FORMAN, N.D. - A man is in the North Dakota State Hospital after being arrested on four felony and five misdemeanor charges tied to threatening people at a church and bar, vandalism, and a high-speed chase, Sargent County Sheriff Travis Paeper said Tuesday, Oct. 24.
Michael Skroch, 39, of Lidgerwood, was arrested Thursday, Oct. 19, after a high-speed chase by law enforcement ended with him crashing a motorcycle in the Tewaukon National Wildlife Refuge, and a standoff that included Skroch being tased several times to no effect, Paeper said.
"We've had to deal with him on a couple different occasions," Paeper said. "We were very cautious in our approach to him."
Paeper said the first calls in the case came in about 3:15 p.m. from the Geneseo area.
A member of St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Geneseo reported that he had learned Skroch was at the church and arrived to find that Skroch had burned a crucifix on the altar and a Bible, the power was off, and there was water in the basement, a sheriff's office report said. Skroch allegedly pulled a knife on the church member and threatened to stab him in the stomach, the report said.
Skroch then went to a bar and got into a confrontation with some people, "ultimately, he ended up slashing some tires on a vehicle," Paeper said.
Law enforcement from Sargent, Ransom and Richland counties in North Dakota, the North Dakota Highway Patrol, the Southeast Multi-County Agency Drug Task Force and Marshall County, S.D., took part in the search for Skroch, Paeper said.
About 4:40 p.m., a tip from a local resident led deputies to Skroch, who was on a motorcycle on Sargent County Road 14 about 3 miles south of Geneseo. They found Skroch parked on a field approach, and when first confronted by officers, he put his hands in the air. But then he took off southbound, authorities said.
Paeper was among officers in four vehicles trying to stop Skroch. The pursuit reached speeds of 85 mph, Paeper said.
Officers chased Skroch 10 to 12 miles to the Tewaukon National Wildlife Refuge, where Skroch went cross-country with the motorcycle, Paeper said. When Skroch hit a rock pile and crashed, the pursuit ended and a short standoff ensued, Paeper said, noting that Skroch did not comply with officers' commands.
"We knew he was armed with at least a knife. He's been known to carry cutting instruments in the past. In the past, he's had Samurai swords," Paeper said. "We did have to tase him several times. And that had no effect on him. So officers had to go hands on him," to make the arrest.
Skroch did not claim any injuries and was taken to the Richland County Jail, a sheriff's office report said. A search of Skroch and a backpack he was wearing turned up several religious items that Skroch said he stole from St. Martin's in Geneseo, the report said.
Skroch is charged with felonies of terrorizing, aggravated assault, endangering by fire/explosion and reckless endangerment. He's also charged with misdemeanor fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer, aggravated reckless driving, theft and two counts of criminal mischief.
Paeper said Skroch has had mental health issues for several years and run-ins with law enforcement throughout the area, including an Aug. 28 incident in Lidgerwood in which he was charged with felony reckless endangerment for threatening a woman and her companion in a car with a sword. In that case, Skroch was taken into custody after a six-hour standoff with law enforcement, Paeper said.
Richland County court documents say Skroch pleaded guilty in the case and was sentenced to time served in the Richland County Jail and two years of supervised probation. He was ordered to continue treatment with prescribed medications.
Paeper said Skroch was assessed and transported to the State Hospital in Jamestown after the latest incident. A message left for Skroch's attorney, Don Krassin, was not returned Tuesday.