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Officials ID cause of 2015 train crash; Duffy predicts 'brass-knuckle fight' at GOP convention; state cops called in for Lake Hallie shooting case; 10 more state news stories

ALMA -- A train operator hit the brakes too fast, causing last November's derailment in which 20,000 gallons of ethanol spilled into the Mississippi River.

The Burlington Northern-Santa Fe railroad investigated the mishap from last November near Alma -- and it recently submitted its findings to the federal government. The report says the 112-car southbound train was going at 26 mph when it jumped the tracks, and five cars leaked ethanol into the Mississippi.

No one was hurt, and BNSF says there was $2.1 million in damage to its tracks and equipment. The derailment was one of two in Wisconsin on the same weekend, as 500 gallons of crude oil were spilled in the other mishap at Watertown -- and it spurred numerous calls by politicians to pass tougher regulations on trains carrying North Dakota crude and other chemicals.


Duffy predicts 'brass-knuckle fight' at GOP convention

MILWAUKEE -- Congressman Sean Duffy says we'll see a "brass-knuckle fight" between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump for delegates at this summer's GOP National Convention.

On the TV show "Up-Front With Mike Gousha," Duffy says he expects a brokered convention in which no candidate will come in with the majority of delegates needed to win the nomination. The Wausau Republican says it's "incredibly unlikely" that a person who didn't run for the office -- like House Speaker Paul Ryan -- would walk away with the nomination.

Duffy predicts that either Cruz or Trump will get the nod.


State investigating shooting death by police in Lake Hallie

LAKE HALLIE -- State and local authorities continue to investigate the death of a 25-year-old woman by a police officer in Lake Hallie, near Eau Claire.

Chippewa County sheriff's officials say Melissa Abbott of Black River Falls died after being shot once in the abdomen and once in a leg.

Police were called to a Walmart on Friday after getting a report of a disorderly person. Authorities say Abbott came from the Northern Wisconsin Center for the Developmentally Disabled, grabbed a hatchet in the store, and the lone officer on the scene shot her when she lunged toward him with the weapon.

It's said to be the first police-involved shooting in Lake Hallie's history, and the unidentified officer is on administrative leave while it's being investigated.


Wisconsin sees downshift in quarterly vehicle sales

MADISON -- Fewer Wisconsinites are buying new cars and light trucks this year.

The state's Auto and Truck Dealers Association reports a 5.1 percent decline in overall sales in the first quarter of 2016, compared to the same time the previous year. About 55,000 new vehicles were purchased from January through March -- and two-thirds of them are trucks and SUVs.

Those sales are steady, while new car purchases are down significantly from this time last year. Bill Sepic of the auto-and-truck association is confident that vehicle sales will soon pick up.


Fifth anniversary of record April tornadoes

MERRILL-- It was five years ago Sunday when 11 tornadoes touched down in Wisconsin, a one-day record for April. Small towns and rural areas were hardest hit like Merrill, where 65 homes were destroyed.

Jim Swendrzysnki tells WAOW-TV he remembers his house crumbling above his family as they were going down to their basement -- and he had to push a wall to get them to escape.

You'll hear a lot about tornadoes this week, because it's Tornado Awareness Week in Wisconsin. The state averages 23 tornadoes each year -- and both businesses and residents will get a chance to test their safety procedures when the usual Thursday afternoon mock-tornado warning is issued, plus a similar night-time exercise for the first time.


Court rejects full damages for owners of attacked dog

MADISON -- A state appeals court tells a La Crosse area family what Judge Judy has long told her TV litigants -- that as much as we love our pets, they are only property in the eyes of the law.

The Fourth District Appellate Court says Thomas and Cary Smith of Onalaska are not entitled to full damages suffered when their 11-year-old white terrier was mauled by a German shepherd owned by neighbors Aaron and Julie Foglia.

The Smiths say they spent $12,000 dollars for expenses related the dog's surgery. But the appellate court agreed with a circuit judge that the Smiths are only entitled to the replacement cost for a new dog -- almost $2,700 -- plus a doubled amount because the other dog caused injuries in the past. The Smiths are considering asking the State Supreme Court to review the case.


