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Willmar, Minn., man pleads to burglary charge for mall incident

WILLMAR -- Robert Friedgen, 57, of Willmar, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a third-degree burglary charge for breaking into the Centre Point Mall in downtown Willmar and causing thousands of dollars in damages to several businesses.

As part of a plea agreement in Kandiyohi County District Court, four additional felony counts, plus a misdemeanor theft charge, will be dismissed and Friedgen will pay restitution for the out-of-pocket costs of the business owners. He will be sentenced July 29.

The charges were filed after the burglary and damage to the downtown mall was reported on Nov. 13 by business employees who found the powdery contents of a fire extinguisher sprayed onto the floor, windows and walls, along with damage to doors and other property. The damage at the Somali Star coffee shop included more than $8,200 in damage to several juice and coffee machines and other items.

The investigation revealed surveillance video of a man wearing a puffy coat, a baseball cap and white shoes walking in the mall and being in the alley near the building. Information from another police officer revealed that officers had identified Friedgen as being in the area, as law enforcement was called to deal with a man who was kicking violently at a nearby apartment door.

Officers dealt with Friedgen again that same night at Rice Memorial Hospital, after he was violent with emergency room staff. Friedgen was arrested and cited for disorderly conduct, with jail staff noting that his jacket had white powder on it when he entered the jail.

Friedgen claimed he did enter the mall through an unlocked door but said he didn't do the damage to the property. He said he had also been at the hospital, and had injuries to his knuckles and wrists. Officers were allowed to check a puffy coat they observed in his home, and found the citation for disorderly conduct in the pocket, a business card from an employee of one of the mall businesses. He claimed that he had done business with the employee, but the employee told police she did not recognize the man and had not done any business with him.

Blood found on a doorknob in the mall was collected as evidence. State Bureau of Criminal Apprehension analysis of the blood matched a DNA sample from Friedgen.

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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