Pearsonville gunman nabbed

Pearsonville gunman nabbedUPDATE: as of Aug. 28, the Inyo County Sheriff's Office announced Hays was arrested without incident and booked at the Inyo County Jail.

By BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

A potentially dangerous gunman is still at large as authorities continue searching for suspect Matthew David Hays near Pearsonville.

According to an Inyo County Sheriff’s Office release, deputies responded to an area just North of Pearsonville on Highway 395 on Monday, Aug. 24, regarding a report of a man brandishing a firearm.

According to the reporting party, a man later identified as Hays (a 35-year-old Inyo County resident) approached them on foot while they were pulled over to change a tire. Hays said “que pasa,” to which the reporting party responded they didn’t speak Spanish.

Hays walked away but reportedly returned with a rifle, laid down on the opposite side of the highway and pointed the rifle at the reporting party’s vehicle. After firing a warning shot in the air from a registered handgun, the reporting party slowly drove southbound away from the scene before being able to change the flat tire.

Hays was known to local deputies who arrived at his residence where they reportedly observed Hays emerge from his trailer holding a black rifle with a scope. Hays ignored announcements to drop the firearm and “began running toward law enforcement while holding the rifle … at a low and ready position with the muzzle end of the rifle slightly raised.”

Law enforcement did not fire on Hays, who “eventually began walking off north-westerly into the desert,” according to the release.

A California Highway Patrol helicopter responded to the scene and was able to observe Hays walking through the desert with a rifle, but personnel lost sight of the suspect when the helicopter was forced to refuel.

The Kern County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team and Inyo County Special Enforcement Detail arrived to assist and searched the area. They did not find Hays, but they did reportedly find the suspect’s rifle and clothing in a nearby outbuilding. After obtaining a search warrant, authorities searched Hays’s residence where they recovered only pellet gun rifles and a bb handgun.

Assisted by the Mono County Sheriff’s Office, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service Law Enforcement Investigations, Liberty Ambulance and the Olancha Volunteer Fire Department, authorities continued searching the area through the night, but were still unsuccessful.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Hays – described as a 6’2” 165-pound white male with brown hair and blue eyes. The public is strongly encouraged to contact the ICSO at 760-878-0383, option 4, with any information that might lead to Hays’s arrest. He is still considered to be potentially armed by the ICSO.

Pictured: Personnel from the California Highway Patrol and Kern County Sheriff’s Office join the Inyo County Sheriff’s Department in searching for a gunman near Pearsonville on Monday afternoon. — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2020-08-28