A different kind of Friday night lights

2 men in custody following thefts from Columbus football locker room and two cars, investigation continues
By: 
Marlo Pronovost
Thursday, September 26, 2019
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Grant P. Russell is already a convicted felon on probation.

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Dalton C. Hilliard is currently facing a felony charge in Carbon County on an unrelated matter.

Police and prosecutors continue to unwind the trail of at least two men suspected of entering the Columbus High School football locker room Friday night, Sept. 20, and stealing phones, wallets, car keys and two cars during the second half of the game.

Dalton Cole Hilliard and Grant Phillip Russell, both 23, remain in the Rosebud County Jail following a pursuit and crash in one of the stolen vehicles last Saturday, Sept. 21.

Hilliard is from Billings and Grant is from Bozeman. They are each charged with theft, criminal trespass to property and obstructing a peace officer in Rosebud County. Hilliard also faces charges of fleeing from a peace officer, driving with a suspended license and running a stop sign during the chase.

One of the stolen vehicles remains missing and the investigation is ongoing, said Columbus Police Chief Jacob Ward and Stillwater County Attorney Nancy Rohde.

Some of the stolen items have been recovered and Rohde has already obtained a court order allowing police to return keys and licenses to the owners instead of remaining in evidence.

“Because there is such extensive investigation to do, we are working closely with law enforcement to piece the events of the night together and will be working towards the ultimate charges we will file against the two,” said Rohde.

Russell is already a convicted felon out of Yellowstone County from a criminal possession with intent to distribute case in 2015, according to Rohde and the Montana Department of Corrections CONweb. Rohde said Russell is being supervised in Gallatin County and his probation officer has issued a $50,000 arrest warrant for him.

Hilliard has pending felony charges “for similar conduct” that occurred on Jan. 12 in Carbon County, said Rohde. Prosecutors there are revoking his release status in that case and have issued a $50,000 arrest warrant as well.

TIMELINE

Local law enforcement was notified of the thefts through a 911 call at approximately 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 20, Both of the stolen vehicles — a 2013 black BMW and a 2006 silver Audi SE — were caught on camera leaving the Columbus High School parking lot at 9:04 p.m., according to Stillwater County Sheriff’s Dispatch records.

Descriptions of both stolen cars were sent out to law enforcement agencies statewide immediately.

Both vehicles pulled into the Park City Zip Trip at 9:22 p.m. and then left Park City in tandem at 9:39 p.m., eastbound on I-90. A stolen debit card was used at that business as well.

At 11:39 a.m. the following day, Sept. 21, dispatch was contacted by the Rosebud County Sheriff’s Office when that agency reported two men in an Audi had just tried to steal items from a convenience store in Forsyth.

Working together, the two agencies determined it was the stolen Audi from Columbus and the men were the suspects in the case.

At 1 p.m., the Rosebud County undersheriff made contact with the suspects at the Forsyth Town Pump, which resulted in a pursuit, the Audi crashing into a guardrail and both suspects fleeing on foot, according to dispatch records.

Both men were found and arrested.

REACTION

Columbus School District Superintendent Jeff Bermes said Monday that overall, he and the staff were “feeling personally violated that someone came in and stole from our kids.”

Bermes made immediate changes to standard operating procedures, starting with the locker rooms remaining locked during games, with coaches and officials having keys.

There will also be more supervision conducted during games and the schools surveillance system is being adjusted and possibly upgraded.

Bermes said in reviewing footage from the cameras, some “dead spots” were discovered that are being addressed.

“We were able to get a few pictures, but they weren’t as good as we would have liked,” said Bermes.

Columbus Football Coach Blake Hoge said his team continues to deal with the crimes, referring to them as “the distraction caused by the thefts on Friday night.”

“I’m positive our captains and senior leaders will keep everybody’s focus where it should be as we try and take the next steps in our season,” Hoge told the News Monday.

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