by April Scheinoha
A Thief River Falls man was sentenced Tuesday, Feb. 7 in Pennington County District Court for burglarizing McDonald’s in December 2015. He was also sentenced for two residential burglary charges.
Brian Allen Torkelson, 26, was sentenced for three felony charges of first degree burglary and two felony charges of ineligible person possessing a firearm. For two of the burglary charges, he was ordered to serve 111 months in prison. For the other burglary charge, he was ordered to serve 60 months in prison. For each charge of ineligible person possessing a firearm, Torkelson was sentenced to 60 months in prison. Those sentences are to be served concurrently with one another. Torkelson was given credit for 420 days served.
For each offense, Torkelson was ordered to provide a DNA sample. For the rest of his lifetime, he is banned from using or possessing firearms unless that right is specifically restored.
Torkelson was also ordered to pay a total of $14,001.08 in restitution joint and several with his co-defendant, Justin Rick Hopper, for the McDonald’s burglary and one of the residential burglaries. Torkelson was convicted of the McDonald’s burglary. He entered an Alford plea Tuesday for the aforementioned residential burglary. In an Alford plea, an individual maintains his innocence but admits that the state’s evidence would be sufficient to convict him. A felony charge of theft of a firearm was dismissed in that case.
Hopper has already been sentenced for his role in the crimes.
For the other burglary, Torkelson was ordered to pay $638.22 in restitution. Torkelson also entered an Alford plea for that offense. Related misdemeanor charges of fleeing on foot and tampering with a motor vehicle were dismissed.
Torkelson was also ordered to pay a total of $505 in fees and fines for all three cases.
Torkelson was also sentenced for three probation violations, two in Pennington County and one in Red Lake County. For each offense, a sentence of 26 months in prison was executed. He was given credit for 724 days served.
Prior to sentencing, Torkelson said that he prayed the victims would forgive him as he tries to forgive himself and tries to do better. Torkelson also apologized for any fear he caused a resident who was home at the time of one of the burglaries.
Judge Kurt Marben told Torkelson that these crimes are serious crimes. He noted that Torkelson will be relatively young when released from prison. “I hope that you get a fresh start, and I hope that you’re law abiding,” said Marben, who referred to what would happen if Torkelson got into trouble again.
McDonald’s was burglarized Dec. 10, 2015. Torkelson and Hopper entered through an unlocked drive-through and stole a safe, according to the complaint. Surveillance video showed Torkelson and Hopper, who were wearing masks, entering the business about three minutes after the last employee clocked out at 1:07 a.m. One burglar, later determined to be Torkelson, was wearing a white hooded sweatshirt. He was armed with a shotgun featuring a sling. Both burglars were wearing gloves.
Torkelson and Hopper loaded the safe into a stolen 1999 Chevy Suburban that had been parked at 112 Breezy Dr. 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 also burglarized a home 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.
While investigating the case, police spoke to Hopper’s girlfriend. She said they 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 victim’s last name on the front.
The men soon left her home. Hopper, who admitted to stealing a safe, later asked the woman for a ride. She said her vehicle wouldn’t start. He replied that they would steal a truck.
The woman later saw the two men with money contained in Northern State Bank bags. Police learned 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 near Petro Pumper. There, they placed a suitcase stolen from the home. Afterward, law enforcement found clothing matching a description of clothing worn by Torkelson.
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 has since been sentenced.
The other residential burglary charge stemmed from an incident Dec. 14, 2015. According to the police report and information noted in court, police checked on Torkelson and another vehicle occupant who were parked in an alley. Torkelson then ran away from the officer. He soon entered a home in the 200 block of Tindolph Ave. N. Torkelson was found in a garage inside a vehicle. The owner was home at the time.