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Winona spotlighted as setting of a new graphic novel series

Winona has received a starring role in a new graphic novel series called “Winona Forever.”

Writer Shawn Boyd, who lived in Winona while attending eighth through 12th grades, has teamed up with an illustrator to create the four-part series that is set in Winona.

“Part “Stranger Things” part “Da Vinci Code, “Winona Forever” is a fun, funny supernatural mystery set on Halloween night 1987,” Boyd describes the series.

Boyd — a current resident of Santa Fe, New Mexico — was inspired to write the graphic novels after his past in screen writing, which he’s had a career in for years.

“What it takes to get a movie produced is just so much more, it takes so many people, so many millions of dollars, so when I wrote the screen play called ‘Winona Forever,’ I was just like ‘Wait a minute, there’s an easier way I can do this.’ A graphic novel is essentially a movie on paper,” Boyd said.

He reimagined the movie script into a graphic novel, before getting the help of illustrator Elijah Henry to bring the story to life through art.

Boyd was inspired to focus on Winona because, “I’m just a big believer in, for storytelling, it’s really great to draw from your own life. Because there’s so much richness and authenticity there that you just can’t fake. And you can create a fictional story off of that, but starting with something real to your life just makes the story much more authentic,” Boyd said.

“I was thinking back to living in Winona and going to high school and junior high there. And I thought back to some ghost stories that I had heard, and I thought, whoa, those are really interesting and wondered if there’s a story there. Could I create a story around these ghost stories?” he continued.

While the stories didn’t end up focusing on those particular ghost stories, the original inspiration influenced him to continue to have the stories set in Winona.

He shared that he has also enjoyed looking back on the formative moments of his life during those school years.

Similar to the age he was while living in Winona, the series focuses on teenagers and their adventures.

“Four eighth grade nerds team up with three popular kids to find a supernatural relic in a haunted monastery. As they unlock clues to its location, they find surprising heroes, unexpected first loves, and a cutthroat secret society out to claim the relic for its own dark purposes. It’s a love letter to the 1980s and the weird wonder of growing up at any time,” Boyd described the plot of “Winona Forever.”

Boyd said that the stories have been easy to write, as they’ve captured his heart and he’s enjoyed writing the tales of the characters involved.

About the title of the series, Boyd said, “It has a double meaning: one is a reference to Winona Ryder, who showed me you could be from Winona and accomplish whatever you set out to do. The second meaning is related to the kids in the story, who want to hold onto the way things are. They want this moment, the way their friendships are, to last. They want Winona forever. And the whole point of their quest in the story is to achieve that.”

He’s included multiple Winona locations in his stories: The Winona Public Library, Latsch Island boathouses, Basilica of St. Stanislaus and St. Stanislaus School, and the former St. Peter Martyr Priory on Stockton Hill.

Additionally in the third and fourth installment still to be released, he will also include Penguin Zesto.

“Winona Public Library is actually a big part of who I am, because as a teenager I spent a lot of time after school at the library. I knew the librarians, and I just thought they were magicians because they knew what good books were and they knew what you should be reading, and they would make recommendations. So I just thought they were almost like gods,” Boyd shared.

Because of this love for the library, he made the location the characters’ hangout in his series — leading to part of the mystery featured in the series also taking place at the library.

Boyd’s love for story-telling didn’t just start within the walls of the local library, though.

His interest in having a career in writing — which has also included advertising copy writer — began in eighth grade at St. Stanislaus in Winona when his teacher said he was a great writer.

From there, he said, he has never stopped writing.

The first two graphic novels, self-published using the Kickstarter platform, can be purchased at Visit Winona and at, along with checked out at the Winona Public Library.

Fargo executive: COVID has put hospitals in dire situation

FARGO, N.D. — An executive at the largest health care system in North Dakota said Tuesday that its hospitals in Fargo alone could use up to 300 more nurses to handle COVID-19 cases and is bumping up incentives to try and fill the void.

“We really are in crisis,” said Dr. Doug Griffin, Sanford Health vice president and medical officer in Fargo.

The state Department of Health reported Tuesday that 514 of the 2,712 active cases in the state are in Cass County, which includes the Fargo and Moorhead, Minnesota, metropolitan area of nearly 250,000 people. Hospitals across the region are filling up with both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients, Griffin said, and Fargo Sanford is about two to three weeks from reaching its peak hospitalization capacity.

Besides nurses, Fargo Sanford is also short-staffed in other areas like patient services, respiratory therapy and even “people who draw blood,” Griffin said.

Griffin said the Fargo system has hired 150 travel or contract nurses from other areas and has offered increased wages, sign-on bonuses and other unspecified perks to attract more workers. He said it’s the most dire staffing situation the system has faced in an area that has long had a nursing shortage and has already seen one COVID-19 surge. Many workers have quit from burnout, fatigue and watching patients die, he said.

