With his passions for scouting and shooting, 15-year old Matthew Randall built a facility for the whole community to enjoy.
Leading a team of family, friends and fellow boy scouts, Randall constructed archery targets for Bradshaw Woods for his Eagle Scout Project. The archery range was planned for the woods back in 2019 by Le Sueur County Parks and Recreation, but, with the help of Randall and his team of volunteers, the range was finally completed on Aug. 1 and is waiting to be opened.
The Eagle Project is one of the final steps a boy scout must complete to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest a boy scout can achieve. Randall isn’t an Eagle Scout just yet, but he’s only two merit badges away and on a fast track to receive the honor. While many don’t achieve the rank until their late teenage years, if they achieve it at all, Randall is only a sophomore at Le Sueur-Henderson and ready to take that next step.
Randall and his team were tasked with building four targets for the range — a 10 yard, a 20 yard, a 30 yard and a 40 yard target — entirely from scratch. Le Sueur County Parks Director Tyler Luethje gave the boys their materials, but building it was all on them.
During the project, the team cut, nailed and screwed together wooden boards to create frames for the targets. Each frame rests on an H-shaped stand and has a roof on top sloping toward the back. Within each frame, a square shaped target is hooked up below the roof of the frame.
The work came naturally to Randall. As Troop 328’s senior patrol leader, he is often put in charge of keeping boys involved in scout activities. He also likes to work outdoors and with his hands.
“It was pretty easy,” Randall said on the project. “I enjoy being around those people so it’s easy to talk to them and I helped out where I could.”
Building the range also involved one of Randall’s favorite hobbies: shooting. When he’s not scouting, Randall is often hunting or shooting with the Le Sueur-Henderson trap team, which he’s been a member of since the sixth grade. Even when he is scouting, he’s shooting. The rifle shooting and shotgun shooting merit badges were two of his favorite badges to earn.
“It’s a big part of my life,” said Randall.
“You try to find an Eagle Scout project that you’re passionate about,” added Matthew’s mother, Mary Randall. “You don’t just pick something; you want something that you believe in and this project was right up Matthew’s alley with being outdoors and building an archery stand it was the perfect project for him.”
The Boy Scouts are an important organization for the Randall family. Mary is one of Matthew’s biggest supporters, encouraging him to continue scouting. Before Randall began pursuing the rank of Eagle, his older brother Andrew Randall achieved the rank when he was a scout.
“Every boy should be in scouting,” said Mary. “The life skills that you learn are very important and as his older brother can attest, being an eagle scout in the National Guard — he jumped a rank. So his officers are seeing he can be a great leader and Matthew will be a great leader too.”
With the archery range finished, Randall himself is thinking about testing his archery skills, he just needs the proper equipment first.
“If I get a bow,” said Randall. “Andrew said he would get me one.”
She was an honor roll student at Minnesota State University, Mankato and the daughter of a 13-year retired police officer, so LT never expected law enforcement to be knocking on her door at 4 a.m.
LT was one of seven speakers who shared stories anonymously with the Greater Mankato Diversity Council, NAACP Mankato, ACLU Mankato, B.E.A.M., YWCA Mankato and Indivisible St. Peter/Greater Mankato on Sept. 10. The meeting, which was the first of a four-part series examining policing in St. Peter and Greater Mankato, focused on community experiences with police.
Yurie Hong, of Indivisible, said local law enfrocement officials have been invited to attend and take part in the series; none were on the call during the first session, which was focused on community members and civic leaders. Hong noted law enforcement officials weren’t part of the planning of this particular event, but they were invited to take part.
“The goal of this series is to motivate, educate, and empower community members and civic leaders to improve policing in the area,” said Hong. “Over the course of the series, attendees will hear from community members, civic leaders, and experts, who will help us move our communities towards a safer, more inclusive, and more equitable standard of law enforcement. Participants will be encouraged to work with local government and public safety departments so that they may be more responsive to community need.”
LT’s story began on an evening two years ago when a blizzard piled up snow in her apartment building’s parking lot. On her way to yoga, LT said she and her friends helped a man push his car out of the snow. But while helping the man, LT said she lost her phone. She found it later that evening in the snow after searching from her balcony. By 9 p.m., LT said she found her phone, put it in a bowl of rice and went to bed.
LT said she woke up to the sound of three police officers knocking on her apartment door. Their first question was if someone had broken into her home after noticing the footprints in the snow on her balcony.
LT explained that she went to search for her phone and without skipping a beat one of the officers asked what she was doing in a stolen vehicle.
