National debate spurred by Little Falls deaths strains community - FOX 35 News Orlando

National debate spurred by Little Falls deaths strains community

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The fatal shooting of two teens in Little Falls, Minn., got national attention on Tuesday as news outlets discussed how far homeowners should go in defending themselves, but residents say the spotlight is straining an already suffering community.

The case itself, which includes graphic information about how 17-year-old Nick Brady and 18-year-old Haile Kifer, has been particularly tough for the teenage friends of the two cousins who were shot by 64-year-old Byron Smith on Thanksgiving Day.

"This is really consuming the whole community," Sheila Gardner told FOX 9 News.

Everywhere you turn in Little Falls, people are talking about the fatal encounter at Smith's rural home.

"It's horrible," said Kifer's friend Stephanie Gardner. "Don't' know how else to describe it -- so many affected by it."

Tuesday was the first day since the deaths that students in the small river community returned to class.

"More than anything else, it's stunned -- shock," superintendent Steve Jones told FOX 9 News. "Kids are quiet; kids are respectful."

Jones said some of the students are heartbroken, but others are disgusted by the graphic and violent details of the case -- along with the national debate that has followed.

On social media sites -- including Facebook, friends of the slain teens were so offended by the commentary and opinions posted on their tribute pages for Haile and Nick that they shut them down and launched new ones.

"I think kids are learning that some things you can't control in social media world," Jones said. "It's a point of conversation today."

A funeral for the two teens is set for 10 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1 at Living Hope Assembly of God Church. There will also be a visitation held between 4-8 p.m. on Friday at Emblom-Brenny Funeral Service with a prayer service at 7 p.m.

As the debate and analysis played out across the country, more details about the accused murderer have also emerged. The U.S. State Department confirmed that Smith worked in a security capacity for the federal government up until 2016.

FOX 9 News also obtained a copy of the police report from a prior alleged break-in at his home along the Mississippi River. In it, smith claimed the thieves made off with $9,000 in cash and coin, $3,000 in camera gear and a couple of guns.

When authorities asked Smith who he suspected in that crime, Smith mentioned a neighbor -- John Lange. Interestingly, Lange has been Smith's most outspoken supporter since his arrest last week.

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