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Six people arrested after two Clay County high-speed pursuits

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Nicholas Wessels (left) and Irwin Lee Peltier2 / 4
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MOORHEAD – Two high-speed chases briefly, and dangerously, intersected Tuesday afternoon, March 27, with one chase ended by a Cass County officer ramming one of the vehicles, while another driver got away only to be arrested by Fargo police later.

Clay County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Mark Empting said in total, six people were arrested on a variety of charges, including the drivers of both vehicles and four passengers in one of the vehicles.

The first pursuit started about 3:10 p.m. A street crimes unit had requested help stopping a suspect they knew had warrants, Empting said.

A Clay County deputy stopped a gray Chevrolet Tahoe near 50th Avenue South and 130th Street. As the deputy gave the driver commands to leave the vehicle, the driver fled and the pursuit began, Empting said.

The pursuit, which lasted about six minutes, reached speeds of 85 mph but was cut off on 60th Avenue south near old U.S. Highway 52 between Moorhead and Sabin, Empting said.

“The driver’s actions were getting a little reckless. It was getting to be a little more dangerous than we’d like to see,” particularly since traffic was increasing and schools were ending classes for the day, Empting said.

The driver of that vehicle, whom Empting identified as Nicholas Wessels, 31, was later arrested in Fargo. He’s being held in the Cass County Jail on charges of being a fugitive from justice and failure to appear in court.

In the second pursuit, the driver of a black vehicle appeared to try to deliberately interfere with the first pursuit, Empting said.

That pursuit had been started about 3:16 p.m. by a Minnesota State Patrol trooper around the 7000 block of 60th Avenue South and it ended at Main Avenue Southeast and 30th Avenue in Moorhead, Empting said.

The Patrol trooper was trying to get into position to help with the first pursuit when they came across the second speeding vehicle, Empting said. Speeds on that pursuit got up to 75 mph.

“The driver (in) the second pursuit, he actually did interfere with our first case. He was driving in a careless manner. At one point he was over the center line (driving) towards oncoming squad cars,” Empting said.

Law enforcement officers tried to stop the second vehicle with stop sticks, but the driver avoided them. Toward the end of the second pursuit, the engine of the vehicle may have been failing as it gave off “a lot of white smoke,” and the vehicle’s speed decreased as it entered Moorhead, Empting said.

A State Patrol trooper tried to stop the other vehicle by nudging it with his vehicle in a PIT maneuver, but the driver of the fleeing vehicle managed to drive out of it, Empting said.

Empting, who was also part of the second chase, then used his vehicle to engage the fleeing vehicle with a PIT maneuver.

“That was successful and we were able to get him penned in and stopped” about 3:21 p.m., Empting said.

The driver of the second vehicle, Irwin Lee Peltier Sr., 49, was arrested for felony fleeing in a motor vehicle and was being held at the Clay County Jail.

Four other people in the vehicle were also taken into custody for outstanding arrest warrants and charges including obstructing the legal process and giving a false name and date of birth to a law enforcement officer, Empting said. He did not have their names available.

Empting said law enforcement officers believe the drivers of the two vehicles knew each other.

“We don’t know if (Peltier) was trying to assist (Wessels), or what was taking place, but we do believe that they know each other,” Empting said.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including K-12 education, Fargo city government, criminal justice, and military affairs. He is currently one of The Forum's business reporters.

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