“The guy who I helped out of his spot was not there anymore,” said LT. “The spot he was parked in, a stolen vehicle pulled into later, so where my phone was in the snow was basically under where the new car was parked. So it looked like I walked to the stolen car and walked back to my apartment.”
LT said she told the officers that she had no reason to steal a car, but was met with disbelief. She invited the officers into her home to show them her phone and that she was telling the truth. The officers told her to get dressed and come with them, but LT said the officers never told her where. She asked to call her mom since she didn’t know where she was going. The officers told her no repeatedly and put her in handcuffs.
“When you’ve lived a certain way and you know who you are as a person, looking down and seeing handcuffs is traumatizing,” said LT. “So I just started screaming; it was an out of body experience. I can still hear myself screaming.”
The officers eventually allowed her to call her mom, but took her to get a warrant to swab for her DNA. When she told officers to call the person she helped out of the snow to verify her story, LT said the police did not follow through. She got support from MSU faculty, the Mankato NAACP, and her mom’s best friend who is a current police officer. They met with the Mankato police, she got her DNA back.
While the issue was resolved, the experience has stayed with her. LT said that she had developed PTSD from the encounter. In the weeks afterward, she couldn’t sleep, was afraid someone would knock on her door and would even retreat back to her apartment if she heard what sounded like a police officer.
“I don’t resent police officers, I’m not anti-cop, but I do recognize that experience is going to stay with me,” said LT. “But I’m glad I can now engage in these conversations with other people and not be so naive. I used to think if you just live life right they won’t mess with you, and that’s just not reality.”
Others who spoke at the event had complaints about how they were treated by police as well. Many had stories of coming under suspicion by local police without committing any crimes
A resident of Mankato, who went by Tee, said that when she and her friend were driving and a state trooper pulled them over asking if she had been drinking. Tee said she had a few drinks earlier in the day but believed she was sober enough to drive. The trooper had her run through a number of tests like counting from 100 and reciting the alphabet backwards before taking her breathalyzer. The officer said that she was over the legal limit, but did not let her see the number. When she asked to read the breathalyzer, Tee said the trooper yanked her on the arm hard enough to leave a mark after she did not allow him to search her.
More state troopers were called to the scene and one officer who Tee described as polite took her to the police station. She took another breathalyzer and this time Tee said she blew a .06.
“He was like you look very cooperative and fine with me,” said Tee. “He said, I’m not going to waste anymore of your time tonight, I’m taking you home.”
After the incident, she said she tried to file a complaint with the police department, but they had no knowledge or record of the incident.
Destiny Owens, founder of BEAM, said that incidents like these demonstrated inappropriate conduct from police officers because people who were being cooperative were still faced with aggression.
“The aggression was the kind of thing that rang out the most for me. Because when we think of incidents like Sandra Bland where you’re cooperating, you do what you’re supposed to. You go where you’re supposed to go and there’s still this level of aggression and you’re being cooperative, that’s a problem.”
“These are the things that will dismantle good relations between community and police,” she continued. “Because your encounter with one officer was good, right? You talked about your kids, it was protocol, he calibrated the machine the way he was supposed to for you, did the breathalyzer and things and said, ok you can go home. But then the counter-interaction you had with the first officer, it can mess up what the good officer had done because that is something that can be very traumatizing and it stays with you.”
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll locally, as a number of area counties reported new deaths over the last week.
In Le Sueur County, the third pandemic-related death was reported Sept 9. As of Sept. 14, the county had reported 430 total cases, including three deaths, 25 hospitalizations, and 408 recovered. There were no hospitalized cases as of the 14th, according to Le Sueur County Public Health.
Le Sueur County’s case rate 44.67 per 10,000 people during the window from Aug. 16-29. That was the second highest rate in the state, behind only Waseca County.
In Nicollet County, the 16th death was reported on Sept. 11. As of Sept. 14, the county had reported 479 total cases, including 16 deaths, 32 hospitalizations. There were at least three hospitalized cases as of the 14th. The county has not reported specific data on recoveries, but the large majority of the cases have recovered.
In nearby Waseca County, it’s been a difficult stretch.
For the two-week reporting period of Aug. 16-29, Waseca County’s rate climbed to 50.51 per 10,000 — the highest in the state. It was the only county in the state with a rate greater than 50. The Minnesota Department of Health suggests that any county with a rate greater than 50 adopt a distance learning model for all students. Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton and New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva school districts started the year with distance learning for middle and high school students. Waseca Public Schools has a meeting scheduled for Thursday.
