RURAL BILLINGS COUNTY — The Billings County Sheriff’s Department has identifi ed the alleged fugitive authorities are searching for throughout western North Dakota.
The search continued Friday for Jeff Robertson, who is suspected of rolling a stolen pickup truck off U.S. Highway 85 in northeast Billings County on Thursday and then fleeing the scene.
Billings County Sheriff Pat Rummel said they have identifi ed Robertson as the suspect, though his age and city of residence is unknown. He is described as being white, and around 6-foot, 180 pounds and is balding with sandy brown hair.
The Billings County Sheriff’s Department found an employee identification card in the pickup, which it used to confirm Robertson as the suspect who allegedly exited the pickup following the accident after interviews with witnesses.
Rummel said the department has found articles of clothing believed to belong to Robertson, who allegedly stole a 1996 blue Ford F-350 in Billings, Mont., and rolled it off the highway 12 miles north of Belfield.
“We’re just trying to follow his trail to see where he went,” Rummel said.
Rummel said authorities haven’t ruled out the possibility that a motorist may have picked up Robertson, believing he was a hitchhiker. According to a witness, Robertson was last seen wearing a red-brown plaid shirt and had an arm injury.
Rummel said multiple agencies in North Dakota and Montana — including the North Dakota State and Local Intelligence Center — worked to identify Robertson. Rummel said he was told the Billings Police Department had no suspects in the vehicle’s theft.
Authorities are unsure if Robertson is armed, but said .22-caliber shells were found in the pickup. Because of this, authorities are asking the public not to approach anyone matching Robertson’s his description and to instead call 911 immediately.
“We’re hoping that if somebody gave him a ride, they’d come out and say something,” Rummel said.
Rummel said shortly before 9 a.m. Friday that the sheriff’s department was checking abandoned farms and buildings at oil well sites throughout the area.
“He could still be in the area, we don’t know,” Rummel said. “We’re just going to keep looking here, just in case.”
Several local law enforcement agencies, including the Southwest Tactical Team, spent all of Thursday afternoon and evening searching for Robertson.
After the accident, the pickup came to a rest on its side in a ditch. According to a witness, Rummel said, Robertson exited the vehicle and ran into a sunflower field west of the highway near milemarker 87.
Authorities surrounded the field and used K-9s to search the area. They also took the skies throughout Thursday to try and find the man, getting assistance from the Valley Med Flight helicopter, the North Dakota Highway Patrol airplane and a pilot from Beach using his personal aircraft.
Witnesses last spotted the man about a mile north of where the accident occurred sometime after 3 p.m.
Sheriff’s departments from Billings County, Stark County and Dunn County, the North Dakota Highway Patrol, park rangers from Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the Belfield Police Department, and the tactical team were involved in the search, as well as the Billings County Ambulance Service, Rummel said.
A handful of officers from the Billings County Sheriff’s Department and the Highway Patrol continued searching for the man overnight. Other agencies were relieved at about 9 p.m. Thursday.
The Billings County Sheriff’s placed a reverse 911 call to area residents shortly after noon Thursday, alerting them of the situation. They alerted residents again Friday morning.
“We’re still out here,” Rummel said.