HASTINGS, Minn. (WCCO) – Nine people were charged in Washington County District Court Thursday in connection with the recent burglaries and vandalism at the Afton State Park following the July 1 state government shutdown.
All nine were charged with felony aiding and abetting burglary and felony aiding and abetting damage to property. Two others were also charged with underage consumption of alcohol.
The nine have been identified as 23-year-old Abadir Daoued, 20-year-old James Flagg, 23-yar-old Malik Martinez, 20-year-old David McLin, 20-year-old Emily Miller, 19-year-old Ariel Neally, 18-yar-old John Scott, 20-year-old Joseph Slater and 19-year-old Alexander Witso.
According to a criminal complaint, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched at 6:59 a.m. Monday to the Afton State Park in the 6900 block of Peller Avenue on a report of a burglary and/or vandalism. A caller stated he had been driving by the park and saw a window broken out of the main office building and computer equipment on the ground by the front entrance.
When authorities arrived, they noticed a forced entry and a service window by the front door open with seven firewood bags by the window and computer modems on the ground. A deputy then spotted a white male hiding in the weeds by an exit. He was arrested and later identified as Slater, who at the time was under the influence of alcohol, according to the complaint.
As Slater was speaking with a deputy, a blue SUV was driving at a high rate of speed in the park and was stopped by authorities. Witso, Daoued and Miller were in that vehicle with stolen property, according to the complaint.
A deputy searching the area found a cabin that had been severely damaged. There were empty alcohol bottles on the ground and ketchup and mustard smeared on the deck. The windows of the cabin had been smashed out and blue permanent marker was used to write on the walls, the complaint states.
Investigators later found that a table and part of a bunk bed had been taken from the cabin and burned. A screen from a window and curtain rods were also in a smoldering fire close by. A park manager estimated the damage at thousands of dollars.
A deputy continued to search the park and found three vehicles as well as the rest of the people involved in the incident. Neally told authorities that eight people had been in the cabin overnight and were responsible for the damage.
In searching the main office, investigators learned that the doorframe to the back utility room was broken and the door had been kicked in. Computer network equipment had been taken and shelving units were torn off the walls. A $2,000 spotting scope was taken and GPs units, a DVR for the security system and a small refrigerator were also missing.
If convicted on each felony, all nine face a maximum penalty of five years in jail and a $10,000 fine.