Early last Friday, a bus driver pulling into Lakeville's park-and-ride on Cedar saw something unusual—very unusual: A man emerging from the weeds surrounding a nearby marsh.
The man boarded the bus. The bus driver called the cops.
As it happens, the man in the marsh was Burnsville resident Marquis Marvin Mitchell, a 19-year-old burglary suspect and the subject of a manhunt.
The incident in question began at 4:25 a.m. that morning, when Lakeville Police were called to a house on Hamilton Drive on report of a burglary. Once on scene, officers spoke to the homeowner, who said that he heard his garage door open and close at about 4:20 a.m. When the man went to investigate, he saw a stranger matching Mitchell's description standing in his garage, next to his car. The suspect ran away as the man approached.
The homeowner told police that he believed the burglar got into the house by using the garage door opener in his daughter's car, which was parked in the driveway. The suspect did not leave the scene empty handed. He had stolen an Apple laptop, an iPad, camera and $175 in cash.
As police were taking the homeowner's statement, several other reports of burglaries and vehicle break-ins were coming into dispatch. The victims reported a white male and black male fleeing the area on foot.
At about 4:30 a.m. an officer responding to the area observed a white Pontiac Grand Prix, with a white male driver and black male passenger. The two stared at the officer, then the driver swerved, abruptly changed course, and gunned it. The officer gave chase, with emergency lights on, but vehicle sped up. As the squad approached the Grand Prix, the driver slammed on the brakes and made a series of hard turns, narrowly avoiding a crash with the police car.
With vehicle still in motion, both the driver and the passenger bailed out of the car and fled on foot in opposite directions.
Police Chief Tom Vonhof said that the pursuing officer was able to stop the wandering Grand Prix by pinning it to the curb with his squad car. No one was hurt during the chase. It was later discovered that the Grand Prix had recently been stolen out of West St. Paul.
The suspects were MIA until 5:45 a.m. when the LPD received a report of a suspicious person at the park-and-ride. The man apprehended at the bus stop initially told police his name was "MT," and denied that he had any involvement in the thefts or the chase. Officers found a small flashlight and a large wad of cash in the suspect's pocket.
Eventually the man in custody was identified as Mitchell, who allegedly admitted that he entered the garage of a residence, but took off after he was confronted by a woman. The woman identified Mitchell and said that she was "90 percent certain" that he was the man she'd seen in her garage.
Mitchell also identified his alleged accomplice, whose name has been withheld until he is formally charged. Mitchell has been charged with one count of first degree burglary, a felony that carries a sentence of six months to 20 years in prison and substantial fines, ranging from $10,500 to $35,000. He also faces two lesser charges for giving false information to police and fleeing a peace officer.
Vonhof said Mitchell will likely face additional charges related to the other thefts reported that day. He remains in custody at the Dakota County Jail, held on an $80,000 bond, which will be reduced to $50,000 if Mitchell agrees to abide by the court's conditions.
All the stolen property was recovered. Vonhof praised officers involved for their keen powers of observation and their bravery under pressure.
"They did some good police work that day," Vonhof said.