Billings Man Fights Truck Thief; Jumps On Moving Stolen Truck, Bashes Thief With Sledgehammer

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

It sounds like an action movie.

When Billings resident Tim Payne grabbed by the side of his own moving stolen truck last week and began hitting the driver with a shovel and sledgehammer, he said he was full of adrenaline, but not the kind of adrenaline he remembered used to.

Despite the repeated blows to the head, the thief kept his foot on the accelerator and Payne was thrown like an extension cord, crashing into dumpsters and backyard walls while hurtling down an alley.

Then he discovered his trusty sledgehammer.

“Really good neighborhood

It started out like an ordinary late afternoon Monday for Payne. He was picking up his 3-year-old daughter who was spending the day at his 19-year-old daughter’s house when he heard his truck squeak.

He’d left the keys in the truck to keep it warm. He thought he could because it was in a “really good neighborhood.”

“It was the last place I expected anything to happen,” Payne told Cowboy State Daily.

But when he heard the commotion, he knew it was his truck.

“I ran out the door and saw it skid down the street,” he said. “I knew it was gone.”

All his tools gone. And for a wage construction worker, the livelihood was gone.

“I screamed,” he said. “I ran out of ideas”

‘tracking app

Then Payne remembered there was something else in his truck. His mobile.

He pulled himself together. His family all have a “tracking app” on their phones. It’s called Life360 and it lets everyone in their family know where everyone else is.

That meant that as long as the phone stayed in the truck, he could track the thief.

He pulled up his daughter’s phone and there it was – a tiny blinking pixel moving across the lit phone.

He called his wife and she also started chasing the carjacker.

She then called the police and gave them a full rundown of where he was.

“Step by step, step by step, she told the cops where he was going,” Payne said.

Screenshot of Tim Payne’s Life360 tracking app

“Go to the vigilante

In the meantime, Payne did what law enforcement tells you to do.

“I wanted to go vigilante,” he said

He called his buddy and they started chasing the thief. His two daughters were there with him.

Then the little pixel stopped moving. The thief stopped.

Or did the carjacker get smart and throw the phone out the window? Payne noted the location while his friend drove on.

About five minutes later, the pixel started moving again before stopping again after about a minute.

When they got there, he saw a twinkle in the middle of the intersection. It was his phone.

“I was worried at the time that I would never see my truck again,” he said.

But the discouragement did not last long. He theorized what happened. The thief threw it and then went back to the first place. So that’s where they went.

“There’s your truck!

“First I didn’t see anything, but then my daughter said, there’s your truck!” he said.

At that point, he said he felt a “big rush.”

“I was relieved and excited and scared at the same time,” he said. “I’m an adrenaline junkie, but it’s not the kind of adrenaline I’m used to. Completely different.”

Regardless, he wanted it.

As Payne ran down the alley toward the truck, he yelled at the person in the driver’s seat as he approached. The truck was idling; the driver’s side window was half down.

“The guy in my truck was really surprised,” Payne said.

Just as Payne neared the door, the thief threw her backwards and, to avoid being run over, he jumped onto the passenger side step and grabbed onto the mirror – while he was smashed into a wall.

“I would do whatever it takes. I got my truck back,” he said.

House where Tim Payne discovered his stolen truck

Crazy rodeo

The thief backed the truck into a fence, throwing Payne off and then setting it in motion.

“I could jump in the back of my truck and just hold on,” Payne said.

Seeing that Payne was in the back of the truck, the thief accelerated and hit the brakes repeatedly to try to throw him out.

Payne, meanwhile, crawled up in bed, grabbed a shovel and knocked out the rear window, managing to break the driver’s side window as well.

Then, while holding on to the rear window, he repeatedly hit the thief in the head with the shovel.

“I was surprised at how much damage I did to this guy and he just kept going,” Payne said.

Shovel that Tim Payne used to hit the thief on the head


The injured driver sped down the alley for a while before crashing into another truck.

Payne managed to hold on. And right after the crash, he grabbed a sledgehammer, jumped out of the truck, and “flew it” through the driver’s side window.

“It worked pretty well with him and I thought that was the end,” he said.

But like Michael Meyers in “Halloween,” it didn’t stop the thief.

“I broke the window and put him in a headlock,” Payne said. “And I started giving him hell.”

“Fighting in a vehicle is tough,” he added.

Payne was exhausted, but the thief seemed to have infinite energy.

Despite being in a headlock and being repeatedly punched in the face, the thief pulled a knife from his pocket.

“I was really scared at that point,” Payne said. “Since I had no more energy, I let him go.”

But instead of being attacked, the thief ran away. Turns out he left a few bags of meth in the passenger seat.

Tim Payne’s broken but rescued truck

Got his truck

But Payne got his truck back.

Police arrived shortly after, and Payne gave his official statement surrounded by rubble.

Payne’s truck is a disaster, ready to drive but no longer road legal. It won’t be cheap to have it repaired.

His tools are gone. They won’t be easy to replace for him either.

And they took his wallet.

The good news is that anyone who tried to use their credit card at a liquor store in Laurel, Montana, 14 miles away, was caught on surveillance video.

And Payne says his case (minus the super-action exploits) is similar to many other crimes in Billings. So this is not an isolated case.

“There are many stakeholders who want justice for their stolen cars, belongings and homes that have been broken into,” he said. “So we’re just trying to tie everything together so we can all be compensated when the refund comes out.”

In the meantime, Payne’s daughter has set up a GoFundMe page, which can be accessed here.

Video footage of Tim Payne’s stolen truck

When Tim Payne found his truck

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