The hospital is delaying some surgeries, including knee replacements, hernia operations and even some heart procedures that are not considered urgent, Griffin said.

“It’s really all about staffing. That’s the issue,” Griffin said. “It’s day-by-day.”

It’s also about low vaccination rates, he said. In 22 hospitals across the Sanford system, 123 of the 141 COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated. Forty-four of the 48 people in intensive care units are unvaccinated and 28 of the 30 people on ventilators have not had shots.

“The vaccines are a personal responsibility to help our communities and our country get through this pandemic,” said Griffin, who added that while he respects other opinions, he is “frustrated” by the vaccination turnout.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based Sanford bills itself as one of the largest rural health care systems in the country. It has major medical centers in Sioux Falls, Fargo, Bismarck, North Dakota, and Bemidji, Minnesota.

While most of the coronavirus patients in the Fargo system are from the metro area, Griffin said it has received inquiries from patients in “many, many places.”

Erich Heckel, German, 1883-1970. Blick Auf Das Ufer (View of the Shore), 1913. Oil on Canvas. Private collection, Minnesota Marine Art Museum, Winona.

Militia leader gets 53 years in Minnesota mosque bombing (copy)

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The leader of an Illinois anti-government militia group who authorities say masterminded the 2017 bombing of a Minnesota mosque was sentenced Monday to 53 years in prison for an attack that terrified the mosque’s community.

Emily Claire Hari, who was previously known as Michael Hari and recently said she is transgender, faced a mandatory minimum of 30 years for the attack on Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington. Defense attorneys asked for the minimum, but prosecutors sought life, saying Hari hasn’t taken responsibility for the attack.

No one was hurt in the bombing, but more than a dozen members of the mosque community gave victim impact statements Monday about the trauma it left behind. U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank said evidence clearly showed Hari’s intent was to “scare, intimidate and terrorize individuals of Muslim faith.”

“Diversity is the strength of this country,” Frank said. “Anyone who doesn’t understand that doesn’t understand the constitutional promise of this country that brings a lot of people here.”

“Anything less than 636 months would (be) disrespect to the law,” the judge added.

Hari made a brief statement before she was sentenced, saying, “For how blessed my first 47 years of life were, I can’t complain about what the last three have looked like ... considering my blessed and fortunate and happy life, I can’t ask the judge for anything further.”

She also said the victims who testified during Monday’s hearing have been through a “traumatic ordeal” and she wished them “God’s richest blessings in Christ Jesus.”

Frank said he was prepared to recommend Hari go to a women’s prison, but said the Bureau of Prisons would decide.

Hari was convicted in December on five counts, including damaging property because of its religious character and obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs.

Members of the mosque asked the judge on Monday to impose a life sentence, describing their shock and terror at the attack. Some were afraid to pray there afterward and have not returned. Mothers were scared to bring their kids to the mosque, which also serves as a charter school and community center.

“I felt really scared because I was going to start school in the same building soon and we lived like six blocks away from the mosque,” said Idris Yusuf, who was 9 when the bombing happened. “I was scared because if these people could do this to our mosque, what’s stopping them from coming to Muslim people’s homes too?”

Afterward, community members said they saw 53 years as justice for an attack that has rattled worshippers for more than four years.

“We were looking for life (in prison), but this is something we can settle for today,” said Khalid Omar, a community organizer and Dar Al Farooq worshipper.

Several men were gathered at Dar al-Farooq for early morning prayers on Aug. 5, 2017, when a pipe bomb was thrown through the window of an imam’s office. A seven-month investigation led authorities to Clarence, Illinois, a rural community about 120 miles (190 kilometers) south of Chicago, where Hari and co-defendants Michael McWhorter and Joe Morris lived.

Authorities say Hari, 50, led a group called the White Rabbits that included McWhorter, Morris and others and that Hari came up with the plan to attack the mosque. Prosecutors said at trial that she was motivated by hatred for Muslims, citing excerpts from Hari’s manifesto known as The White Rabbit Handbook.

McWhorter and Morris, who portrayed Hari as a father figure, each pleaded guilty to five counts and testified against her. They are awaiting sentencing.

It wasn’t initially clear how the White Rabbits became aware of Dar al-Farooq, but the mosque was in headlines in the years before the attack: Some young people from Minnesota who traveled to Syria to join the Islamic State group had worshipped there. Mosque leaders were never accused of any wrongdoing. Hari’s attorneys wrote in court filings that she was a victim of online misinformation about the mosque.

Assistant federal defender Shannon Elkins also said gender dysphoria fueled Hari’s “inner conflict,” saying she wanted to transition but knew she would be ostracized, so she formed a “rag-tag group of freedom fighters or militia men” and “secretly looked up ‘sex change,’ ‘transgender surgery,’ and ‘post-op transgender’ on the internet.”

Prosecutors said gender dysphoria is not an excuse and said using it “to deflect guilt is offensive.”

