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High-speed escape foiled but police get their man

BENSON -- Police in Benson aborted a high-speed chase for safety's sake, but continued their pursuit with shoe leather instead of rubber and got their man when he picked up a prescription one day later.

Charles William Skaife, 49, of Benson, entered not guilty pleas during appearances last week in Swift County District Court in Benson. He faces felony charges of assault - second-degree with a motor vehicle for a Nov. 14 incident at Swenson Motors in Benson and a felony charge of fleeing a police officer for a separate Nov. 19 incident.

Benson Police Chief Jim Crace credited two officers for their work in making possible Skaife's apprehension without incident on Nov. 20 in Minneapolis.

Police Sgt. Mike Jambor was on patrol Nov. 19 in Benson when he spotted the suspect in his vehicle. Jambor knew that a warrant existed for Skaife's arrest following the Nov. 14 incident in which he allegedly attempted to use his vehicle to harm a salesman at the local automobile dealership.

The criminal complaint charges that Skaife fled from Jambor by driving at a high rate of speed on Minnesota Highway 29 north of Benson. The pursuit continued for nearly 20 miles at speeds of 70 to 90 miles per hour.

The pursuit had been initiated in Benson at 11:18 a.m. There was an attempt to get stop sticks on the highway to halt the suspect, but a responding officer was unable to reach the intended stop point in time.

With lunchtime activity about to begin, Jambor became concerned that motorists and pedestrians in Starbuck would be at risk if the chase continued. He made a difficult decision to stop the pursuit for safety's sake, according to Crace.

Officer Paul Larson took over with the shoe leather work. He was aware that the suspect had a prescription he regularly filled. The officer contacted pharmacies and advised them that police were searching for Skaife.

One day later, a Minneapolis pharmacist called a Benson pharmacy to check on a prescription request by the defendant. Alerted about the request, Larson immediately contacted Minneapolis police officers. They were waiting at the Minneapolis pharmacy when Skaife arrived to pick up the prescription, according to Crace.

The Nov. 14 incident at Swenson Motors was allegedly triggered when Skaife became upset when told a prize offered in an advertisement was limited to the first 15 customers, and he was not among them. The complaint stated that he nearly took a swing at a salesperson, returned later and began driving toward the salesperson and a customer in the lot. The customer said he pushed the salesperson aside or "Skaife would have run him down,'' stated the complaint.

Skaife has a previous conviction for fifth-degree assault related to a 2007 incident also involving a motor vehicle.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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