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Willmar man facing six felonies for burning pickup, fleeing from police

A 32-year-old Willmar man is in jail, charged with felonies for arson of a pickup truck, fleeing police and using his vehicle to damage a handful of squad cars.

Michael Seys.jpg
Seys

WILLMAR — A man who allegedly lit a pickup truck on fire and led numerous squad cars on a chase through Willmar last weekend made his first court appearance on numerous felony and misdemeanor charges.

Michael Andrew Seys, 32, of Willmar , was in Kandiyohi County District Court on Tuesday. He was ordered held on $75,000 unconditional bail and $35,000 conditional bail, with his next court date scheduled on May 10. He remained in jail as of Thursday afternoon.

Seys has been charged 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. He also faces gross misdemeanor and misdemeanor charges including driving while impaired.

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A criminal complaint filed in court describes a series of events that began at 4:43 a.m. April 24 when a pickup fire was reported in an apartment building parking lot in the 400 block of Lakeland Drive Southeast in Willmar.

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When the first officer arrived, the cab of the pickup was fully engulfed in flames. The owner of the burning pickup told the officer he had seen Seys start the fire, according to the complaint.

The pickup’s owner said he had watched through his window and yelled as Seys broke out a window in the 1999 Chevrolet pickup, poured fuel inside, lit it on fire and walked away. By the time the owner got to his pickup, the cab was engulfed, according to the complaint.

The pickup owner pointed out Seys, who had walked to his own pickup and locked the doors. He wouldn’t roll down the windows or unlock the door when an officer tried to speak with him. The officer reported seeing a large axe in the front seat, according to court records.

As Seys refused commands to turn off the engine and roll down his windows, other officers arrived and parked their vehicles in front of and behind the pickup, according to the complaint.

Seys put his pickup in reverse and backed into the squad car behind him and struck a corner of the squad in front. He was able to drive away, and officers pursued Seys east on U.S. Highway 12. The squad car he had backed into was too badly damaged to be driven.

Officers pursued Seys east on Highway 12. At the exit to the southbound lanes of the Highway 71/23 bypass, he failed to make the turn and hit the guardrail near the exit. Officers once again tried to box him in with squads, according to court records.

One officer left his squad car and used a pocket knife to puncture and deflate Seys’ rear passenger side tire. Before he could stab a second tire, Seys started driving again, backing into a squad car to make enough room to drive away.

A Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office deputy offered to place stop sticks across the road, but there was a concern for officer safety, given Seys’ driving behavior, according to court records.

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Seys took the ramp off the bypass onto South First Street and began to spin because of the flattened tire running on rims. The truck spun into the grassy median, and officers again boxed him in, but he kept driving and headed north in the median.

An officer was able to use his vehicle to maneuver Seys’ truck in the median, and the truck became stuck. The officer used the pocket knife to puncture the three remaining tires.

Seys continued to try to drive, according to the complaint. Officers ordered Seys out of his vehicle. Because of the axe in the cab, three officers drew their weapons, and one drew a stun gun while they ordered him out of the truck. One of the officers activated the automatic door opener to deploy his K-9 partner.

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.

At the Kandiyohi County Law Enforcement Center , Seys agreed to a breath test, which indicated that he had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.14 percent about an hour after the incident started. The drunken-driving limit 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.

Click to read more about Crime and Courts .

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: lvanderwerf@wctrib.com or phone 320-214-4340
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