TRF man charged with burglarizing business
TRF man charged with burglarizing business

A Thief River Falls man has been charged in Pennington County District Court after he allegedly burglarized a Thief River Falls business in December.

Branden Wayne Rausch, 28, has been charged with felony third-degree burglary and gross misdemeanor ineligible person in possession of ammunition. Rausch was arrested Friday, Feb. 11.

The complaint was signed three days later.

Rausch also has charges pending for felony third-degree possession of a controlled substance – 10 grams or more. He allegedly possessed methamphetamine at the time of his arrest.

While law enforcement arrested Rausch, a woman also allegedly broke a window at Rausch’s apartment at Northland Village.

Brittany Kay Rasmussen, 27, Fargo, N.D., has been cited for criminal damage to property.

The complaint The burglary and ammunition charges stemmed from the Dec. 9 report of a burglary at Cenex, 323 Atlantic Ave. N. Another man, 37-year-old James Matthew Rivers of Thief River Falls, has already been charged in connection with the case. He has been charged with four felonies, including possession of an altered firearm/serial number, possession of the stolen property, aiding and abetting a third-degree burglary, and fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance over 0.25 grams. In the early morning hours of Thursday, Dec. 9, someone had stolen a Snap-On Apollo D-8 Diagnostic Automobile Scanner and a 230-piece Craftsman toolset at Cenex.

The manager allegedly said that staff believed Rivers was the culprit. He had been fired three months earlier for buying tools and taking tools home without permission. The manager said Rivers also billed parts to the shop even though he was using the tools for his side business.

Police learned that surveillance video showed a man entering the mechanic shop between 3:30 and 4 a.m. Thursday. The man left the business carrying two black cases, which were the diagnostic scanner and the toolset. Surveillance video from nearby Northern Air Duct Cleaning showed the man looking into the shop window at the business moments earlier. He was accompanied by a woman.

A current employee allegedly told police that Rivers would use the shop after hours and knew how to enter the shop when he didn’t have his keys. At different points, after viewing the video, the employee identified the thief as Rivers or a second man, who was only implicated by the employee.

However, the investigator learned from the manager that he believed he had kicked the second man out of Cenex because he was hanging around Rivers and possessed a methamphetamine pipe.

The employee said he had seen the second man at Rivers’ home at about 1:30 a.m. that day. He said the second man owes money to Rivers and would do what Rivers had told him to do. The employee indicated that the second man knew the locations of cameras at Cenex. The employee said Rivers was wearing a gray hoodie early that morning, but he didn’t know what the second man was wearing.

The clothing description was similar to what the thief was wearing. The police investigator believed the thief was too short to be the second man to whom the employee was referring. Rausch is closer to that height. The employee described boots apparently owned by Rivers’ wife. The description was similar to what the woman was wearing in the video. Rivers’ wife later said she doesn’t know the identity of the woman. Both she and Rivers said Rausch allegedly burglarized the Cenex and possessed their Jeep Cherokee.

The employee also said he was missing a Milwaukee half-inch impact wrench. The man’s initials had been written on the battery. Surveillance video from the Heritage Center showed a Jeep Cherokee traveling in the alleyway near Cenex between 3:36 and 3:44 a.m. A Pine to Prairie Drug Task Force officer knows that Rivers owns a Jeep Cherokee and he saw it being driven about half an hour to an hour earlier on Greenwood Street. Law enforcement executed a search warrant on Dec. 10 at Rivers’ home, 405 Duluth Ave. S. The search warrant also gave them permission to search Rivers’ wife and their Jeep Cherokee.

Law enforcement encountered the couple and a young child in the basement of the home. The child and at least one other child were later removed from their home. The investigator allegedly observed a broken glass pipe on the floor next to a bed in the basement. A black handgun could be seen in a partially open dresser drawer. When the investigator secured the weapon, he noticed the slide had been painted and the serial number had allegedly been altered. A handheld taser was also confiscated. Rivers initially said he wasn’t involved in the burglary.

When told a scanner was found underneath his bed, he allegedly said he owned the scanner. The Snap-On Apollo D-8 DX Scanner had Cenex written on the back of it. Another Apollo Scanner was found in the area of a rafter in another basement room. Rivers allegedly admitted smoking meth the evening of Dec. 9. He said some meth would be near his “piece” or handgun, then stuttered and said it would be located in a dresser drawer. Rivers’ wife said Rausch had the cases and gave the scanner to her husband as payment for work done on his vehicle.

She told law enforcement where the scanner could be found. Rivers’ wife believed Rausch possessed the Craftsman toolset at his apartment. She said she didn’t see a Milwaukee impact wrench. She knew the brand names even though the investigator never revealed them to her. Rivers’ wife told the law enforcement where she had hidden additional narcotics since she believed law enforcement would think she and her husband had committed the burglary. She retrieved the narcotics. Rivers also admitted that they possessed the drugs.

Once back at the Law Enforcement Center, the police investigator ran a license check on Rausch, finding his height was consistent with the height of the burglar. The PTPDTF officer soon found Rivers’ Jeep outside of Rausch’s apartment at Northland Village. The complaint indicated that Rausch had been charged with burglary two months earlier after he allegedly broke into a neighboring apartment and stole various items. A search warrant was soon executed for the Jeep as well as Rausch’s apartment at 1508 Hwy. 1 E. #108. Inside the apartment, law enforcement found the Craftsman toolset, a .40-caliber pistol, and .243 ammunition. The complaint noted that Rausch was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition since he was out of jail on conditions of release for the above burglary at Northland Village.

Rausch allegedly told law enforcement that he knew about the ammunition and planned to bring it to his cousin. After the investigator and PTPDTF officer returned to the LEC, they took another statement from Rivers. He allegedly denied prior knowledge about the burglary. He said he obtained the gun after he completed some work on a vehicle. Rivers allegedly said Rausch brought the scanner to his home between 2:30 and 4 a.m. that day, but he didn’t know why Rausch had given it to him.

The two men had spoken about Rivers missing a scanner. He knew Cenex owned the scanner since it was listed on the scanner. Rivers told them that he paid $4,600 for a scanner, but it was unclear if he was referring to the second scanner or the one that Rausch had brought to Rivers’ home. Rivers allegedly said he planned to return his former coworker’s impact tool. He also heard about the toolset, but he never saw it. Rivers said Rausch had been at Cenex after hours with him and knew where the surveillance cameras were located. He said he never told Rausch how to enter the business without a key.

The complaint indicated that Rausch’s criminal history includes, but isn’t limited to:

• A 2012 case involving fourth-degree criminal damage to property;

• A 2013 case involving possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia

• A 2013 case involving obstruction of the legal process

• A 2014 case involving fifth-degree assault; and

• Three 2021 pending cases with one case alleging that he had fled from an officer;

a second case alleging meth crimes involving children, child endangerment, fifth-degree controlled substance crime, and possession of metal knuckles in a public housing zone; and the third case of second-degree burglary and theft involving the alleged burglary at the neighboring apartment.

Branden Wayne Rausch
Branden Wayne Rausch