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Homeless man charged with burglarizing Hamilton restaurant
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Homeless man charged with burglarizing Hamilton restaurant

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Tyler Pauley

Tyler Pauley

A 19-year-old homeless man allegedly broke into a Hamilton restaurant on Thanksgiving and offered the money he took to people whose residence he had recently been told to leave. 

Tyler Allen Pauley appeared Friday in Ravalli County Justice Court on felony charges of burglary and possession of explosives and a misdemeanor count of theft. Ravalli County Justice Jennifer Ray set bail at $40,000.

According to the charging affidavit, employees at BJ’s Family Restaurant called county dispatch at about 5:30 a.m. to report the business had been burglarized. It was determined that about $370 in cash and the contents of a tip jar had been taken.

Surveillance video showed a suspect entering the restaurant and accessing the cash drawers at about 3 a.m. While the suspect’s face wasn’t visible in the recording, the details of his clothing and two-tone backpack were recorded.

The two cash drawers were located about 150 feet away from the restaurant with the cash removed. The investigating officer also located marks on the business’ door jam.

That same morning, three individuals who live in a home about a mile from the restaurant reported that Pauley had been to their residence at about 4:30 a.m. According the affidavit, Pauley told them he had “robbed” the restaurant and had shown them a large amount of money.

The individuals said Pauley told them the cash was for them if they allowed him to stay.

Pauley had slept at the home for several nights because he was homeless, but a day earlier he had been told he needed to find a new place to live, the affidavit said.

The individuals described Pauley’s clothing, which matched the suspect identified in the surveillance video, including a black and green backpack. They also told law enforcement that Pauley claimed to have a homemade “bomb” in his backpack.

At about 8 a.m., two officers with the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office located Pauley in the lobby of Hamilton’s Super 8 Motel.

Pauley denied any knowledge of the burglary. He claimed he obtained the cash on his person, including a roll of 50 cent pieces, from cashing a check at a local bank. A bit later, Pauley said he cashed the check at a different bank.

When the officers pointed out that it was Thanksgiving Day and all the banks were closed, Pauley then claimed he had used an ATM to obtain the cash from his debit card. The affidavit said Pauley claimed he had left his debit card and backpack at a friend’s home, but declined to say where that residence was located.

The affidavit said Pauley had $355.61 in cash. He also had multiple knives.

The next day, a Hamilton resident reported finding an abandoned backpack on the side of Adirondac Road about 10 blocks from the restaurant. The backpack matched the description of the on Pauley was allegedly wearing during the burglary.

A homemade explosive device, built from an empty flashlight, gun powder and copper wire, was found in the backpack.

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