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Nineteen-year-old arrested for stabbing woman in Willmar

Called the “peace keeper,” this former military vehicle was used Thursday when law enforcement entered a northwest Willmar home where police believed a suspect in a morning stabbing was hiding. A 64-year-old woman was injured in the incident. The 19-year-old male suspect was not in the home. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

By Gretchen Schlosser and Carolyn Lange

WILLMAR — A 19-year-old Willmar man was arrested on a second-degree assault charge for allegedly stabbing a woman Thursday morning at a northwest Willmar residence.

According to Willmar Police Chief Jim Felt, Exsavor Rene Cruz was arrested when law enforcement officers served a search warrant on a home along the 1500 block of Gorton Avenue Northwest. The arrest came around 1:15 p.m. Thursday and was without incident.

Cruz, who could make his first court appearance today, also faces a felony charge for attempted first-degree arson.

Felt said that there was evidence of what appeared to be arson, along with the weapon they believe was used in the stabbing, in the home where the incident happened, along the 400 block of 13th Street Northwest.

The assault was reported around 8:10 a.m. Thursday and the first officers arrived to find Maria H. Garcia, 64, of Willmar, with multiple stab wounds. She had gone to a neighboring residence for assistance.

Garcia’s condition was unknown to police Thursday afternoon. She was transferred to an undisclosed metro-area hospital by medical helicopter.

Garcia was able to give a statement to police and identify the suspect, who police say is a relative to the victim through marriage.

Because of the violent nature of the incident, the number of people involved and the potential for weapons use, the Police Department called for assistance from other agencies and its own SWAT team.

Officers secured a perimeter around the home, asked neighbors to either stay inside or evacuate from their residences, and then used the “peacekeeper,” a reinforced armored vehicle, to approach the home. They also used the vehicle’s public address system and a distraction device.

Officers stormed the home, but did not find anyone in the residence, Felt said. “We did a thorough search of the home and didn’t turn up anyone,” he said.

The police then turned their attention to the home along Gorton Avenue and secured the search warrant on the residence, finding Cruz inside the house.

The incident was not a random crime, Felt said, and no further suspects were being sought.

Assisting in the response and arrest were the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office and its SWAT team and medic team, the State Patrol, state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the CEE-VI Drug Task Force and the Willmar ambulance and fire departments.