Prosecutors asked for several sentencing enhancements, arguing the bombing was a hate crime led by Hari. They also say Hari committed obstruction when she tried to escape from custody during her transfer from Illinois to Minnesota for trial in February 2019. Hari denied trying to flee.

Hari, a former sheriff’s deputy and self-described entrepreneur and watermelon farmer, self-published books including essays on religion, and has floated ideas for a border wall with Mexico. She gained attention on the “Dr. Phil” talk show after she fled to the South American nation of Belize in the early 2000s during a custody dispute. She was convicted of child abduction and sentenced to probation.

Before her 2018 arrest in the mosque bombing, she used the screen name “Illinois Patriot” to post more than a dozen videos to YouTube, most of them anti-government monologues.

Hari, McWhorter and Morris were also charged in a failed November 2017 attack on an abortion clinic in Champaign, Illinois. Plea agreements for McWhorter and Morris say the men participated in an armed home invasion in Indiana, and the armed robberies or attempted armed robberies of two Walmart stores in Illinois.

Ex-cops accused of violating Floyd's rights plead not guilty

MINNEAPOLIS — Four former Minneapolis police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights pleaded not guilty Tuesday in a federal hearing that included arguments on several pretrial motions, including requests to hold separate trials.

A federal grand jury indicted Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao in May for allegedly depriving Floyd of his rights while acting under government authority on May 25, 2020, as Floyd, 46, was held face-down, handcuffed and not resisting in a restraint that was captured on bystander video. His death led to worldwide protests and calls for change in policing.

All four of the men appeared at the hearing remotely via videoconference. Chauvin, wearing a plain T-shirt, appeared from a small room in the state’s maximum security prison, where he is serving a 22 1/2-year sentence for murder in Floyd’s death. The other three men appeared remotely alongside their attorneys.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Tony Leung asked each man separately how he would plea, and each clearly responded: “Not guilty.”

The hearing also addressed roughly 40 pretrial motions, though many were similar. Most of the motions were routine, such as agreeing when names of witnesses would be disclosed. But Leung heard oral arguments on two issues, and ordered attorneys to file additional written arguments on those motions.

Attorneys for Lane and Kueng asked the judge to remove language from the indictment that says their clients had been police officers since December 2019. Earl Gray, Lane’s attorney, said his client was still in training and remained under supervision for months. Gray said Lane was working his fourth shift without supervision when he encountered Floyd. Tom Plunkett, Kueng’s attorney, said his client was on his third shift without supervision. Both attorneys said language in the indictment that indicates otherwise would be unfair.

“Common sense dictates that a law officer with four days on the job would be less apt to intervene,” Gray argued.

Prosecutor Manda Sertich said the men were officers as of December 2019 — they graduated from the police academy and were sworn in.

Kueng, Thao and Lane are also asking that their federal trials be separated from Chauvin’s, saying they would be unfairly prejudiced if they went to trial alongside him.

Plunkett wrote in court documents that evidence against Chauvin would confuse the jury and deprive Kueng of his right to a fair trial. Gray argued in court that “everybody knows Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder” so a jury would have a hard time presuming the other former officers’ innocence.

Attorney Robert Paule argued that much of the evidence against Chauvin would not come into play against his client, Thao. Paule also argued that since it appears Lane and Kueng intend to use their lack of experience as a defense, Thao, who had been an officer for more than eight years, should be tried alone.

Leung gave no indication of how he would rule. He said this case has video evidence, which shows what each defendant did or did not do. He also said separating trials in federal court is not common, but it does happen. He asked prosecutors why the men should be tried together.

Sertich said the state’s case against the men was separated due to space restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but federal court has more space. She also said jurors will know about Chauvin’s murder conviction whether he is sitting in the courtroom with the other three former officers or not.

As Floyd was being arrested, he repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe as Chauvin pinned him to the ground. Kueng and Lane helped restrain Floyd; Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, and Lane held Floyd’s legs, according to evidence in state court. Thao held back bystanders and kept them from intervening during the 9 1/2-minute restraint.

While all four officers are charged broadly with depriving Floyd of his rights while acting under government authority, the indictment breaks down the counts. A count against Chauvin alleges he violated Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure and unreasonable force by a police officer.

Thao and Kueng are charged with violating Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure by not intervening to stop Chauvin as he knelt on Floyd’s neck. All four officers are charged with depriving Floyd of his rights when they failed to provide medical care.

The four former officers were also charged in state court, where Chauvin was convicted in April of murder and manslaughter. The other three former officers face state trial next March on aiding and abetting counts.

Chauvin is also charged in a separate federal indictment alleging he violated the civil rights of a 14-year-old boy in 2017.

Meanwhile, the federal government is investigating policing practices in Minneapolis. The investigation known as a “pattern or practice” — examining whether there is a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing — includes a sweeping review of the entire police department. It may result in major changes to policing in the Minnesota city.


Find AP’s full coverage of the death of George Floyd at: