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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: Police release photo of suspect in U armed robbery attempt

MINNEAPOLIS --  University of Minnesota Police are hoping the photo they have released of a suspected armed gunman who apparently tried to rob a student yesterday in Anderson Hall on the University of Minnesota's West Bank campus will help them identify the man. 

Investigators say he tried unsuccessfully to steal a student's laptop at gunpoint, and then fled into the tunnel system.  An image of the man officers believe was responsible was caught on surveillance video.  A text alert was sent to students and staff, but the campus was not placed on complete lockdown.  There were three violent robbery attempts on campus Halloween night, a sexual assault earlier that week, and four assaultive robberies on October 13.


Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell will make his first public appearance on the other side of the courtroom today, sitting at the defendant's table to answer to accusations that he had an inappropriate relationship with a teenage girl.  Scannell has been charged with two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, after investigators say he visited the teen's mother at work, claiming he loved the girl and saying they had engaged in kissing and touching, but nothing illegal. The girl was over the age of consent under Minnesota law, but the allegations are a criminal offense because Scannell is more than four years older than the girl and in a position of authority.  He has not commented on the charges.  The case is being argued by special prosecutor Tom Heffelfinger.  


The crash that closed southbound Interstate 35 for more than four hours during yesterday's snowy commute in southeastern Minnesota injured two police officers.  A Faribault squad car was rear-ended and the officers injured while they were helping another officer at the scene of a previous crash.  Officers Dustin Delmonico and Maggie Hunt received non-life threatening injuries when their car was hit by a car that lost control on the icy highway.  The driver of that car, 23-year old Andrew Ross of Montrose, had no apparent injuries.


As relief efforts kick into gear following devastation from Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, officials are already warning of donation scams.  Dan Hendrickson with the Minnesota Better Business Bureau says you need to be leery of organizations that claim 100 percent of donations will assist victims but all charities have overhead costs.  Hendrickson says a good place to start when evaluating charities is give-dot-org.  The site offers facts about an organization's track record, as well as inforamtion about how much of your donation actually reaches victims.


Gas prices have fallen 12 cents in the past week and the statewide average is now just over three dollars a gallon ($3.03).  Triple-A Minnesota's Gail Weinholzer says it's selling for as low as $2.85 at some locations - but much higher at other stations.  Weinholzer says she doesn't know if prices will go much lower, but it's certainly it's good news that they're about 23 cents below last year at this time.  Weinholzer says there's no major reason for the recent drop in gasoline prices.  She points to lower demand, stable crude oil prices, a mild hurricane season and little or no refinery problems.


According to a new Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) survey, 73-percent of adults (21 and older) said they have been at an event and saw someone try to drive home after drinking too much.  MADD state Executive Director Jennifer Freeburg even though drunk driving has been cut in half in 30 years, there's obviously still a lot more work to do.  Freeburg says between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve, drunk driving deaths typically spike.  She says if you are planning to attend a holiday party where drinking is involved, be sure to designate a sober driver.


The day after Veterans Day, the Saint Louis County Board honors Veterans Service Officer Brian Rulifson this morning for catching an old error so a Vietnam veteran could get over $300,000 in back pay.  Rulifson discovered the man years ago had been wrongly denied benefits for a cancer that's presumed linked to his service in Vietnam.  He says finding the mistake makes him feel great because, when he retired from the service, he knew he wanted to help other veterans who didn't know about benefits they're entitled to.  Rulifson says he knows there are other veterans who have been wrongly denied benefits.  He says they need to come in so they can try to help them out.


Advocates and a group of lawmakers gather in the State Capitol Rotunda this morning, asking for a five-percent funding increase for home- and community-based services for seniors and Minnesotans with disabilities.  Rebecca Covington with the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities says providers got a one-percent increase this year, which doesn't make up for cuts in 2011.  Several Republican lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader David Hann, support the five-percent increase.  It's questionable how soon the issue will be on lawmakers' plate because the next budget session isn't until 2015.


The Sierra Club has events today in Cambridge, Duluth, Ely, Morris, Saint Cloud, Saint Joseph and the Twin Cities as they call on Xcel Energy and Minnesota Power to retire their remaining coal plants and replace them with clean renewable energy.  Sierra Club's Alexis Boxer says Minnesota already gets about 14 percent of its electricity from wind, and that's just the very beginning of the process.  Utility officials say they've made a significant commitment to wind power but coal and nuclear are necessary to provide a reliable source of electricity for their customers.