SHERIDAN — A man was found guilty of interfering with a peace officer after a day-long trial Wednesday in Sheridan County Circuit Court.
The charge is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, a $1,000 fine or both.
Roy Mathis was arrested July 4 after a traffic stop for an illegal turn on Coffeen Avenue escalated.
Deputy County and Prosecuting Attorney Dianna Bennett represented the state. Mathis was represented by attorneys Jeremy Kissling and Hardy Tate.
Mathis was traveling on Coffeen Avenue with his wife, Gloria, when he was pulled over by Sheridan Police Department officer Adam Balthazor in the parking lot of the old JB’s restaurant. The police vehicle was equipped with a dashboard camera that began to record when Balthazor activated his lights and siren.
Balthazor testified Wednesday that he asked the defendant for his identification at which point Mathis asked Balthazor for his. Balthazor told the court that he pointed to his name tag and shined his flashlight on his badge and gave the badge number to Mathis.
Mathis gave Balthazor his driver’s license and concealed carry permit. Balthazor asked Mathis if there were firearms in the car and where they were. Both the defendant and his wife showed Balthazor where the guns were near the floor of the vehicle. Balthazor told them to lean forward and for Mathis to keep his hands on the steering wheel while the officer went to check the driver’s license.
At one point, the dashboard camera footage showed Balthazor move back to the driver’s door of the car and tell Mathis he’d been ordered not to move. Balthazor told the defendant to hand over the firearm and Mathis told him no. Balthazor then told him to step out of the car and was again told no. Balthazor then called for backup, telling Mathis he needed another officer on the scene before he could proceed with the citation.
Cpl. Doug Slack of the SPD responded to Balthazor’s call for backup. He told the court that he went to the passenger side of the door where Gloria Mathis sat. He testified that she refused to give her name and told officers that she had worked in law enforcement for 10 years. Slack said he observed the position of the firearm closest to her and felt that it had been moved at some point after the stop and could not have traveled in that position. He told the court that, as a supervising officer, he made the decision to call in another officer so both sides of the vehicle could be watched while Balthazor finished with the original business of the stop. He also said he opened the passenger side door to be able to better control the situation.
Both officers reported that Roy Mathis became vocal, telling his wife Slack was going to shoot her and yelling to Balthazor, “Just shoot me!” Slack testified that Gloria Mathis asked to get her water bottle, which was in the vicinity of the firearm, and Slack told her no. At that point, Roy Mathis told his wife to pick up the water bottle and told Slack to “stand down.” Roy Mathis then told the police he would get the water bottle himself. When he reached down for the water bottle, Slack grabbed his wrist and used his arm to hold Gloria Mathis in her seat while Balthazor grabbed Roy Mathis’ other arm. Slack said he picked up the gun and placed it on the roof of the car.
Sheridan County Sheriff’s Deputy Travis Harnish also responded to the call for backup and arrived at the scene in time to aid in removing Roy Mathis from the car and placing him in handcuffs. He said he picked up a gun from the floorboards and placed it on the roof of the car. Harnish testified that Roy Mathis told him that he needed to “get your guys under control.”
The defense called Gloria Mathis to the stand and she testified that her husband had just wanted his back scratched when he leaned forward after Balthazor told him not to. She testified that her husband had kept his hands on the steering wheel at that time.
Under cross examination, Gloria Mathis admitted that she didn’t really remember much of that night. She said she watched the dashboard camera footage in preparation for the trial, but that the audio had not been hooked up, so she didn’t remember saying she was in law enforcement. Bennett pointed out that she had never conducted an arrest as she had been a secretary to the Platte County sheriff for eight years and a detention transportation officer for two.
The jury deliberated for about 30 minutes before finding Roy Mathis guilty. Judge Shelley Cundiff sentenced him to $690 in fines.