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Willmar, Minn., teens sentenced for stealing van in case involving police chase

WILLMAR — The two teenagers charged with felony counts for their roles in a Oct. 25 incident that involved the theft of a motor vehicle, fleeing from Willmar police officers and causing a gas leak that required the partial evacuation of Regency Estates West were sentenced Wednesday in Kandiyohi County District Court.

Darien Cole Frank, 19, of New London, was sentenced to 13 months in prison, which was stayed, 120 days in jail, five years of probation and a $1,000 fine on a felony charge of theft. Frank was also ordered to complete chemical dependency treatment, obtain and keep a job and have no contact with the victim of the theft.

Frank pleaded guilty Dec. 14 to felony theft. As part of a plea agreement, two misdemeanor charges of motor vehicle tampering are dismissed.

Luis Gerardo Nieves, 16, of Willmar, was sentenced to six months of probation, 112 hours of community work service and 12 days of detention at Prairie Lakes. The teen was also ordered to pay $1,560.18 in restitution, obtain his GED and follow the recommendations of a chemical assessment.

Nieves pleaded guilty Nov. 19 to juvenile charges of felony motor vehicle theft and gross misdemeanor theft.

Both Frank’s adult sentence and Nieves’ juvenile disposition were handed down this week by District Judge Michael J. Thompson. Felony charges against juveniles aged 16 or 17 are public record.

The teens were charged after Willmar police officers were called around 1:20 a.m. Oct. 25 to the 800 block of Northwood Court Northwest. The caller reported a robbery, which was determined to be a case of theft from a motor vehicle. The two suspects had fled in a blue van headed northbound toward the county fairgrounds.

The residents reporting the crime said the suspects took a $700 speaker from a vehicle.

Two Willmar police officers, in two separate squad cars, observed the van heading westbound on Gorton Avenue and pursued it to Regency West. The officers pursued the vehicle for at least three minutes inside the trailer park. The vehicle went through yards and a field at speeds of 30 to 35 mph. The chase ended when the driver, identified as Nieves, lost control of the van. The van spun out and struck one of the police squad cars.

During the pursuit, the vehicle struck a gas meter on an empty lot at the trailer park, causing a leak, according to information from the Police Department. Approximately half of the trailer park’s residences were evacuated until about 4 a.m. the next day. No injuries were reported.

Both suspects were taken into custody. Nieves told officers he was walking around looking for open vehicles and found the van with the keys inside. He said he then took the vehicle. He picked up Frank on Seventh Street and said Frank took the speaker from the second vehicle. The van was identified as stolen from the 400 block of 13th Street Northwest.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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