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Minnesota roundup: Bemidji assistant principal enters not guilty plea in social media sex charges; BCA investigating officer-involved shooting

BEMIDJI, Minn. — A middle school assistant principal in Bemidji pleaded not guilty Monday, April 17, to two felony counts of engaging in electronic communication relating to or describing sexual conduct with a child.

Brandon Mark Bjerknes, 34, is accused of posing as a 13-year-old boy on social media in order to have sexual conversations with children, according to court documents.

A criminal complaint against Bjerknes accuses him of using the name "Brett Larson" on Facebook, Snapchat and email accounts in order to communicate with children. Bjerknes allegedly claimed he was a student at a now-closed Duluth school.

The Beltrami County Sheriff's Office began investigating the "Brett Larson" accounts in January 2017. Facebook provided investigators with an IP address related to the account, which the Sheriff's Office later learned was associated with the address assigned to Bjerknes.

Last month, after searching a cell phone, investigators found found Snapchat conversations under the username BrettLarson6969. Investigators allegedly found sexual conversations with two children aged 13 and 14.

Bjerknes was placed on paid administrative leave on March 20. He was hired by the district before the 2005-2006 school year, and was named the middle school's assistant principal in 2014.

Bemidji Area Schools board members were scheduled to discuss the charges against Bjerknes in a closed school board meeting Monday night, but district staff received a resignation letter from him Monday morning. The board unanimously approved a measure in its consent agenda Monday night that accepted Bjerknes' resignation and released him from his employment contract.

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BCA investigating officer-involved shooting

VADNAIS HEIGHTS, Minn. — State officials are investigating a fatal officer-involved shooting here Sunday night, April 16.

According to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, a Ramsey County Sheriff's deputy shot an unidentified man in a recreational vehicle near Highway 61 and Interstate 694 on the north side of the Twin Cities.

The deputy was one of four on a routine patrol when noticing the vehicle parked on the street, which was reported as "suspicious" by the responding officers.

Deputies found a man in the RV, and a woman in a car nearby. The deputy was inside the RV when firing the shot.

The man was taken by ambulance to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, where he later died.

The sheriff's department has placed the four deputies on standard administrative leave. Further information regarding the identities of the deputies involved, along with the victim's identity, has yet to be released.

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