By: Patti Weaver

(Cushing, Okla.) — A former Cushing man has been jailed on $50,000 total bail on charges of breaking into the First Christian Church in Cushing, followed by a string of rural property crimes two days later — for which he was arrested in the woods northeast of Walmart after a manhunt on March 18.

Brandon Windell Hill, 22, of Edmond, has been ordered to appear in Payne County District Court Tuesday on charges of burglarizing the church in Cushing, breaking into a barn, stealing a John Deere Gator, stealing a 1995 Ford van, and possessing a shotgun while on felony probation.

If convicted of all of his current charges, Hill could be imprisoned for as long as 34 years, court records show.

Cushing Police Officer Taylor Ballard was sent to the First Christian Church on March 16 to talk to Pastor James Wilhelm, who was called at 9:15 am by an employee — reporting the church had been broken into, an affidavit said.

The employee had arrived at the church to find damage to doors leading into offices, where “someone had rummaged through the drawers and cabinets, possibly taking voided checks, pay stubs, and other paper work,” the affidavit said. A Dell laptop computer and several articles of clothing were also taken, the affidavit said.

“It also appeared that the suspects attempted to damage the camera system located in the office by dumping bottles of water on it and pulling out some of the wires attached to it. However, the camera system appeared to be functioning,” the Cushing officer wrote in his affidavit.

“Wilhelm showed me the camera footage from inside the foyer of the church from a Celebrate Recovery meeting earlier in the evening. On the footage, a male, identified by Wilhelm to be Brandon Hill, can be seen wearing a beanie, flannel shirt, jeans and work boots,” the officer wrote in his affidavit.

“The meeting ended at approximately 2200 hours (10 pm), and a church employee can be seen locking the doors and turning out the light,” the affidavit said.

About 20 minutes later, “Hill can be seen back inside the foyer wearing the same clothing as previously seen on the footage. Hill is seen walking across the foyer, then exits the room momentarily, and returns with another male not recognized by Wilhelm or myself,” the officer alleged in his affidavit.

“The two individuals then go out of camera view for some time, but are then seen leaving the building carrying armloads of items,” the affidavit alleged.

Two days later, at 7:23 am on March 18, a rural Cushing man “called the Sheriff’s Office to report that his John Deere Gator had just been stolen from his barn, and witnessed the suspect driving through his yard — attempting to get through the gate,” which was closed, Payne County Sheriff’s Lt. Dan Nack wrote in an affidavit.

The suspect drove by the man “and continued north on his property through the fence,” just north of Ninth Street on Norfolk Road, southeast of Cushing, the affidavit said.

The man said “the suspect also ransacked all the drawers in his barn, and a silver-colored barreled Rock Island brand shotgun with black synthetic stock, loaded with 12 gauge round, was on the Gator. He further stated that his tractor doors had been opened along with the glove box ripped out of a ’73 Ford truck,” the affidavit said.

After other officers arrived within minutes, Sheriff’s Deputy Korey Carruba found a van stuck in the mud in a residential area just north of this location, the affidavit said.

Cushing Assistant Police Chief Nick Myers contacted the owner, who said someone had stolen his van that had a .380 Ruger handgun inside, which was not recovered, the affidavit said.

Other arriving deputies continued to search for the suspect as well as the Gator, which was located in a pasture near a tree line on the southwest corner of Highway 33 and Norfolk Road, but the shotgun was not found, the affidavit said.

At 6:07 pm “a call came into dispatch of a suspicious person matching the description of the suspect, who just came out of the woods east of the Walmart parking perimeter,” about 500 yards from where the Gator was abandoned, the affidavit said.

Deputy David Sloan started an initial track with his K9 partner, Caine, along with Lt. Nack, the affidavit said.

“We started a track from the last seen location of the suspect by the woods east of the Walmart parking lot,” that led east through the woods, across an easement and through the next set of woods, Lt. Nack wrote in his affidavit.

“A footprint was seen in one creek on this track,”: that continued east to Norfolk Rd. and into the parking lot of the Elks Lodge directly to a small group of cedar trees. “Just inside the tree branches, I located a silver-colored 12 gauge shotgun with a black synthetic stock,” that had been stolen from the rural Cushing man, Lt. Nack wrote in his affidavit.

“We went back to the woods in an attempt to retrace our steps for further evidence. While doing so, Trooper Stacy, who was parked north of Tim’s Tire on Norfolk, advised that a male just ran across Norfolk near Tim’s Tire eastbound.

“Cushing Police Department Officer Piatt parked on the easement north of 33 with a long visual view as we went back to Tim’s Tire area. Trooper Stacy advised that the suspect ran around Tim’s Tire shop, across Norfolk and was westbound again into the woods. Sloan and I responded to Tim’s Tire to start another track. We started at the tire shop, crossing the fence line and continued west, northwest.

“A few minutes into this track, Cushing Officer Piatt advised over the radio that the suspect just ran west across the pipeline easement. Shortly after, Piatt advised that he had one subject at gunpoint under a tree. Sloan and I arrived to his location and placed the suspect in handcuffs,” Lt. Nack wrote in his affidavit.

“He was a young-looking male, wearing light-colored pants, grey shirt, no jacket and looked to have been in the woods all day. His clothes were dirty and torn,” the affidavit said.

“After talking to Brandon, he advised that he was in fact the individual from this morning that took the van, then took the John Deere Gator. He stated that he left it where it was abandoned because he thought at that point, we would catch him on it. I asked where he put the shotgun that was on the Gator, and he advised that it was in a cedar tree at the Elks Lodge,” Lt. Nack alleged in his affidavit.

Four months ago after Hill was released from the state’s Regimented Inmate Discipline (RID) boot camp program where he was held for 10 months, Hill was placed on seven years’ probation under a deferred sentence for car theft, eluding a police officer, and multiple burglaries in 2019 in Payne County, Oklahoma Department of Corrections records show.