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Man charged in connection with Willmar high-speed chase

Jose Luis Zepada-Caballero

WILLMAR — Police say they have arrested the man who led them on a high-speed chase through downtown Willmar earlier this month, crashing his vehicle into a squad car and a front yard before taking off on foot.

Jose Luis Zepada-Caballero, 31, of Willmar, was charged Monday with felonies for fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle, failing to register as a predatory offender, and fifth-degree drug possession.

The chase happened around 9 p.m. March 8, after a Willmar police officer attempted to stop a 2000 Dodge Durango near the intersection of 14th Avenue and Lakeland Drive Northeast for an inoperative headlight.

Police said the vehicle eventually pulled to the side of the road, but as officers approached, it sped off. A three-mile chase ensued, reaching speeds of 91 mph and blowing through stop signs.

When the Durango crashed into a yard near Johanna Avenue and Fourth Street Southeast and the suspect took off running, officers chased after the man. The Police Department, Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office, Minnesota State Patrol and Police Department K-9 searched the area, with no luck. The suspect was at large for days.

Immediately after the chase, police processed the vehicle for DNA evidence to pinpoint possible suspects. It had been reported stolen less than a half an hour following the chase.

According to the criminal complaint, the Willmar Police Department a few days later received a tip that Zepada-Caballero had been the driver in the chase.

On March 13, Willmar police went to a home on the 900 block of Fifth Street Southwest to talk with Zepada-Caballero. But in the middle of the discussion, he reportedly took off running. Again, police were unable to locate him.

Police arrested Zepada-Caballero at the same address Thursday. After executing a search warrant, police reportedly located two bags of meth totaling 1 gram, according to the criminal complaint on the charges.

A woman at the address was also arrested at that time and booked into the Kandiyohi County Jail on charges of assaulting a police officer, obstructing the legal process and disorderly conduct. However, she was later released and has not been charged.

Zepada-Caballero was previously convicted and sentenced to 10 years of probation in Kandiyohi County in 2009 of first-degree burglary and fifth-degree gross misdemeanor criminal sexual conduct.

Those charges stemmed from an incident where a 13-year-old girl reported she was sexually assaulted by a man who jumped out of a bedroom closet, took off his belt and pushed her down to the bed. The girl kneed the man in the groin and yelled, causing her brother to come to check on her. The man then jumped out of a second floor window and climbed down a tree.

At that time, Zepada-Caballero was ordered to register as a predatory offender and deported to Honduras. He told police after his Thursday arrest that he had returned to the U.S. in 2013.

Zepada-Caballero is also known by the alias Carlos Antonio Navares-Lopez.

He was booked Thursday into the Kandiyohi County Jail. Bail was set at $100,000, but the bond was set higher at $1 million.

His next court appearance is set for March 28.