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Fired Abbyland employee arrested after machete-wielding incidents

By Kevin O’Brien

A fired Abbyland Foods employee was arrested Sunday evening after he was seen brandishing a machete outside two of the company’s facilities in Abbotsford and Curtiss last week Wednesday The man was arrested Sunday evening after police received a tip that he was at his mother’s house in rural Marathon County The arresting officer described him as “very calm, apologetic and cooperative.”

Charges have not yet been filed, but Colby-Abbotsford police are recommending that he be charged with endangering safety by use of a dangerous weapon, disorderly conduct with a use of a dangerous weapon and criminal damage to property all misdemeanors.

According to a June 3 incident report from the Colby-Abbotsford Police Department, the suspect was believed to be intoxicated when he came to the parking lot of Abbyland’s main facility in Abbotsford and allegedly pointed a machete at another employee.

The suspect’s supervisor told police that he was going to be fired earlier that day, but he never showed up for work, so the supervisor assumed he had found out

See ARREST/ Page 9 ahead of time. The supervisor said the suspect still had his company radio and was using it to make inappropriate comments to other employees.

The supervisor said the radios have a maximum range of about two miles, so he was able to locate the suspect at a bar in Abbotsford and retrieve the radio without the suspect noticing.

Law enforcement was contacted when the suspect showed up at Abbyland’s east parking lot later that night.

According to the police report, another employee was arriving at work and trying to park his vehicle when the suspect approached him while waving a machete around. The employee said the suspect asked him if he had a gun, and when he said no, the suspect pointed the machete through the man’s open vehicle window, getting the blade within about two inches of his face.

The employee told the suspect to “get the hell out of here,” and the suspect returned to his vehicle and left.

The suspect is also believed to have broken out a window on another employee’s vehicle parked in the same lot.

Later that night, a surveillance camera at Abbyland’s distribution center in Curtiss captured the suspect driving his vehicle up to the entrance of the building and spinning his tires on the sidewalk. The officer who watched the video believed he was doing a “brake stand” — pressing down on the gas and the brake pedal at the same time.

The video also shows the suspect getting out of his vehicle and repeatedly swinging the machete at the glass near the entry door. He then got back into his vehicle and went into reverse, damaging the landscaping next to the sidewalk and striking two large boulders.

The suspect’s vehicle then entered a grassy area and jerked back and forth several times in what appeared to be another attempt at a brake stand, according to the police report.

The suspect eventually left the area, and could not be located that night.

When he was arrested on Sunday night, the suspect said he was getting ready to turn himself in, and agreed to make a statement about what happened on the night of June 3.

The suspect said he was at a “low point in his life,” and was struggling with an alcohol problem and issues at work. He said he was under a lot of extra stress because Abbyland is dealing with staffing issues related to COVID-19.

The report says “he just needed to leave work to take a breather,” and he told his supervisor that he had to leave “for a family emergency.” The supervisor accused him of lying and told him to “get back to work,” according to what the suspect told police.

“When [the suspect] refused, his supervisor told him that he would be fired then and took his work-issued radio,” the report states. “[The suspect] said that when his radio was taken, something inside him just snapped and he does not remember what happened after that. [The suspect] said he was just grateful that no one was injured.”