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Arrests close in Farmington park assaults

Parks are supposed to be a place where people go to have fun and enjoy themselves, but that wasn’t necessarily the case at Lake Julia Park last month. Two assaults and one incident of vandalism marred the park’s reputation in October.

Police are now close to pressing charges related to those incidents. Farmington police detective sergeant Lee Hollatz believes the same group of juveniles may be involved in both the vandalism and the assaults. He believes he knows who the main suspects are in those cases.

Farmington parks and recreation director Randy Distad is glad to know that.

“We want our parks to feel like they’re safe so people can go out and use them. Fortunately, this is somewhat of an isolated incident,” Distad said.

The first assault was reported Oct. 8, Hollatz said. Though the police report indicates a juvenile victim was approached by a group of teens, a 16-year-old male reportedly threatened to harm the victim if the victim did not turn over his bicycle. That kind of threat, he said, is considered a strong arm robbery.

“There was no weapon used, no weapon implied,” Hollatz said, “but (the suspect) used intimidation and then took a bike. It’s still a felony.”

Another juvenile was attacked in the park on Oct. 26. The same group of juveniles is suspected in the second attack.

Hollatz said he is very close to collecting the last of the evidence he needs to press charges in the incidents. He believes the vandalism and the assaults may be connected, and that the same individuals may be involved.

The city of Farmington just installed the playground equipment and picnic shelter in 2012, Distad said, with the intention of attracting more users to the park. He urges residents to continue to use the parks, because doing so, he said, can deter the crimes from happening there.

“For the most part, our parks are very safe. It’s unfortunate we have isolated incidents like this that occur because it gives the parks a bad name, a bad reputation, and we don’t like that,” Distad said.

Residents can help to deter crime in the parks by calling police any time they see something suspicious happening in the parks, Distad added.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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