The fugitive who led authorities on a three-day manhunt near Helena after allegedly killing a man in Great Falls was arrested at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday after being found in an old, empty trailer.
Branden Conrad Miesmer, 26, of Great Falls, had wrapped his blistered feet and was exhausted and dehydrated when he was found in the 6900 block of Black Sandy Loop, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton said. The trailer was searched after an officer spotted it in the Hauser Dam area roughly one mile from where Miesmer first fled on foot.
Miesmer was armed with a .40 caliber handgun but did not resist arrest, Dutton said.
"He was going to kill himself," Dutton said Wednesday. "Today was his last day."
The suspect reportedly apologized to law enforcement for the inconvenience he caused during the search.
“Unfortunately this individual held our community in the grips of fear for the last three days,” Dutton said.
Miesmer was examined at St. Peter’s Hospital before being taken to the Lewis and Clark County jail to be held overnight. His first court appearance is expected Thursday morning, Lewis and Clark County Undersheriff Dave Rau told the Associated Press.
Authorities had not yet questioned Miesmer Wednesday evening about his hiding places and movement during his three days on the run.
Miesmer was charged Tuesday with allegedly shooting 26-year-old Cody Steve Bruyer in the face at a home in Great Falls sometime Sunday night or Monday morning. His bail was set at $1.5 million.
According to the AP, charging documents say the victim was shot once in the head, and a .45 caliber casing, marijuana and other drug paraphernalia were found nearby.
Cascade County Attorney John Parker said in court documents that Miesmer was under investigation for drug trafficking, the AP reported. The victim was also believed to have been involved in the sale of illegal drugs.
Dutton said he was “very relieved” and “thankful” the search was over.
“The credit goes to those men and women that you saw here,” he said during a press conference with Rau, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox and Helena Chief of Police Troy McGee. “What you saw is the dedication of local agencies, state agencies, federal agencies come together for one common purpose, and that was public safety.”
Fox added his thanks to the sheriff’s office and the other agencies that participated.
“What you saw here in the last three days was professionalism of law enforcement at all levels,” Fox said.
Dutton said the suspect is an Army veteran and confirmed that a Facebook page under the name Branden Alexandria belonged to Miesmer. The Facebook page reveals that he grew up an orphan in Great Falls and spent the last several years trying to launch a rap career under the name XTA-C. He split his time between Phoenix, Great Falls, and an oil field where he worked.
Miesmer said on his Facebook page he was pursuing a college degree and had released at least one rap album.
Miesmer reportedly escaped the home in Great Falls by forcing the man and woman who had dropped him off there to drive him to Helena.
Miesmer’s presence in Helena was discovered Monday morning as he and the pair he was with stopped at Friendly's gas station on 11th Avenue in Helena, said Dutton. The couple reportedly alerted a gas station attendant they had been kidnapped.
Miesmer then told the people to get back in the car, and they convinced him to drop them off. The Friendly's attendant called police and officers located Miesmer on Interstate 15 near Custer Avenue. A pursuit ensued and Miesmer headed north on the interstate and then east on Lincoln Road, Dutton said.
At some point Miesmer’s vehicle was damaged, and as the pursuit closed in on the intersection with Lincoln and Hauser roads, law enforcement backed off because they didn’t want to cause Miesmer to drive into the neighborhood at the tricky intersection.
Miesmer abandoned the car at the intersection and then immediately commandeered another vehicle that was being driven by a father and two children. Miesmer forced them to exit the vehicle at gunpoint, and then the chase resumed with Miesmer heading north on Hauser Road toward the dam and a dead end.
Authorties again backed off on the narrow road and Miesmer drove below Hauser Dam, exited the vehicle and fled on foot, Dutton said.
Prior to his arrest Wednesday, Miesmer had not been seen by authorities since about 7:40 a.m. Monday as he was driving the stolen vehicle below Hauser Dam, he said.
The manhunt focused on a several square-mile area between Hauser Dam and Interstate 15 north of Lincoln Road. Within the area are more than 1,000 residents and hundreds of homes, Dutton estimated.
The manhunt utilized helicopters equipped with heat imaging equipment, along with about 120 law enforcement officers from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies throughout the state.
Dutton thanked the Helenans who stepped up to provide food to law enforcement and the community at large for their support and reports of possible sightings.
Independent Record editor Greg Lemon and the Associated Press contributed to this report.