Gallatin County authorities recount efforts to catch fugitive
A high-speed chase stretched across two southwest Montana counties Thursday. NBC Montana has followed this story since it broke Thursday morning in Belgrade, all the way to when the suspect surrendered to Madison County authorities in the woods outside of Pony.
31-year-old Matthew Brandemihl faces five felonies -- three counts of theft, one count of burglary and one count of criminal endangerment -- for crimes police say stretched from northern Gallatin County all the way to the to the small town of Pony.
In court Friday, the judge set bail at $100,000.
Prosecutors say Brandemihl stole two trucks and an SUV, burglarized a home and created and endangered police and other motorists as he fled from officers.
It all started just before 8 a.m. Thursday, when Brandemihl allegedly stole a vehicle from a business south of Belgrade, leading authorities on a high-speed chase.
"This one was so unique because it was so long and it was extended and there were different vehicles and throughout a large part of the county," explains Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin.
NBC Montana checked in with Gootkin to find out how authorities worked together to try to stop the suspect while keeping the public out of harm's way.
"There are so many challenges that go along with that. You have all these different agencies, the communication between the agencies, dispatch trying to coordinate and track where everyone is. It's a really difficult situation for everyone," explains Gootkin.
Once Brandemihl allegedly crashed the first vehicle into a ravine, records allege he stole an SUV from a nearby home, driving it straight through a garage door.
Deputies say they chased him back towards Belgrade in heavy traffic before he jumped the vehicle over train tracks, through a fence and onto Interstate 90, reportedly crossing all four lanes of traffic, eluding officers.
"It was so difficult in that situation right there in Belgrade, right outside of River Rock. We shut down the school, which was huge. We wanted to make sure that these kids were safe. We coordinated, we really did sort of control where that person was allowed to go. Unfortunately, he slipped right through us," says Gootkin.
That's when Brandemihl allegedly stole a third vehicle and headed to Pony.
Regarding why he was able to escape, Gootkin said, "No idea. That's just one of those things where there's so much law enforcement, there's so much going on, you have a certain description, you have a certain vehicle description you're looking for that vehicle. You have no idea that vehicle going by you may be that person," replied Gootkin.
Three hours later, troopers spotted the truck between Harrison and Pony off Highway 287.
Reports indicate he ditched the truck more than a mile into the woods near Pony and fled on foot, not too far from where we witnessed surrender to Madison County authorities.
The judge also addressed three different misdemeanors from three earlier incidents, including a failure to give notice of an accident regarding a hit-and-run crash, operating with an expired registration and reckless driving involving a hit-and-run rollover crash in which he reportedly left the scene.
Witnesses say he was drinking.
Brandemihl pleaded not guilty to all three misdemeanors.