BILLINGS — On Friday, Oct. 21, an unknown man committed a pretty unusual crime in downtown Billings.
After breaking into Townsquare Media on the top floor of the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, he ended up on a joyride in, of all things, a station vehicle. It took a little ingenuity and a lot of luck, and the perpetrator was behind the wheel of a 2022 Kia Sportage.
Last Friday, the unknown man was caught on camera walking around the 23rd floor, a floor he was not supposed to be able to access after 5 p.m.
"One particular elevator, that night, the locking mechanism for the 23rd floor just wasn’t working. So, he was able to get all the way to the 23rd floor," said Josh Rath, on-air host and content creator for Mix 97.1 in Billings.
It was a scenario Rath called the "perfect storm of events," and it didn't stop after the elevator got him to the building's top floor. The man "had a screwdriver small enough to pop the lock" on a back door of TownSquare media, according to Rath. And there was one more fortunate find for the perpetrator to be able to pull off the vehicle heist.
"And then for perfect storm number three, instead of that key being locked up as it normally would, it was sitting on our desk because we’d been using that new Kia quite a bit. So, it just didn't get put away where it normally would've," Rath added.
The man then took the keys, headed back downstairs and drove off in the Kia. It was later found in a church parking lot in Ballantine.
"This guy was walking around our Kia, just kicking our tires just acting generally weird. A lady at the church noticed and called us," added Rath.
The vehicle is now back outside the DoubleTree. There wasn't any major damage except the vehicle was "smoked in," according to Rath. However, the theft continues to puzzle staff at TownSquare Media.
"This is Montana’s dumbest criminal because he not only decided to rob a radio station but for whatever reason he decided to steal a bright pink and white Kia belonging to Mix 97.1. Which, when you have security footage and media people working, we’re going to notice the pink car gone," said Rath.
Rath says security has since been updated, but he and others are concerned. Especially after he says the man was apprehended by law enforcement but released, due to a lack of space in the Yellowstone County jail.
"It is very intrusive, you feel like he’s touched all of our stuff, my computer was out. He spent a long time in this studio. So, it got me thinking, what kind of self-defense classes can I take? If he’s that brazen enough to do that, what would have happened, and he saw another person there? Who knows if he would’ve attacked, or ran, or whatever? I’m just glad none of us were here when he was here," said Nikki Vega, host of Mix 97.1 Morning Mix.