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Willmar man facing charges are trying to elude authorities

WILLMAR -- A Willmar man faces multiple criminal charges stemming from a weekend incident during which he allegedly stole a car and then tried to elude authorities on foot by wading into Green Lake.

Victor Manuel Sanchez Jr., 25, made his first court appearance Monday.

He is charged with motor vehicle theft, which is a felony; two counts of third-degree driving while impaired, both gross misdemeanors; fleeing a peace officer other than in a motor vehicle, a misdemeanor; and failure to use headlights, a petty misdemeanor.

According to court records, the incident began to unfold at around 2 a.m. Saturday when a Kandiyohi County sheriff's deputy, on routine patrol in Spicer, observed a car with its headlights off at a stop sign. The deputy followed the vehicle down the street and activated the squad car's emergency lights. At that point, the vehicle abruptly turned into a driveway on Lake Avenue South. The driver exited while the car was still rolling forward, became tangled near the door and was dragged a short distance before getting up from the ground and taking off on foot.

As the deputy pursued him, the male suspect ran through backyards, onto the beach and into the waters of Green Lake. The suspect continued to try to elude arrest, at one point hiding under a pontoon that was up on a lift.

He spent an estimated eight to 10 minutes in the water while a growing number of deputies arrived at the scene. The chase ended when two deputies standing on the edge of a dock spotted the suspect in the water and maced him.

After decontamination from the mace exposure, the suspect was taken to the Kandiyohi County Jail in Willmar. According to the court file, he admitted he had been drinking since 2 p.m. Friday afternoon. Under questioning, he also said the car he was driving didn't belong to him and he didn't know who the owner was.

Court records said a preliminary breath test resulted in a reading of 0.13 blood alcohol content, above the 0.08 legal limit for driving. A search of Sanchez's record revealed a DWI conviction in 2006.

Judge Donald Spilseth set bail at $20,000 for a conditional release and $25,000 for an unconditional release.

Sanchez's next scheduled court appearance is July 17 for an omnibus hearing.