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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

This is the records summary for April 21.

Authorities investigate suspicious Facebook posting

EDEN VALLEY -- The Meeker County Sheriff's Department and the Eden Valley Police Department investigated a Wednesday morning report from the Eden Valley-Watkins High School of a suspicious Facebook posting.

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The high school called at 7:52 a.m. Wednesday and the sheriff's office and police department spent the day following up on this matter, said Sheriff Jeff Norlin. He said a four-word statement from a movie "I see dead people'' was posted along with a photo of the Eden Valley-Watkins High School on a Facebook page.

The school went on lock-down status as a precautionary measure, Norlin said. Officers were in the area of the school for any outward suspicious activity while investigators were tracking down the author.

The poster appears to have also posted that "Its a movie quote gooooosh people!!!!!!!!'' The school released students for the day without any incidents. The investigation into this incident continues and information will be released when available, Norlin said.

Grass fire

NEW LONDON -- The New London Fire Department was paged around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday to a grass fire near 240th Avenue and 70th Street Northeast.

District Court

Kandiyohi County

- David Garcia Jr., 20, of Willmar pleaded guilty Wednesday to a gross misdemeanor charge of third-degree riot for his role in a race-related incident last summer in Willmar.

As part of a plea agreement, a felony second-degree riot charge and a gross misdemeanor third-degree damage to property charge will be dismissed. He will be sentenced May 10 and will pay $499.39 in restitution.

Garcia was one of two individuals charged after the Aug. 28 incident. Troy Anthony Hernandez, 18, of Willmar pleaded guilty April 4 to a felony charge of second-degree riot - armed with a dangerous weapon. His dispositional hearing is May 9.

Felony charges against 16-and 17-year-olds are public record. Hernandez was 17 at the time of the charges.

According to the complaint against Garcia, Willmar police were called around 6 a.m. Aug. 28 to the 400 block of Charlotte Street Southeast regarding a fight between a group of Somalis and Hispanics. Several 911 calls were received with callers advising that bats, fire extinguishers and metal poles were being used in the fight.

Several witnesses told officers the victim had come after Hernandez, who said he had been hit in the back of the head and neck with a two-by-four. Hernandez, however, suffered no marks, bruises, scrapes or scratches.

Witnesses also told officers a group of 10 to 15 Somali men had come out of the house with intent to assault them.

During the incident, the windows of two vehicles had been smashed.

Later that day, officers were called to Rice Memorial Hospital regarding a man harassing and threatening a person who had been injured in the incident. Garcia was located in the parking lot, yelling at another Somali man. The man identified Garcia as the person who smashed the car windows during the incident.

The injured man was later transported to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis for treatment of his injuries. While he was at Rice, he told officers that several juvenile Hispanic males in the neighborhood had been using racial slurs and verbal abuse for the entire summer. He said he was in a group that had gone outside and met a Hispanic group with weapons, including a bat, wrench and fire extinguisher. He said one of the Somalis went back into another home to get a metal weight bar as a means to intimidate the group.

Another witness said the victim was struck in the head and knocked unconscious, and then struck two more times with a baseball bat. Hernandez was later identified from a photo lineup as the initial aggressor.

Hernandez was interviewed and said one of the Somalis hit him in the side with a baseball bat. He admitted to punching someone in the face, but said he never used an object to strike anyone.

- Katherine Anne Espina-Straus, 22, of Atwater pleaded guilty Tuesday to a felony charge of wrongfully obtaining public assistance.

As part of a plea agreement, six additional felony charges for wrongfully obtaining public assistance and perjury will be dismissed. She will be sentenced May 24.

Espina-Straus' husband, Edgar Estuardo Espina-Ortiz, 30, of Atwater, faces five felony charges, for wrongfully obtaining assistance and aggravated forgery, in the case. There is a warrant for his arrest.

According to the complaint, in June 2007, Espina-Straus applied for public assistance in the form of health care benefits. Her application was approved and, as a recipient of assistance, she was required to report the income and employment of household members.

She reported in February 2008 that she married Edgar, but repeatedly signed documents that he was not working. In December 2009, family services officials learned that Edgar was working at Jennie-O Turkey Store under the name of Carlos Candalario.

Employment documents and wage records showed that the couple had received $4,517.18 in benefits from Aug. 1, 2008, to Dec. 31, 2009, for which they were ineligible.

She was interviewed and admitted to failing to disclose that he was working.

The employment documents included three documents allegedly signed by Espina-Ortiz in the false name.

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