something,” he said. “So you know, for us to be able to get this amount of prescription pills and narcotics out of the homes and off the streets is a huge impact that we hope we’re making on our community.”

People already have started bringing in medication. It ranges from Vick’s VapoRub to syringes.

Proper disposal is more than merely flushing old prescriptions down the toilet, Collie said.

“You have no way of knowing, is it going to, you know, get into streams or other water sources, some type of pollution?” he said. “And so with the way we’re doing it, it’s in an environmentally safe way that is, you know, avoiding that contamination into our water system or into our community.”

Even medication a person needs on hand should be kept in a safe place. Drugs not stored securely can be an easy target for theft, Collie said.

“At times we may see burglaries or other thefts related to that,” he said. “And unfortunately prescription pills, narcotics have a high street value.”

Law enforcement doesn’t record any identification when people turn in drugs at the take back, Collie said.

“We’re not doing any type of tracking,” he said. “The most we may keep track of is the number of cars that come through. There’s nothing that tracks license plates or identities, or types of drugs.”

Law enforcement records the total weight of medication taken in but not specific drug types, Collie said.

St. Joseph reacts to April snowfall
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Surrounding areas woke up to anywhere from 1 to 3 inches of snow this morning, and while it might seem odd that it snowed a couple of inches in late April, it’s not unusual.

Keven Schneider, superintendent of streets and infrastructure for the City of St. Joseph, said Tuesday was a normal day for his crew.

“It’s kind of bizarre, yes, but we’ve seen it,” Schneider said. “We’ve seen snowfall in May before, a few years ago … It’s rare, but it does happen.”

Schneider said he knew that there was potential for slickness on Tuesday morning, so in an effort to prevent that, his crew went out and pretreated the roads on Monday.

“We went out yesterday and treated all the emergencies and secondaries,” Schneider said. “(We) pretreated them with the salt brine beet juice mixture, so we were protected. But it was melting everywhere, that we saw, on the pavement as fast as it hit.”

While the snow melted quickly throughout the day, it still affected members of the community. Jennifer Shackelford, a horticulture specialist at Moffet Nursery and Garden Shop, said the winter weather made their week more difficult.

“It’s created a lot of extra work like moving things into heated greenhouses and covering up tender plants with frost cloth,” Shackelford said. “We’ve had to reschedule deliveries, it’s prolonged people’s spring planting and our landscape projects that we have scheduled, and we’ve had a lot of fielding questions from customers that have questions about ‘What do I do?’”

Shackelford said other Moffet employees spent most of the day on Monday covering and moving plants in preparation for the snow. They intend to keep the plants protected for the next couple of days until the weather gets nicer.

Other outdoor businesses, including golf courses, were also affected. Barry Losson, a PGA Golf Professional at St. Joseph Country Club, said he didn’t expect anyone to come out to the course in the snow. But once the snow melts and the course is dry enough for golf carts, Losson said they’ll be good to go.

“It’s unexpected. We were supposed to have a couple of tournaments this coming weekend. I’m pretty sure those are probably going to still be going, since we’re going to lose maybe two days of golf today and tomorrow. It looks like it’s melting pretty fast,” Losson said.

Even though the golf course will have fewer golfers over the next couple days, Losson said those two days won’t affect them too much financially, since memberships that have been purchased already include golf carts.

Others, like Moffet Nursery and Garden Shop, however, aren’t quite as lucky. Shackelford said the weather is disappointing because it is really messing with the spring planting season. They already had to delay their plant orders once this year due to the harsh weather in February.

“Also what’s disappointing, I think, is when we have a few days that are 68 and 70 degrees, and then people get that gardening spirit and really want to do it, and they come out and they purchase some things that either now they have it at their home and they’re taking it in, taking it out, or covering it,” Shackelford said.

While April snowfall might be inconvenient, it’s not totally uncommon. Traces of snow were recorded falling twice last April near the KCI Airport, while measurable amounts were recorded hitting the ground twice in 2018, as well.