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Teens take vehicle, flee cops, hit gas meter; Regency West evacuated

WILLMAR -- Two young men suspected of a robbery fled from Willmar police early Thursday morning, causing a major gas leak that required the evacuation of half of the residents of the Regency West mobile home park.

According to Police Capt. Jim Felt, Darian Frank, 19, of Willmar, is in the Kandiyohi County Jail and a 16-year-old juvenile male from Willmar is at Prairie Lakes Detention Center. The young men are held on an array of charges including theft, burglary, fleeing in a motor vehicle and tampering with a motor vehicle.

Residents of the mobile home park were allowed to return to their homes around 4 a.m. after the gas leak had been contained.

The incident began around 1:20 a.m. when officers were dispatched to a home along the 800 block of Northwood Court on a report of an in-progress robbery, possibly with a weapon. The description of the two suspects and a van that left the scene was broadcast to the responding officers.

A van matching the description was located and officers followed it to Regency West. When officers attempted to stop the van, the driver attempted to flee by driving through streets and yards. The van hit a gas meter on an empty lot before going into an open field on the north side of the park. The van stopped and the two suspects were arrested after the driver lost control and the vehicle struck a police squad car.

The Willmar Fire Department was called in regarding the gas leak. Emergency crews remained on the scene until about 4 a.m. No injuries were reported to any residents or emergency workers.

Further investigation of the incident revealed that the initial call was an attempted theft from a vehicle, not a robbery as first reported, according to Police Chief David Wyffels.

Officers also found that the van involved in the incident was stolen from along the 400 block of 13th Street Northwest a short time before the incident was reported. The owner had not yet noticed or reported the motor vehicle theft at the time that police were first called.

Also responding to the incident were the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office and Willmar Ambulance Service.