Brian Allen Torkelson convicted of felony first degree burglary

A Thief River Falls man was convicted Friday, Aug. 19 of burglarizing McDonald’s last December.

Judge Kurt Marben convicted Brian Allen Torkelson, 25, of felony first degree burglary and felony ineligible person possessing a firearm, according to online court documents. The trial was held Aug. 3 and 4. Marben’s order was filed Aug. 19. Sentencing has been set for Monday, Sept. 19.

Justin Rick Hopper, 25, Thief River Falls, has also been charged in connection with the burglary. A jury trial has been set for Wednesday, Sept. 14 in his cases related to that burglary and the burglary of a rural Thief River Falls home.

Torkelson has also been charged in connection with the latter burglary. For that offense, both men face charges of felony first degree burglary, felony theft of a firearm and felony ineligible person possessing a firearm.

For the McDonald’s burglary, Torkelson was convicted and Hopper is accused of entering through an unlocked McDonald’s drive-through and stealing a large safe on Dec. 10, according to the complaint against Torkelson. Police Chief Dick Wittenberg earlier said that it was believed the safe contained about $4,000.

Surveillance video showed two masked people entering the business about three minutes after the last employee clocked out at 1:07 a.m. The burglary was discovered about four hours later. One burglar, wearing a white hooded sweatshirt, was armed with a shotgun featuring a sling. Both were wearing gloves. Torkelson and Hopper allegedly loaded the safe into a stolen 1999 Chevy Suburban that had been parked at 112 Breezy Dr., a short distance from McDonald’s. Police later found the vehicle in the parking lot of Chief Red Robe Park in Thief River Falls. The police report indicated that the vehicle had sustained about $5,000 in damage.

The men are also accused of a burglary at 14224 177th St. N.E. in rural Thief River Falls. That burglary was reported the same morning as the McDonald’s burglary. The police report indicated that jewelry, cash, an iPad, a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun and a Colt target pistol were stolen. The items are valued at more than $5,000.

While investigating the case, police spoke to Hopper’s girlfriend. She said that the men
brought two guns – including a gun with a strap and a .22-caliber pistol – to her home. She said they told her that the guns and about $60 in coins had been stolen from the rural Thief River Falls home. The woman also reported seeing a checkbook with the alleged victim’s last name on the front. The woman allegedly said Torkelson and Hopper talked about obtaining more money and something about someone walking out with a bag of money. They later left
her home with Torkelson carrying a shotgun in his coat.

About 45 minutes after McDonald’s was burglarized, the woman received a phone call from the men. Hopper, who admitted to stealing a safe, asked for a ride. She said her vehicle wouldn’t start. He replied that they would steal a truck, according to the complaint.
The woman later saw the two men with money contained in Northern State Bank bags.

Police learned from McDonald’s employees that the safe contained such bags. The woman said she and the men later used another woman’s car to drive to a storage trailer. A stolen suitcase was placed there. Afterward, law enforcement found clothing inside the suitcase, including a white hooded sweatshirt and another piece of clothing.

The clothing matched a description, provided by the woman, of what Torkelson had been wearing. The woman said Shane Michael Drury later removed the guns from her home at her request. She didn’t want the guns there, and Torkelson hadn’t removed them as she had requested.

Drury, 36, St. Hilaire, has been charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and obstructing an investigation.

Thief River Falls National Guard member charged with murder

A National Guard member with ties to Thief River Falls has been charged with fatally shooting a man at a state park in south central Minnesota.

A second-degree murder charge was filed Thursday against Pvt. 1st Class David Michael Easter, 26, who was arrested Tuesday at Helmer Myre Big Island State Park near Albert Lea, a Freeborn County city with a population of about 17,700 residents. Easter faces up to 40 years in prison for the felony charge.

Easter was arrested Tuesday night after he called 911 to report he had shot the victim in self-defense, according to a criminal complaint. The Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office and Albert Lea Police Department responded to Helmer Myre Big Island State Park and took Easter into custody.

His wife and infant daughter were in a black Ford F-150 with him when he was arrested.

Easter, who told dispatchers the victim was in a vehicle, gave an unloaded .45 caliber pistol to officers, according to the complaint.

Deputies said they found the victim with a “traumatic injury” locked in a beige 2001 Audi station wagon. One deputy broke the driver’s door window and initiated life-saving measures, but the victim was dead, according to the report.

The victim died from two bullet wounds to the head, according to an autopsy report. Deputies discovered two bullet holes in the driver-side door of the station wagon, and the bullets were located in the victim’s head, according to the criminal complaint.

Investigators also found a bullet in the Ford. They also said they found two bullet casings—on several feet from the driver’s door and another behind the vehicle.

They also noted in the complaint the station wagon was put into reverse and the victim’s foot was on the brake.

