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Willmar's chief of police says major crime incidents are not connected

WILLMAR -- Police Chief David Wyffels wants the public to know that five major criminal offenses that have occurred on the city's southeast side during the last month -- including last Wednesday incident in which a police officer and squad car were shot at -- are not connected to one another.

"It's been brought up that the southeast side has been plagued with a series of serious crimes, and I want the public to know that what we have been experiencing over there is not connected to one another,'' Wyffels told the Willmar City Council on Monday night.

"Each event we've been handling recently are their own events. So the drive by-shooting of a few weeks ago is not connected to this event from before, nor the stabbing that we had a few weeks prior to that,'' he said.

"In all of the situations we've had, five are what I call major criminal offenses on the southeast side in the last month. Three of them are put to rest where we've had arrests and know who the perpetrators are. They are in jail,'' Wyffels said.

"The fourth, the victim of that assault, is not cooperating with the police and will not tell us anything, plus he had a warrant for his arrest. And the last one, although we know who did it, that person is not in town and we can't put that to rest until that person is brought back to town or comes back to town so we can arrest them,'' the chief said.

"So the community at large is safe. This isn't an ongoing, gang interrelated thing. This is individual and separate offenses. The victims in each case were specific victims known to the assailants,'' the chief said.

Wyffels spoke after Mayor Les Heitke commended the officers who were involved and who responded to last week's call.

"It's important for the public to understand that our police respond very efficiently and swiftly to such a situation and that the individuals are under arrest. Thanks to the police department for their quick action,'' Heitke said.

Wyffels said he is proud of his officers and how the situation ended.

"When I think of what could have happened in a situation like this where they're being shot at or gunfire exchanged at that time of the evening, that location First Street, a busy area, the outcome could have been much different. Those guys literally did put their lives on the line for this community,'' Wyffels said.

Heitke also thanked the citizen who called the police, which enabled them to respond quickly. The mayor requested the situation be placed on the Public Works/Safety Committee's agenda next week for citizens or council members who want further discussion.

In other business, the council approved a partnership agreement between the Willmar Design Center and the Minnesota Main Street Program. Minnesota Main Street is a program under the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, a nonprofit group advocating for preservation of Minnesota's historic resources.

The Main Street Program assists organizations and cities with downtown revitalization efforts. Willmar has been designated as one of four Minnesota Main Street cities throughout the state.

By entering into the agreement, the Design Center, on behalf of the city, will have access to more funding opportunities as well as more resources for services. This annual agreement will not require further expenditure from the city other than the amount currently budgeted annually for the Design Center, reported Denis Anderson, chairman of the Finance Committee, which recommended approval of the agreement.

The agreement is subject to review by City Attorney Rich Ronning, including an agreement between the city and Design Center detailing financial responsibilities.

After clearing all agenda items, the council voted to go into closed session to discuss negotiations between the city and the Kvam consortium of landowners over the value of 46.22 acres of farmland obtained by the city from the landowners for construction of the sewer pipelines for the wastewater treatment project.

The Kvams filed a lawsuit in district court challenging the land value set by a three-member team of commissioners. The court ordered both sides to try to reach an agreement through mediation.

A mediation session was held Sept. 14 and another is scheduled for this morning.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150