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Appeals court rules against Sacred Heart man for firing at officer

WILLMAR -- The Minnesota Court of Appeals has ruled against the man sentenced to more than 20 years in prison for shooting at Clara City Police Chief Ralph Bradley during a September 2005 high-speed chase into Willmar.

In an unpublished opinion released Tuesday, the court disagreed with Enrique Villareal Jr.'s appeal that the testimony of his accomplice was not enough to prove that he intended to kill Bradley by shooting at his squad car. Villareal had filed an appeal after his post-conviction petition was denied by the district court.

The testimony led to Villareal's conviction of attempted first-degree murder of a peace officer. He was resentenced last November to 21 years in prison and is incarcerated at the Minnesota Corrections Facility at Rush City.

The appeals court also ruled against Villareal's argument that he was denied effective assistance of counsel. He argued that he did not understand his attorney because he didn't have an interpreter and that he didn't understand the difference between a jury and bench trial. The appeals court opinion notes that Villareal chose to forgo the use of an interpreter and that he signed a waiver waiving the jury trial with the assistance of an interpreter.

Villareal, 27, of Sacred Heart, had his sentence reduced from 22 to 21 years last November, after a court ruling vacating his conviction on a felony charge for possession of a stolen firearm.

He had been charged after a high-speed chase on Sept. 14, 2005, during which he fired three shots that struck the pursuing squad car driven by Bradley. One of the shots came within inches of striking the pursuing officer.

The chase ended in a Willmar mobile home court. The defendant pointed a rifle at Bradley and Willmar Police Sgt. Glen Negen but fled on foot.

The incident began after Bradley spotted a pickup that Villareal and Oscar Flores, 27, of Renville had stolen in Clara City. The pickup had firearms in it when taken, but the officer was unaware of this when he signaled the vehicle to stop and the pursuit began. Flores is serving a 10-year sentence for an attempted murder charge and receiving stolen property in the Minnesota Corrections Facility at Stillwater.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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