Your Thursday News Brief: May 18

By: Larissa Donovan, News Director

Featured Photo: Good Samaritans honored Wednesday for their efforts during the May 3 Bus Crash.

Names honored (not all pictured):
Scott Long, Grant Frenzel, Rich Marsoleck, Rena Smith, Dr. Grant M. Christopher, David Wall, Glenn McLean, Brad Arel, Jeff Wade, Eric and Jana Norgaard, Nicole Jensen, Jeanena Lazella, Ed Plascencia, and Patrick “Tiger” Stout.

BEMIDJI– Over fifteen heroes who acted quickly during the recent bus accident were honored Wednesday during the Community Hero Celebration held at Bemidji High School. Superintendent of schools Dr. James Hess recalled the day of the accident, saying that May 3 began as a beautiful spring day but turned for the worse when he received the notice of the bus accident on Irvine Avenue. Fire Chief David Hoefer said that he was grateful for the Good Samaritans that responded in a “neighborly way.” Patrick “Tiger” Stout, the bus driver, was also honored. Tiger stayed with the children in the bus until all but one were removed, the one remaining being pinned and had to be removed by the fire department. Some of the children involved in the accident were from the Red Lake Nation, and Bill May Sr., sang a healing song and expressed his gratitude for all who responded to the traumatic event.

Former Bemidji Middle School assistant principal, Brandon Bjerkness, age 34, accused of engaging in explicit sexual conversations with adolescent girls. Retrieved photograph.

BEMIDJI– Brandon Bjerkness–the former Bemidji Middle School assistant principal who was accused in March of impersonating a teenage boy online–is facing two new counts of engaging in graphic sexual conversations with minors as of Wednesday, bringing the total victim count to four adolescent girls who attended Bemidji Middle School. His lawyer Peter Wold, of Wold and Morrison in Minneapolis, requested that the court allow him to retract the demand for a speedy trial due to the continued investigation. Bjerkness’ jury trial was scheduled for next week, but an uncontested omnibus hearing will instead be held on July 10. The prosecuting attorney, David Frank, said that it would be in the best interest of the victims to hold the trial before the start of the school year. Bjerkness’ previous conditions of release apply, but he posted a $50,000 bond in March, granting him an unconditional release.

CASS LAKE– Leech Lake Band members took to the polls Wednesday to decide whether the tribe should move forward with a new casino construction project to replace the existing Palace Casino in Cass Lake. A total of 1,244 “yes” votes were cast, or 78%, and 341 votes were cast for “no”. In March, the Leech Lake Tribal Council voted to turn over the decision making power on this proposal to the tribal citizenship. The new Palace Casino will be located along the Highway 2 Frontage Road in Cass Lake. An estimated $45 million to $50 million will be invested into construction of the new building. Work on the new structure is expected to begin in early 2018 and be completed in 2019. Once finished, the new casino is expected to provide an additional 100-200 jobs beyond current staffing levels.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.– Lake Bemidji has been selected as the national championship location for the 2017 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series, presented by Bass Pro Shops. According to the release  on the Bassmaster website, the best college anglers from across the country will compete on Lake Bemidji from August 10th through the 12th.


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