Easter’s wife, Karla, told investigators her husband had confronted the victim and “exchanged words but that she couldn’t hear everything.” At the time, the victim was in his car, according to the complaint.

“She heard the victim tell the defendant to stop shining his lights on him,” the complaint stated.

She then heard two gunshots, she said, adding she saw the victim’s doors were shut when she and her husband left the park.

David Easter usually carries a pistol, she told investigators, and he had a gun permit valid in Nebraska.

David Easter did not provide a statement and asked for an attorney, Sheriff Kurt Freitag said.

The victim’s name is being withheld pending identification, but Freitag said he expects to release his name later today.

The Easters are both members of the Minnesota National Guard, Maj. Scott Hawks said in a statement. David Easter, a Bradley Fighting Vehicle System maintainer of the 2-136 Infantry Battalion based out of Thief River Falls, began his military service in December of 2012. Karla Easter is a sergeant based in Faribault, Minn.

Thief River Falls Police Report 8-25-2016


On Aug. 21 at 12:46 p.m., the sheriff’s office performed a traffic stop near the intersection of Highway 1 East and Longren Drive. Roger Lee Shaffer, 65, Thief River Falls, has charges pending for DWI. He was arrested.


On Aug. 17 at 3:16 p.m., police received a report of an accident at the intersection of Markley Avenue and James Street. At the time of the accident, Cruz A. Nelson of Bagley was driving a westbound 1998 Chevy pickup truck and Colette L. Baker of Newfolden was driving a southbound 1999 GMC Sierra. The vehicles collided in the uncontrolled intersection. Nelson was transported by Thief River Falls Area Ambulance to Sanford Medical Center with unknown injuries. The vehicles sustained substantial damage.

Felony fifth degree controlled substance crime, possession of a small amount of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia

On Aug. 17 at 12:02 p.m., police performed a traffic stop near the intersection of Center Street East and 170th Avenue Northeast. Jacob Leo Brist, 32, Fergus Falls, has charges pending for two counts of felony fifth degree controlled substance crime, and one count each of possession of a small amount of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was arrested. Law enforcement found methamphetamine, hashish and drug paraphernalia in the vehicle. The sheriff ’s office and Red Lake County Sheriff ’s Office provided assistance to police.
Third degree driving while impaired and open bottle

On Aug. 14 at 1:53 a.m., police performed a traffic stop near the intersection of Highway 59 and 150th Street Northeast. Theresa Lynn Smieja, 35, Oklee, has charges pending for third degree DWI and open bottle. She was arrested and later released to a sober person.


On Aug. 15 at 2:27 p.m., police received a report of a theft at Walmart. Jamie Lynn Joyce Rusness 27, Fergus Falls, and Angelica Caprice Madison, 26, Crookston, have both been cited for theft.

Accident and failure to yield

On Aug. 15 at 3:43 p.m., police received a report of an accident at the intersection of Fourth Street and Main Avenue. At the time of the accident, Georgia Lynn Beckstrom of Thief River Falls entered the intersection with her 2004 Chrysler Pacifica, heading west onto Fourth Street. Her vehicle was then broadsided by a 2012 Ford Fusion driven by Mariah B. Torgerson of Thief River Falls. No injuries were reported. Both vehicles sustained substantial damage. Beckstrom has been cited for failure to yield.


On Aug. 15 at 7:19 p.m., police received a report of an accident in an alleyway behind 411 Duluth Ave. N. At the time of the accident, Theresa Vanyo of Thief River Falls was backing her GMC Terrain. The vehicle then struck a parked 2007 Chevy Silverado owned by David M. Hagen of Thief River Falls. Hagen was parked in the alleyway at the time. No injuries were reported.



On Aug. 16 at 6:09 p.m., police received a report of a theft at 428 Riverside Ave. Someone had stolen a cell phone at a garage sale.

Issuance of dishonored checks

Mandi Lynn Olberg, 35, Roseau, has been cited for issuance of dishonored checks. The checks totalled less than $250.

DWI and refusal to submit to an alcohol level test

On Aug. 21 at 1:38 a.m., police performed a traffic stop in the 700 block of Main Ave. N. William James Hanson, 41, Thief River Falls, has charges pending for DWI and refusal to submit to an alcohol-level test. He was arrested.


On Aug. 16 at 1:01 p.m., police received a report of a theft outside of 518 Parnham St. E. someone had stolen a Vyvanse prescription out of a vehicle.


Vyvanse® (lisdexamfetamine dimesylate) is a prescription medicine used for the treatment of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in patients 6 years and above, and for the treatment of moderate to severe Binge Eating Disorder (B.E.D.) in adults. Vyvanse is not for weight loss. It is not known if Vyvanse is safe and effective for the treatment of obesity.