Austin resident pleads guilty to stealing cop car

Published 4:00 pm Saturday, October 10, 2009

An Austin man pleaded guilty Friday to stealing a squad car and leading authorities on a high-speed chase in May.

Jeremy Ashley Winkel, 28, pleaded guilty to one count each of felony theft and fleeing an officer in a motor vehicle. He awaits sentencing in March and could face a maximum of seven and a half years in jail.

Winkel is being held on a conditional $5,000 bail and will make arrangements to be placed into a group home upon his release.

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He will also be prohibited from driving, per his plea agreement.

According to a court complaint, the May 21 incident began when Mower County deputies responded to a domestic disturbance call from a home in Lyle. Winkel had allegedly threatened his father with a knife and then fled on a bicycle.

Deputies set up a perimeter and searched the area, while also calling in Austin police and the K-9 unit. About 35 minutes into the search, an unfamiliar voice came over the police radio asking what would happen to the suspect if caught. Police determined the voice to be Winkel’s, coming from the K-9 unit squad car he entered while police searched the area by foot.

Tracking the stolen vehicle via its GPS signal, the chase ensued, with the suspect taking Highway 218 into Iowa. Speeds reached 120 mph, and at one point, a deputy accidentally slammed into the stolen car, causing damage to both vehicles.

After winding between Iowa and Minnesota, the suspect again made a radio call, this time to Austin dispatch arranging to turn himself in at the Northwood, Iowa, Fire Department.

Winkel was apprehended there and handed over to Northwood police.

Winkel has prior Mower County convictions for felony motor vehicle theft and fleeing an officer in a vehicle, both from January.