TRF man gets 75 months for role in burglary

Justin Rick Hopper

by April Scheinoha
Reporter

    On Tuesday, Oct. 4, a Thief River Falls man was sentenced to 75 months in prison for his role in burglarizing McDonald’s in Thief River Falls.
    Justin Rick Hopper, 26, was sentenced in Pennington County District Court for two felony counts of first degree burglary and one felony count of theft of a firearm. One burglary charge and the firearm charge stemmed from a burglary at a rural Thief River Falls home. A felony charge of ineligible person possessing a firearm was dismissed.
    Last month, Hopper entered Alford pleas in the cases. In an Alford plea, a person doesn’t admit guilt but admits the prosecution has enough evidence to prove the person is guilty.
    Brian Allen Torkelson, 25, has been convicted for his role in the McDonald’s burglary. He was convicted of felony offenses of first degree burglary and ineligible person possessing a firearm. A sentencing and motion hearing has been set for Tuesday, Oct. 18.
    Torkelson has also been charged with felony first degree burglary, felony theft of a firearm and felony ineligible person possessing a firearm for the burglary at the home.
    For the McDonald’s burglary, Hopper was sentenced to 75 months in prison.  That sentence is to be served concurrently with the sentence for the home burglary and firearm theft. He was given credit for 278 days served.  Hopper was also ordered to not use or possess firearms or dangerous weapons. He was ordered to supply a DNA sample. Hopper was also ordered to pay $210 in fees and fines, and $6,463.58 in restitution.
    For the other burglary charge, Hopper was sentenced to 58 months in prison. That sentence is to be served concurrently with the sentence for the firearm charge. He was given credit for 278 days served.  Hopper was also ordered to not use or possess firearms or dangerous weapons. He was ordered to supply a DNA sample. Hopper was also ordered to pay $210 in fees and fines. The right to restitution has been reserved.
    For the firearm charge, Hopper was sentenced to 15 months in prison. He was given credit for 278 days served. Hopper was also ordered to pay a $50 fine. The same conditions apply.
    Hopper and Torkelson allegedly entered McDonald’s through an unlocked drive-through and stole 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 allegedly 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, 36, Moose Lake, 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. On Tuesday, Sept. 27, Drury entered an Alford plea for a felony charge of obstructing an investigation. Sentencing has been set for Monday, Nov. 14.
    According to the complaint, Drury gave the shotgun with a sling to Keith Deremer. Law enforcement later confiscated the shotgun there. It had been stolen in the home burglary.