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Shawano County man in military vehicle standoff claims he’s “sovereign”

Officers thought he had a PTSD episode related to his time in the military and previous mental health concerns
Published: May. 9, 2022 at 5:21 AM CDT|Updated: May. 9, 2022 at 11:13 PM CDT
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SHAWANO, Wis. (WBAY) - A Shawano County man who used a historical military vehicle in a low-speed chase and standoff on Highway 29 Sunday appeared in court Monday and will undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

Aaron H. Renel, 39, is charged with Vehicle Operator Flee/Elude Officer, Resisting or Obstructing an Officer, and 2nd Degree Recklessly Endangering Safety. He appeared in court Monday where he told the court he was a member of the “Free Masons and a sovereign individual.”

Renel continued, “Everything I said was true. Sovereign of the senate, and I am a sovereign individual and protected by Russia.”

The judge asked if Renel wanted an attorney, prompting Renel to answer, “I want all charges so far, of both counts, to be brought to the Supreme Court, please.” And then, answering the judge’s question, “Yes, the Supreme Court will provide one for me.”

The judge ordered a psychiatric examination and set a cash bond at $10,000. Because of Renel’s mental state and his responses to the judge at the hearing, a future court date wasn’t set until the competency evaluation is done. Renel asked the court if his VA doctor could do the evaluation but the judge said it would be someone with the state.

At about 5:15 p.m. Sunday, deputies responded to a report of a military vehicle on Highway 29 with a flat tire. Deputies tried to stop the vehicle, which is a 13,000-pound truck known as a “deuce-and-a-half,” and the driver led them on a chase. About a half-mile in the driver came to a stop on the eastbound median near County Highway G in the Town of Seneca.

A deputy who responded saw the truck was driving with a blown tire and “debris going everywhere.” The deputy activated his emergency lights and the military vehicle came to a stop. The deputy said the driver made a motion as to why he had to stop. The deputy approached him and asked him why he was driving on the road with a vehicle in that condition.

“He stated that he knew I wouldn’t believe him but to check the satellites that are following him and that his tires had been shot out back where the tire debris had started,” reads the criminal complaint. He also claimed he was communicating with dispatch through “psychic methods” and they told him to keep driving, according to the complaint.

Renel told the judge the same thing, saying, “The charges are false, because dispatch told me to go to the side of the road psychically as I did and followed direct orders across the board.”

Deputies were informed that Renel is a military veteran with PTSD and other mental health concerns and access to guns. He had been arrested on April 28 for firing a gun.

“Due to comments made by the driver and the conditions of this incident, the Shawano County Special Response Team responded to the scene,” says Lt. Jesse Sperberg, Shawano County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies asked Renel if he wanted help or a tow truck, and he said he did not want help. Officers looked in the vehicle and saw a soft case rifle bag on the passenger seat within arm’s reach of Renel. They asked Renel if he was OK. He said he was going on a “Sunday stroll with his truck.” He refused the leave the vehicle.

Deputies and trained negotiators attempted to deescalate the situation, which went on for about four hours. The sheriff’s office made arrangements with the Highway Department to use heavy equipment in case the driver took off again.

At about 9:30 p.m., they say, Renel took off heading east on Highway 29. Deputies used snowplow trucks to attempt a roadblock. The driver crossed the median and headed east in the westbound lanes. The suspect returned to the eastbound lanes and again crossed the median heading the wrong way.

The driver then went into the median and was stopped by a deputy in a snowplow truck. “Used the blade of the snowplow to push him into the ditch,” District Attorney Gregory Parker described. “Only way to subdue him and stop the vehicle.

There were multiple stun gun deployments and pepper spray. Renel finally agreed to get out and was arrested. During the 4.8-mile chase, Renel reached speeds of 30 to 40 miles per hour.

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Deputies use a snowplow truck to stop a military vehicle in Shawano County. May 8, 2022.
Deputies use a snowplow truck to stop a military vehicle in Shawano County. May 8, 2022.(Shawano County Sheriff)

There were no serious injuries reported.

The Sheriff’s Office received help from the Highway Department, Tigerton Ambulance and Stockbridge-Munsee Police.

“A special thanks to the Shawano County Highway Department,” says Lt. Sperberg. “Without their assistance, this incident would likely not have been resolved without serious injuries or worse.”

The Sheriff’s Office says the military vehicle belongs to a private citizen. No other information was released.

The district says Renel was known to police. Two weeks ago he was charged with a misdemeanor “for intentionally pointing a firearm at a person,” the district attorney said.

Aaron Renel told the court he's a Free Mason and a sovereign being and was being pursued by satellites.

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