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Men escaping from county treatment center stopped on Hwy 78

Two men who allegedly started a fire as a diversion to escape from an Otter Tail County treatment center were pulled over on July 30 along Hwy 78, near Battle Lake.

Michael Dilly Bernhard, 34, of Cloquet, Minn., is being charged on one count of arson, a felony, for the alleged incident.

According to the criminal complaint, Bernhard, along with another patient, started a Styrofoam cup on fire near the fire alarm in the male bathroom of the CARE Center in Fergus Falls.

When the alarm went off, Bernhard and the other patient allegedly left the facility and entered into a white van, driven by a female. The locked center is designed so that, when the fire alarm goes off, all doors are automatically unlocked.

In the midst of the chaos, Bernhard allegedly turned to a worker and said, "We're leaving, and you can't stop us."

Later, Battle Lake officers spotted the white van driving along Hwy 78, driven by a woman. When pulled over, Bernhard admitted to starting the fire, saying he knew that would be the only way to escape. He told officers he felt he was being treated poorly at the facility.

Bernhard will make his initial appearance in court on Monday, Aug. 15.