ELKO — An Elko man led law officers on a high-speed chase and threatened to detonate a bomb at 11 a.m. Wednesday on Interstate 80.
The bomb was just a bluff, but it was enough to tie up eastbound freeway traffic for four hours. Matthew Hellaby, 27, of Elko was jailed on multiple charges after the incident.
Undersheriff Doug Gailey said a Nevada Highway Patrol plane was checking for speeders near Deeth and saw a vehicle exceeding the speed limit. When a highway patrol trooper attempted to stop it, Hellaby pulled to the side of the road but then took off.
Gailey said Hellaby then phoned central dispatch to inform them if the troopers did not leave him alone he would blow up 100 pounds of ammonium nitrate he claimed to have in his car.
Just west of Wells, troopers were able to spike three of Hellaby’s tires but he continued to drive through town. At this point, Hellaby slowed down enough for a female hitchhiker to exit his vehicle.
A few miles east of Wells, Gailey said Hellaby turned his car around and drove toward the troopers who were following him.
Gailey said the troopers drove in reverse to avoid a collision. One of the sheriff’s deputies shot at the vehicle but missed. Gailey said the deputy was attempting to stop Hellaby from going into into town with the alleged explosives.
Hellaby drove around a roadblock set up by the troopers, causing several of them to dive out of the way as he went through. Gailey said Hellaby had trouble regaining the roadway since his flattened tires were bogging down in the soft shoulder. A second deputy was able to push Hellaby’s car further off the road, and got him to stop.
Hellaby refused to exit, so officers broke out his driver’s side window and dragged him out of the car and placed him under arrest. Gailey said he then told officers he didn’t really have explosives, just a blasting cap.
The eastbound traffic lane was closed and the Elko Bomb Squad inspected the vehicle, finding no explosives or a blasting cap.
The eastbound lane was reopened at 4:45 p.m. after being closed for 4 hours, and the vehicle was impounded for a more thorough search.
Hellaby was charged with assault with a deadly weapon for driving at the troopers at the roadblock and for making a bomb threat. He was also charged with DUI and resisting an officer. His bail is $16,264.
Gailey said the FBI came to the scene, but doesn’t plan to charge Hellaby with domestic terrorism since no explosives were found.