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Arrest update: Suspect is '95 Hudson High School graduate

Zachary Wiegand now, left, and in 1995 HHS graduation photo, right

A Dresser man and 1995 Hudson High School graduate, Zachary Ryan Wiegand, 31, was arrested for a shooting and carjacking in Lake Elmo, Minn., and an armored truck robbery in Hudson in May 2003.

The arrest of Wiegand was announced at a press conference Wednesday, Oct. 8, at the Washington County Sheriff Department in Stillwater, Minn. Washington County Sheriff William M. Hutton and Hudson Police Chief Marty Jensen outlined the history of the incident and the events that led to Wiegand's arrest.

Wiegand is the son of former Hudson Police officer Wesley Wiegand, who retired in 1999 and the relative (through marriage) of a current officer. The incident began in Lake Elmo on May 28, 2003, when Wiegand allegedly attempted to hijack a vehicle driven by Julie Bever. She was shot four times during the violent event in which she never really had a chance to surrender her vehicle to the hijacker.

Another motorist, Janlyn Navarro, heard the shots and stopped to assist Bever. The hijacker, however, turned his attention to Navarro and held a gun to her head and threatened to also shoot her if she resisted his efforts to steal her vehicle.

Navarro surrendered her van and the thief vanished into the night. Bever, then 42, was left with numerous injuries that required multiple surgeries, including surgeries to rebuild her jaw.

The van showed up in Hudson the next day, on May 29, 2003, when an armored truck was robbed in the parking lot of the old Citizens State Bank on Crest View Drive. Chief Jensen said at Wednesday's news conference that more than $200,000 was taken in the robbery.

The robbery

According to reports in the June 5, 2003, Star-Observer, the robbery occurred at about 11:30 a.m. One of the two guards in the American Security Corp. car was approached by the suspect in the parking lot. The suspect pointed his gun at the guards and asked for their weapons. He told one of the guards to open the back of the vehicle and the suspect escaped in the van he had stolen the night before in Lake Elmo.

Within minutes of the robbery, the van was found burning off O'Keefe Road near the St. Patrick Cemetery. When Hudson Police officers arrived at the fire scene, they heard gun shots and weren't sure if the suspect was in the van. It was later determined that ammunition left in the van was ignited by the fire.

Meanwhile, the suspect apparently had another car at that location, set the van on fire himself and escaped in the second vehicle. A large area was sealed off and as many as 75 officers from various agencies searched for the suspect in Hudson most of the day.

Sheriff Hutton said Wednesday that the case went cold after 14 to 16 months.

The missing link

Wiegand was linked to the crime after a traffic stop in Minneapolis May 5, 2008. Although Wiegand was not involved in the traffic stop, a gun found in the vehicle was linked to Wiegand through ballistics analysis.

The gun tests determined that the gun found in the vehicle in Minneapolis was the same gun used in the Lake Elmo carjacking. The gun, a 9 mm Smith & Wesson handgun, was registered to Wiegand.

It is unknown how Wiegand's gun ended up in the hands of the people involved in the traffic stop.

Hutton said authorities began watching the activities of the Wiegand family. He and his wife, Deb, have a 7-year-old son and have lived in Polk County for about three years.

During the time of the crime, Hutton said Wiegand was living in Oakdale and working at Menards. Hutton said there was a misdemeanor warrant for Wiegand involving a theft from Menards when he worked there.

His name, however, never surfaced as a suspect in the shooting and armored car robbery.

Jensen said Wiegand "played it cool" and did not appear to be living way beyond his means.

"He spent a little at a time," Jensen said.

Wiegand was arrested Tuesday, Oct. 7, in the parking lot of Wal-Mart in St. Croix Falls -- his place of employment. He was taken into custody by officers from the Polk County Sheriff's Department.

A search warrant was also executed that day at Wiegand's home, and police found evidence linking Wiegand to the 2003 crimes.

Jensen would not talk about specifics, but said there was "strong evidence" linking him to the robbery and a "small amount of money" that could apparently be traced to the heist.

Wiegand confessed to both crimes during an interrogation by Hudson Police detective Jeff Knopps, who also was at the news conference. Detective Shawn Pettee was also present at the news conference. He had been involved in the search at the Wiegand home.

Despite the fact that Wiegand was the son of retired HPD officer Wesley Wiegand and related to a current officer, Jensen said there is no hint of collusion or a compromised investigation.

"He (current officer) was just as surprised as the rest of us," Jensen said.

Wiegand was charged by the Washington County Attorney's Office Wednesday with attempted murder, assault with a dangerous weapon, aggravated robbery and three other felony counts. Wiegand made his first court appearance in Washington County Thursday, and bail was set at $1 million.

If convicted of all charges, Wiegand faces up to 69 years in jail, a $49,000 fine, or both.

As of Tuesday, Wiegand was still in the Washington County jail, but could face charges in St. Croix County later.