State fire marshal investigating stone house fire

DARLINGTON -- The state Fire Marshal's office is trying to figure out why a 150-year-old stone house was gutted by flames early Sunday in southwest Wisconsin.

WKOW-TV in Madison says criminal investigators from the state Justice Department's arson bureau are looking into the incident. No one was home at the time, and no injuries were reported. Police Chief Jason King says Darlington fire officials asked for the state's help -- but he would not say why. Damage was estimated at $70,000.


UW-Madison to award rare posthumous graduate degree

MADISON -- For only the second time in UW-Madison history, the school will posthumously award a graduate-school degree next month.

Parents of the late Craig Schuff will accept their son's doctorate in electrical engineering. The 30-year-old Schuff died last October, before he could finish his defense of a thesis involving research on the generating of neutrons from devices that scan packages and detect various chemicals.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, posthumous graduate degrees are awarded only to those who complete all their course requirements, and be at least close to finishing a thesis.


School investigates racial chants at soccer game

ELKHORN -- The Elkhorn School District is investigating racial chants from its students at a home high school soccer game.

Beloit Memorial coach Brian Denu tells WISC-TV in Madison that his Hispanic and African-American players were hurt last Thursday by racial slurs and chants of "Donald Trump, build that wall" -- a reference to the Republican presidential candidate's proposal to remove illegal immigrants from the country.

Elkhorn District Administrator Jason Tadlock confirms that its students did the yelling -- and he apologized, and said the district was changing its supervision plan to avoid such incidents. Denu says some of his players were so hurt, they left the game -- and one "cradled" in an assistant coach's arms for up to 20 minutes. He says he appreciates Elkhorn's quick response, but the words are something that can never be taken back.


Teen killed, three others hurt in Milwaukee shooting

MILWAUKEE -- A 17-year-old boy has died and three others were hurt in a shooting incident at a Milwaukee apartment building.

It happened just after 6:45 p.m. Sunday on the northwest side, and police are still trying to find out what happened and why. Early reports indicate that all four teens were shot in the building, and one ran to a liquor store to call for help.

Police say rescuers tried but failed to save the shooting victim, and he died at the scene. The other three victims -- all males, ages 16, 17, and 19 -- suffered non-life-threatening wounds.


Trayvon Martin's mother to speak at UW-Oshkosh

OSHKOSH -- Trayvon Martin's mother will speak at UW-Oshkosh Tuesday night.

Sybrina Fulton has been an advocate for social change, after her 17-year-old black son was killed by white neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in 2012 in Florida. The defendant claimed self-defense, and a jury acquitted him of second-degree murder in a nationally watched trial.

Fulton will talk about her resulting social change efforts at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the ballroom of the U-W Oshkosh Alumni Welcome-and-Conference Center. The speech is part of the school's Social Justice Week.


Invasive species force DNR to reduce salmon stocking

CLEVELAND, Wis. -- Anglers are finding fewer salmon to catch on Lake Michigan.

State DNR officials told people at a "Fishery Forum" in eastern Wisconsin Saturday that the agency has stocked 30-percent fewer salmon in the big lake since 2013 -- and one big reason is an increase in invasive species.

Lake Michigan fishery supervisor Brad Eggold says his staff needs to create a balance between the numbers of predators and prey in Lake Michigan -- and salmon stocking went down because of the increase in prey. WLUK-TV says commercial fishermen attended the meeting, along with leaders of fishing clubs.

Eggold says the DNR wants to work with the anglers to maintain overall fishery levels.


State Capitol repairs being completed

MADISON -- Many recent visitors to the State Capitol in Madison had no idea that repairs were being made above their heads.

Crews have spent most of the winter and spring fixing the interior of the Capitol dome, which begins 184-feet above street level.

Project manager Ted Crawford says the main job has been the repairing of plaster. It started pulling away from the outer dome after new humidity-control units were installed 11 years ago -- and trusses and exterior gutters are also being repaired.

Crawford tells the Wisconsin Radio Network the work is about 90-percent finished, and the final cost is expected to be less than the original estimate of $880,000.