The county now has eight pandemic-related deaths after recording its first just one month ago.
As of Sept. 10, the Federal Corrections Institution in Waseca reported 64 cases of COVID-19 among inmates and four among staff members — an increase of 13 from the day before. The facility houses 614 female inmates and 490 inmates have been tested, according to the Bureau of Prisons website. The BOP reports 70 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, meaning the majority have been at the Waseca site.
Blue Earth and Sibley counties have also reported new pandemic-related deaths in recent weeks.
Because of the pandemic’s impact locally (and statewide/nationwide), schools have started out with a new look in the area. All of St. Peter, Le Sueur-Henderson, Tri-City United and Cleveland have started the year in some form of hybrid learning.
LS-H and TCU both made last minute changes, switching elementary grades from in-person learning to hybrid learning. That’s because, when original plans were made, Le Sueur County’s case rate was below 20 persons per 10,000, but after jumping up above 40, the districts were forced to change, moving all grades (except kindergarten at TCU) to hybrid learning.
The hybrid learning model each of the local districts are using has students separating into two groups. One group comes in Mondays and Wednesdays, while the others come in Tuesdays and Thurdays. Fridays are being handled in a few ways, including having each group come in every other week or having only students who have required in-person classes come in.
Students are also wearing masks and being separated at desks at least 6 feet apart when in school.
Minnesota’s COVID-19 data continues to show some common themes of hope and concern. Cases are climbing, with 643 new confirmed infections in the Sept. 14 report. But the count of people currently in the hospital continues to decline.
After averaging about 300 cases daily in August, hospitalizations have trended down so far in September, falling to 233 Sept. 14, the lowest point in more than two months.
The subset of patients needing intensive care came in at 135, relatively stable over the past three weeks. The count of people in the hospital but not in an ICU fell below 100 for the first time since mid-April.
Current hospitalizations and ICU needs are two metrics closely watched by officials as they try to manage the spread of the disease so it doesn’t overwhelm the health care system.
The newest numbers come after Minnesota recorded more than 1,600 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and 22 more deaths over the weekend, although new caseloads have been trending down since a modest spike in late August.
Despite the generally positive trends, health officials have warned community spread with no precisely known origin is growing in Minnesota, driven by informal get-togethers, weddings and other social events where people are not wearing masks, socially distancing or taking other precautions to stem the disease.
Like their colleagues around the country, health authorities here are watching in the week ahead for any signs of a rise in infections tied to Labor Day weekend gatherings.
The Health Department Monday reported three more deaths, bringing Minnesota’s toll in the pandemic to 1,922 people. About 73 percent had been living in long-term care or assisted living facilities, most had prior health problems.
Of the 84,949 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota so far, about 92 percent have recovered to the point they no longer need to be isolated. Following a spike, Minnesota’s number of active, confirmed cases has fallen back to where it was in mid-August.
‘Third or fourth inning’ of the pandemic?
While the decline in the number of people hospitalized is welcome news, Minnesota officials continue to implore people to stay vigilant against the spread of the disease.
They expect cases to climb following the Labor Day holiday and have warned that Minnesota could face a one-two punch this fall and winter from COVID-19 and the typical flu season.
State health officials on Monday morning made it clear that Minnesota remains in the early stages of the pandemic. In baseball terms, they see Minnesota’s as less than half way through the game.
“We’re in the third or fourth inning” of COVID-19, Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told MPR News Monday morning.
She and Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, acknowledged that public perceptions of the pandemic have shifted since the spring with people losing patience with the curbs on daily life and the calls for vigilance.
Malcolm signaled it was unlikely the state would go back to the level of restrictions seen in March when public support for “dramatic actions” was widespread. The public now, she said, wants the state to take “more measured and precise actions.”
She added, though, that Gov. Tim Walz will “do what he feels is necessary to keep a handle on this pandemic.”
Wisconsin sees surge of cases
COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin have risen by two-thirds in the past two weeks, to the state’s highest-recorded levels.
On Sunday, Wisconsin reported more than 1,550 new confirmed cases, a new record for the state. It’s also more cases than Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota or South Dakota have ever reported in a single day. Nor is it an outlier — Wisconsin’s number of new cases has been rising for two weeks, while its number of new tests has remained flat.
Adjusted for population, Wisconsin is averaging more than 200 new cases per million residents, twice as high as Minnesota. Though a record for Wisconsin, Iowa and both Dakotas saw significantly higher rates in late August. Since late August, Iowa and South Dakota have seen their cases fall, while North Dakota continues to report high numbers of new cases per capita.