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Teens face felony charges for vehicle theft, police chase

WILLMAR -- The two teens who allegedly stole a vehicle, fled from Willmar police officers and caused a gas leak that required the partial evacuation of Regency West early Thursday made their first appearances Friday in Kandiyohi County District C...

WILLMAR -- The two teens who allegedly stole a vehicle, fled from Willmar police officers and caused a gas leak that required the partial evacuation of Regency West early Thursday made their first appearances Friday in Kandiyohi County District Court.

Darien Cole Frank, 19, of New London, faces one felony charge of theft plus two misdemeanor charges of motor vehicle tampering. His unconditional bail was set at $25,000. His next court appearance is scheduled Friday.

Luis Gerardo Nieves, 16, of Willmar, faces juvenile charges, including two felonies for motor vehicle theft and fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle, a gross misdemeanor for theft and a misdemeanor for reckless driving. He was released to his parents and ordered to stay home or in the company of his father except when he's serving community work service. His next court appearance is scheduled Nov. 19. Felony charges against juveniles aged 16 or 17 are public record.

According to the charges against the pair, Willmar police officers were called around 1:20 a.m. Thursday 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.

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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 3 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. Thursday. 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.

Frank refused to speak to officers.

The van was identified as stolen from the 400 block of 13th Street Northwest.

Frank's Nov. 2 court appearance also includes a probation violation hearing on previous charges of first-degree burglary and a gross misdemeanor charge of receiving stolen property. He was convicted of those charges Oct. 1, for breaking into a garage June 11 in southwest Willmar and for possessing a gold-plated chalice stolen in April from Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Church in Spicer. The chalice was valued at $1,150. Frank told investigators he got the cup from a friend so that he could have a 'pimp' cup.

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