Skip to main content
Publish date:

Charges: Minnesota man drove tractor into church, fell asleep on altar

He's been charged with two felonies.

A man from western Minnesota is facing multiple felony charges after he allegedly drove a tractor into a church and fell asleep on the altar. 

Joseph M. Rongstad, 38, of Watson, is charged in Chippewa County District Court with second-degree burglary of a religious building and first-degree criminal damage to property. 

Rongstad was found wrapped in a blanket, asleep on the altar of the Watson Lutheran Church around 8 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 7, according to a criminal complaint. Before finding Rongstad on the altar, the sheriff's deputy arrived at the scene to see a John Deere 955 tractor with "the loader smashed through the narthex of the church."

The deputy noted that Rongstad "seemed confused and was unsure of where he was," the complaint states, adding that Rongstad didn't recall much from the night before, though he remembered driving into the church door because "he wanted to stay warm." 

The 38-year-old man denied using drugs or alcohol, but a urine sample revealed the presence of amphetamine and methamphetamine in Rongstad's system. 

A search of the church turned up a disheveled kitchen area, which had a first aid box with bandages "thrown all over," a jar of pickles that opened and "packaged communion wine containers that had been gone through," charges say. 

Similar bandages were found in Rongstad's coat pocket. 

The criminal complaint estimates that approximately $1,000 worth of damage was done to the church, which has not held a service the past two Sundays.

Watson is located about five miles northwest of Montevideo. 

Next Up

Dalvin Cook

Report: Dalvin Cook has dislocated shoulder, will undergo MRI

The Vikings running back was carted off the field in Sunday's loss to the 49ers.

Kirk Cousins

Watch: Kirk Cousins lines up under guard on critical 4th down play

Kirk Cousins went "Full Kirk" at the worst possible time.

Dalvin Cook

Dalvin Cook injured, Vikings drop crucial game against 49ers

The Vikings couldn't stop the Niners' rushing attack in a 34-26 loss.

Flickr - police lights squad siren - Edward Kimmel

Man airlifted to a hospital after police shooting in Forest Lake

Police allege that the man presented a threat to officers.

Minnesota Wild

Wild's two third-period goals take down the Lightning

Ryan Hartman's go-ahead goal defeated the two-time defending champions.

Byron Buxton

Reports: Twins reach extension with Byron Buxton

The long-term deal locks in one of the Twins' franchise players.

Justin Jefferson

Vikings-49ers: 5 things you can count on

Sunday's matchup is a pivotal game in the NFC playoff picture.

Gopher Football

Watch: Gophers troll Badgers with 'Jump Around' after Saturday's win

First they took Paul Bunyan's Axe. Then they took their tradition.

Brandon Richart, missing person

Search underway for missing man in Anoka area

Brandon Richart was last seen Nov. 17.

U.S. Bank Stadium

5 teams win first state championships at Prep Bowl

A pair of records fell as the Prep Bowl lived up to the hype.



Man, 32, killed in tractor incident in central Minnesota

The accident happened last Friday in Melrose Township.

police lights

Charges: Man fleeing deputies slammed into car, killing married couple

He's accused of fleeing the scene of a meeting with undercover deputies.

Nathan James Homme

Charges: Wisconsin man planned to kidnap Shoreview woman

The 39-year-old man has been charged with two felonies.