MANKATO — Even the friendliest Wal-Mart greeter wouldn’t have wanted to usher this customer into the king of retailers.
Bright and early Thursday, while most of Mankato was asleep or just getting their day going, a pellet-gun-toting Raymond Mager Jr., was making the grandest of entrances at Wal-Mart — from behind the wheel of his Chevy and right through the store, down toward the pharmacy, not far from the frozen foods section.
Police were in pursuit, of course. And after roughly 30 minutes of persuasive verbalizations, Mager surrendered his weapon and was taken into custody, and one of the more bizarre police incidents in recent local memory was over.
Mager, 47, of Minnesota Lake, faces possible charges of assault and fleeing police. Charges could be filed by today.
The incident began with a hit-and-run call that happened to fall into the lap of Blue Earth County Sheriff Brad Peterson, who was on his way into work at the Justice Center. A motorist called the hit-and-run in at about 6:20 a.m. Peterson heard the call and told 911 dispatchers that he was in the area and available to respond. The closest Mankato officer was downtown, a good five to seven minutes away.
Peterson located the suspect not far from where the initial hit-and-run occurred and turned on his lights to initiate a stop. At first, Peterson said it appeared the man was about to pull over. He said the driver held up his handicapped parking permit in one hand and frantically waved the other, driving slowly off the highway onto Bassett Drive.
But after he made that turn, Peterson said, the driver took off. “Then I realized the chase was on,” Peterson said. The driver headed down Bassett and took a quick right onto the alley that runs between Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club. He then took another right into the Wal-Mart parking lot and drove down to the eastern front entrance, where he stopped. Peterson got out of his car and then saw something no officer wants to see, but probably thinks about every day: a handgun.