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Arson, assault and property damage case against Willmar man suspended after he was found incompetent

A Willmar man charged a year ago in a pickup fire and police chase has been found incompetent to proceed in the criminal case. A civil commitment order was signed April 5.

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WILLMAR — An arson, assault and property damage case against a Willmar man arrested in April 2021 after fleeing police is on hold after he was found incompetent to proceed.

Michael Andrew Seys, 33, was charged last year in Kandiyohi County District Court with six felonies — second-degree arson; fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle; second-degree assault; two counts of first-degree property damage; and obstructing legal process by interfering with a peace officer that created a risk of injury.

Gross misdemeanor and misdemeanor charges also were filed, including driving while impaired.

He was accused of lighting a pickup on fire and leading Willmar police officers on a chase, damaging their cars in the process.

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Michael Andrew Seys
Custody photo

Judge Stephen Wentzell signed the order March 21 to suspend the proceedings against Seys.

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According to the order, neither prosecutors nor defense counsel objected to the finding that Seys cannot understand the proceedings nor participate in his defense.

Court records show a separate petition for civil commitment was filed March 25, and Judge Wentzell signed a commitment order April 5 for treatment of mental illness.

The criminal complaint in the 2021 case describes a series of events that began before 5 a.m. April 24, 2021, when a pickup fire was reported in an apartment building parking lot in southeast Willmar.

The owner of the burning pickup told police he had seen Seys break a window, pour fuel inside and light it on fire.

Seys was found in his own pickup with the doors locked, and he refused to turn off the engine or speak to officers.

According to the complaint, Seys drove away after damaging two squad cars. Officers pursued Seys east on U.S. Highway 12. One squad car was too badly damaged to be driven.

The chase continued on the Highway 71/23 bypass and eventually South First Street with officers making several attempts to box in the pickup that at one point became stuck in the grassy median. Eventually, all four tires were punctured by an officer with a pocket knife.

Because of an ax observed in the cab, three officers drew their weapons when ordering Seys out of the vehicle, and one drew a stun gun. One of the officers activated the automatic door opener to deploy his K-9 partner.

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When Seys left his vehicle, he first asked the officers to kill him and then complied with their orders. However, after he was on his knees, he struggled when officers tried to handcuff him. During the struggle, one of the officers sprained his elbow.

A breath test indicated Seys had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.14 percent about an hour after the incident started. The threshold for drunken driving is 0.08 percent.

In addition to the squad car disabled at the original scene, some type of damage was documented to four squad cars — three belonging to the Police Department and one belonging to the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office.

Susan Lunneborg is the news editor of the West Central Tribune in Willmar, Minnesota. A journalist for more than 25 years, she has worked as a reporter and editor at newspapers in the Dakotas and Minnesota.
Lunneborg can be reached at: slunneborg@wctib.com or 320-214-4343.
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