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Halstad-area farm wage dispute ended in ax threats, robbery and assault, court records say

HALSTAD, Minn. -- Two Arizona men have been jailed after a Monday altercation involving an ax at a Halstad area farm, where they allegedly beat a man in a dispute over wages.


HALSTAD, Minn. -- Two Arizona men have been jailed after a Monday altercation involving an ax at a Halstad area farm, where they allegedly beat a man in a dispute over wages.

Michael Martin Kirchhoff, 24, Chandler, Ariz., and Jacob Thomas Shiel, 20, Mesa, Ariz., were taken to the Northwest Regional Corrections Center in Crookston, each on a $35,000 bond. They both face felony charges of first-degree aggravated robbery and second-degree assault.

According to criminal complaints filed Tuesday in Minnesota's 9th District Judicial Court in Ada, the Norman County Sheriff's Office received a 911 call at about 3 p.m. Monday with a report that two men had attacked a man at the farm.

As Norman County Deputy Scott Nordquist was responding to the call, he noticed two men leaving a blue Chevy Tahoe—what the deputy soon learned was the suspects' vehicle—and entering the Essentia Health in Ada, according to court documents. There, Nordquist found the suspects, one of whom was seeking treatment for what was believed to be a broken wrist.

Shiel reportedly told the deputy he injured his wrist in a fall, but also said he had been upset with an employer at the farm for allegedly "shorting him pay" for work done on the farm. The two were working the sugar beet harvest, according to court papers.


The deputy later made contact with the victim, who told him Kirchhoff and Shiel had attacked him at the farm, with Shiel allegedly holding him in a chokehold while Kirchhoff hit and screamed at the victim to give him money. The victim alleged Shiel took $80 in cash from the victim's pocket. Kirchhoff, the victim told Nordquist, had an ax in hand at one point during the altercation.

A witness later told the deputy he had seen Kirchhoff and Shiel beating up the victim and had seen Kirchhoff with a 2-foot long ax with a handle "all taped up."

Kirchhoff and Shiel were arrested at about 6:30 p.m. Monday during a traffic stop, according to the complaint. An ax matching the description given by the witness was found in the vehicle, the complaint states.

During questioning, Shiel initially stated he had broken his hand in a fall, but after deputies confronted him with what witnesses had said, Shiel accused the victim of attacking Kirchhoff.

According to the complaint, Shiel ultimately told deputies he had broken his hand punching the victim in an effort to get him off Kirchhoff and was given the cash by the victim.

Shiel said he and Kirchhoff were angry about receiving less money than they were due, according to the complaint.

Kirchhoff initially stuck with the story about Shiel breaking his hand from a fall, but later asked to speak with Nordquist, the complaint says. Court papers say he apologized for lying the previous two times he had spoken with deputies, alleging the victim had attacked him and asked that charges be pressed.

If convicted of felony first-degree aggravated robbery, the suspects could each be sentenced to up to 20 years in jail and fined $35,000. A felony second-degree assault conviction is punishable by a maximum sentence of seven years and $14,000.

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