West-central Minnesota man in jail after suspected arson, fleeing from police

A Willmar man, 33, is in custody, facing felony charges after an early morning incident Saturday that began as a suspected arson of a motor vehicle and morphed into a chase that ultimately injured one officer and caused damage to four squad cars.

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WILLMAR — A 33-year-old Willmar man is in the Kandiyohi County Jail facing multiple felony charges after a suspected arson led to a motor vehicle chase early Saturday.

During the incident, one Willmar police officer suffered minor injuries, and four Willmar Police Department squad cars were damaged. One had to be towed.

The Willmar Police Department and Fire Department were called at about 4:45 a.m. Saturday to a vehicle fire in a parking lot in the 400 block of Lakeland Drive Southeast, according to a news release from Police Chief Jim Felt.

400 Block of Lakeland Drive SE, Willmar, Minnesota


Witnesses pointed out a man in the parking lot and said they had seen him pouring what they thought was gasoline in the vehicle and set it on fire. When officers tried to speak with him, he got into a 1983 red Ford pickup and drove away.

On Lakeland Drive, he lost control of the vehicle and was blocked in by officers. According to the release, he rammed and disabled a squad car and drove east on U.S. Highway 12.

The man once again lost control near the Highway 71/23 bypass. When officers tried to block him in using their squads, he rammed the squad cars and drove south on the bypass.

He exited onto South First Street, where police were able to use a “pursuit intervention technique” to flatten his vehicle’s tires. He was taken into custody after his vehicle was stopped in the median of South First Street.

The suspect is being held on pending charges of second-degree arson, fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle, multiple counts of fourth-degree assault, criminal damage to property and fourth-degree driving while impaired.

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