Bridger Valley man pleads not guilty to charges stemming from Christmas chase


EVANSTON — A Bridger Valley man was arraigned in Third District Court last week on charges related to events that allegedly took place in late December of last year. Matthew Olson has pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated assault and battery and witness intimidation, as well as eluding, careless driving and violating a protection order.

According to a report from the Uinta County Sheriff’s Office, late on the night of Dec. 25, 2020, Deputy Kerby Barker was on duty when a car in front of him turned in to the Lyman Rodeo Grounds. Barker found that suspicious, as it was late at night on Christmas and there were no events at the rodeo grounds. Barker reportedly drove past the entrance but turned around to watch the vehicle.

The car exited the rodeo grounds and Barker’s report states it appeared the driver of the vehicle was trying to evade him. Barker continued to follow the vehicle until it stopped on Glen Ave. in Lyman. At that point, the driver of the car, later identified as Olson, allegedly got out and asked why he was being followed. When Barker asked Olson if anyone else was in the car with him, Olson allegedly initially said he was alone but when Barker approached the vehicle, Olson said the female owner of the vehicle was in the passenger seat and he then got back in the vehicle.

That woman, who had been involved in a relationship with Olson, was the protected party in an active protection order against Olson, who allegedly told Barker he knew he was not supposed to have contact with the woman due to pending charges related to a previous domestic violence incident. Barker radioed in to check the status of the order and called for backup.

According to that report, when Barker approached the vehicle again and asked Olson to step out of the car, he refused and asked if he could turn himself in the next day. As Barker continued to approach the vehicle, Olson allegedly began to drive away but only went a short distance before stopping the car, again. At that point, Barker approached the car again with his taser drawn, ordering Olson to leave the car.

The woman exited the passenger side and Olson allegedly drove off, leading backup responding officers and Barker on a high-speed chase through residential areas. Eventually Olson reportedly stopped, exited the vehicle and ran off on foot. Officers searched the surrounding area for approximately two hours but were unable to locate Olson that evening. The vehicle he abandoned was searched, and officers discovered a loaded 9-mm handgun. The officers felt the woman was safe with family that evening, so the search for Olson was called off.

The next day, on Dec. 26, the woman and several family members reportedly went to the Uinta County Sheriff’s Office in Evanston and spoke with Barker again. At that time, the woman provided details on an incident that had allegedly taken place a few days prior.

She told Barker Olson had begun contacting her in spite of the protection order and that she had to “play like” she was on his side to keep herself and her child safe. She said Olson was pressuring her to have the previous charges dropped and rescind the protection order and did not believe her that she couldn’t do so.

According to an affidavit in support of arrest, the woman told Barker that Olson was at her home on Dec. 23, and they were fighting. They left the home and were in her car, with Olson driving because he did not allow her to drive, and her child was in the backseat. The two were still arguing, with Olson reportedly accusing her of “setting him up.”

Although the woman stated she believed they were driving toward Olson’s residence, he instead turned and drove the opposite direction. She said she asked where they were going and he pulled out a 9-mm handgun and loaded it in front of her.

The affidavit states the woman said, “I knew what was about to happen. I started crying and asked him not to do it in front of (her child).” She told Barker she tried to discreetly get her cell phone to her child in the backseat to call 911, but Olson spotted it and took the phone.

She said Olson stopped the car in a remote area, made her exit the vehicle and start walking until he ordered her to stop, at which point she said she was sure he was going to kill her. She said she did not turn around but heard him walking up behind her when he suddenly fired the gun right next to her head. He then ordered her to get back in the vehicle and told her she was lucky to be alive.

After the events on Christmas, the woman reportedly told her family members what had happened on Dec. 23, and they accompanied her to report the shooting incident to law enforcement. She indicated she was afraid of Olson and trying to protect herself, her child and other family members.

A sheriff’s office investigation included an interview with her child, who confirmed Olson had been at the home a few days prior to Christmas arguing with the child’s mother. The child also detailed the car ride, Olson forcing the woman out of the car and firing the gun next to her head, and reported believing Olson was going to kill the mother.

A warrant had already been issued due to the events on Christmas and Olson was arrested and reportedly remains in custody at the Uinta County Detention Center. A trial in the case has been scheduled for July 6.

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