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At-large suspect apprehended without incident

BY SHARON BARDONNER - sbardonner@ftimes.com

Matthew J. Gilbert, 37, was apprehended Friday evening after eluding authorities since Wednesday afternoon when officers attempted to serve him with a felony warrant for failing to appear for his sentencing hearing in Clinton Circuit Court.

According to Chief Deputy Joe Mink of the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, the warrant service included the deployment of the Clinton County SWAT team because of concerns the suspect could be armed.

“We believed putting a different pair of eyes on the situation might be safest so we thought. ‘maybe we bring SWAT out,’” he explained.

But when officers went to Gilbert’s residence in the 700 block of North State Road 39, he was not at home nor on the property so a search of the area ensued.

State Road 39 was closed from West County Road 800 North to 700 North about 2.5 miles south of Rossville to ensure the public’s safety as officers searched the area for Gilbert.

The road was reopened about midnight although Gilbert remained at large.

According to Mink, reports that all schools were on lock-down were exaggerated on social media and TV18.

“There was no credible threat as far as the schools went,” said Mink. “The county schools are always locked; it was not anything that we implemented. 

“But TV18 played up the active thing and everyone put their own spin on it,” he said.

Mink said he received a call about 5 a.m. Thursday morning from Jim Hanna, superintendent of Rossville Consolidated Schools, for a status report and guidance on whether buses would be able to use State Road 39 as usual.

“I told Hanna we were looking for him (Gilbert), and the road had been reopened at midnight,” Mink reported.

Mink said Thursday was considered a normal school day; however, CCSO did advise school administrators that district employees should be extra cautious when admitting people who buzzed for entry.

“But there was no threat to students, to teachers, to staff – nothing,” he emphasized.

Mink said that the incident served as a training exercise for the schools to practice their safety measures.

As of late Friday morning, the CCSO and other local law enforcement still were searching for the subject.

“We can’t rule out that he’s armed,” said Mink, “but we take that position with all wanted people. Our ultimate goal, however, is to take him into custody with no harm to him or anyone else. We want to let him have his day in court.”

“Our job is to protect everyone – even him,” he said.

At 9:05 p.m. Friday, Gilbert was seen driving on State Road 39 north of Rossville at the Clinton-Carroll County line, said Mink. “Gilbert refused to stop for deputies and fled into Carroll County with deputies and police in pursuit.”

North of Flora Gilbert was stopped without incident and taken to the Clinton County Jail where he is being held without bond, Mink said. 

“It was textbook. Nobody got hurt, and we couldn’t have asked for a better outcome,” said Mink, adding that now Gilbert faces pending charges in Clinton and Carroll County in addition to those for which he was to be sentenced. 

Other agencies involved in Gilbert’s apprehension were the Rossville, Delphi and Flora Police Departments, the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, the Indiana State Police and the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force.

Failure to appear compels flight

The arrest warrant for Gilbert was issued when he failed to appear to be sentenced after being found guilty Feb. 13 of escape, a Level 5 felony; intimidation, a Level 6 felony; and resisting law enforcement, a Class A misdemeanor. The charges were filed Sept. 5, 2017, after officers were dispatched to a 911 hang up at Gilbert’s address – the third call at this location that day.

The responding officers were advised that a woman, whom Gilbert had allegedly tried to detain, reported the suspect had a sawed-off shotgun, a knife and body armor at the house. When officers arrived at the scene, the woman told them Gilbert was crazy and had threatened to kill himself, according to the affidavit filed with the court.

When attempting to check the suspect’s well-being, CCSO Deputy Dennis Tillman saw Gilbert, allegedly with a knife attached to his pocket, and ordered him to stop. Gilbert first raised his hands but then tried to flee. He was restrained temporarily by Tillman until Officer Jeremy Rushton with the Mulberry Police Department tasered Gilbert to subdue him, the affidavit said.

Gilbert was transported by CCSO Lt. Ron Blackwell to the IU Health Frankfort Hospital, where he again refused to cooperate and attempted to flee, detailed the court document.

Gilbert’s actions involving Tillman and Rushton, and toward IU Health Security Officer Cameron Carlson and Reserve Deputy Ricky Sturgis at the hospital, resulted in his being charged and found guilty of escape, intimidation and resisting.

As Mink noted, Gilbert will be facing additional charges for eluding officers and fleeing. 

Gilbert also being tried for another incident

He is also scheduled for a jury trial May 22 for an incident occurring July 10, 2017, for which he was charged with  intimidation; a Level 6 felony; and criminal mischief, theft and criminal trespass, all Class A misdemeanors.

According to the court affidavit filed July 12, 2017, Gilbert went to his parents’ home uninvited and began arguing with his mom about a firearm he had purchased for her that he wanted back. Allegedly Gilbert became violent and began breaking things, so his parents left so he could calm down.

The damage, estimated by Gilbert’s dad to be thousands of dollars, included a broken door frame, a window, the oven door, a musical organ and interior doors. Missing was his father’s cell phone.

After ravaging his parents’ place, the court document said, Gilbert returned home and during a series of calls involving his father’s cell phone told his mother that “someone was going to die if law enforcement tried to take him in.”

Gilbert also called his brother several times and threatened to kill him or “pound him” because he owed Gilbert money, the affidavit reported.