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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Douglas County Sheriff's deputy shot in chest

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ALEXANDRIA, Minn. -- A Douglas County Sheriff's deputy checking out a suspicious car parked in a driveway at a home outside of Alexandria has his body armor to thank for his safety, after one of the two people in the car pulled out a gun and shot the deputy in the chest. Sheriff Troy Rolberson says the officer returned fire as the suspects drove off, and when the car got stuck in the snow they took off running. After backup arrived a search of the area began, and both suspects were found in deep snow near an outbuilding, dead, with a gun lying near their bodies. The medical examiner will determine if they were killed by the officer's bullets or their own. The deputy was treated at the emergency room and released. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating.

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A former Dilworth fire chief charged with making terroristic threats has pleaded not guilty. 49-year old Kurt Kennedy is accused of making threats against members of the fire department and city officials. Court documents show Kennedy said he would burn down the houses of everyone in the fire department, starting with the chief and going down the list. His next court appearance is March 25th.

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 An investigation is now ongoing into a salmonella outbreak at an Old Country Buffet in Maple Grove that sickened nearly two dozen people last month. According to the Minnesota Department of Public Health, the outbreak appears to be over and one person had to be hospitalized. The restaurant has remained open after being inspected and cleared by the health department in Hennepin County.

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 Classes will get smaller and teachers will be paid more money in St. Paul thanks to the tentative contract agreement reached last week. Details were shared Monday with the school board, increasing wages and benefits for teachers by eight-point-six-percent and creating 42 new full-time jobs. The union will vote on March 4th, with the school board set to vote on March 18. Before the deal was struck, teachers were planning to hold a strike authorization vote on Monday.

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State troopers are finding themselves involved in more crashes this winter than most years. Since the start of January, 13 state patrol vehicles have been hit. Lieutenant Eric Roeske says that is a significant increase from normal, with most crashes caused by other drivers speeding or being too close to the patrol vehicle. WCCO -TV is reporting that days when only a few inches of snow fall are more dangerous because Roeske says most drivers don't change their habits with five or fewer inches of fresh snow.

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The Department of Natural Resources is reminding anglers that their 2013 fishing license expires this Friday. New licenses for 2014 will be required to fish starting Saturday. Also keep in mind, the deadline for removing fish houses off lakes in the southern two-thirds of the state is at 11:59 p.m. Monday night. In the northern third of Minnesota anglers must have them off no later than March 17th. Snow, cold and a slow bite has some ice anglers removing permanent fish houses earlier than normal. 

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Investigation is under way into the cause of an explosion at a not-yet-opened Sanford Clinic in Moorhead. It happened Monday afternoon on the lower level near an elevator shaft, and Sanford Vice President Jeff Hoss says the blast was confined to a small area, there were no patients in the building and no one was hurt. The clinic's scheduled March 3rd opening will be delayed. How long, depends on the extent of damage.

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Fire investigators have determined a space heater had been running for several days in a home where a fire killed five young children on February 14. The "Minneapolis Star Tribune" reports the fire department's report shows investigators believe the fire started in the area of the space heater, but due to the destruction it's hard to pinpoint the cause of the blaze. A six-feet-wide circle was burned through the third floor where the victims were sleeping. The duplex had smoke detectors, but investigators can't determine if they were working

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Another blast of polar air is settling into Minnesota. National Weather Service meteorologist Jacob Beitlich says this late season polar vortex could help reduce chances for flash floods, as well as ice jams on rivers and streams. He notes spring flooding gets severe when there's a rapid warm-up plus rain on the melting snowpack -- but he says that doesn't happen when there's a polar vortex. That type of weather has dipped into Minnesota more often than usual this winter, making it already the ninth-coldest on record -- and that ranking is likely to climb before the season is over.

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 The 2014 legislative session begins at noon today (Tues) at the Minnesota Capitol, and lawmakers are fast-tracking additional funding for low income heating assistance because of the propane crisis. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk says Governor Dayton already used his executive authority to expand eligibility, but any additional money for the program must be appropriated by the legislature. Grand Rapids Senator Tom Saxhaug is carrying a measure, and Bakk says it "likely will be the first bill to land on the governor's desk." The House had a hearing on the bill Monday afternoon and the plan is to take a vote today on the House floor.

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If you had sticker shock opening your last heating bill, you're not alone. Repeated days of frigid cold have many homeowners cranking up the thermostat. Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman says if you're struggling to pay your utility bill, keep in mind it's not too late to apply for heating assistance -- and grant money is still available. For more information on the heating assistance program, contact your local utility provider.

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