Man faces life in prison after Green River shootout
GREEN RIVER — A man the Green River Police Department alleges started a shootout with officers July 6 is facing nine felony charges that could lead to a lifetime in prison.
Matthew Riley Culley, 33, of Green River, made his initial appearance Friday before Circuit Court Judge John Prokos and was issued a $1 million cash only bond. His charges consist of first degree attempted murder, four counts of aggravated assault, felonious restraint, two counts of interference with a peace officer and property destruction.
The attempted murder charge alone could result in a lifetime sentence in prison without parole, as well as a potential fine of up to $10,000. The aggravated assault charges each carry a potential maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, the same potential sentence the interference with a peace officer charges have.
The felonious restraint charge carries a possible maximum sentence of five years and a $10,000 fine, while the property destruction charge carries a potential maximum sentence of 10 years and a $10,000 fine.
According to court documents, at 10:44 p.m., July 6, Sgt. Jesse Nielson with the GRPD received a call on his personal cell phone from a family friend, a minor identified as C.S., who reported he and his brother G.S. had gone to the shooting range near FMC Park to try out a new thermal scope.
When the two arrived, they could see a vehicle parked at the range with very bright headlights. The two parked their vehicle a couple of spaces away from a black Chevrolet Silverado and C.S. walked over to let the occupant know they would not be shooting, only checking out the thermal scope. C.S. told the officer he also planned to ask them to dim their lights because he wasn’t sure if the light would interfere with the scope.
The occupant of the truck didn’t acknowledge C.S., so he walked away, grabbed his gun and equipment, then started working with his scope.
After some time, a man later identified as Culley left the vehicle and asked the two brothers what they were up to. When C.S. told him about the scope, Culley told them he didn’t care about it, allegedly saying he had a 9-mm pistol and “I’ll blow both your brains out.” Culley allegedly then pulled a handgun and pointed it at the two.
While speaking with Culley, C.S. used the term “sir,” which reportedly angered Culley more and Culley told him not to call him sir. As Culley said this, he allegedly pulled the slide back on the pistol, inserting a round into the firing chamber. This caused a round already in the chamber to eject from the gun.
Culley then allegedly pointed the gun towards C.S. and wrapped his arm around him, restricting C.S., allegedly keeping the gun about three inches from his head. Culley then released C.S., but kept the pistol in his hand.
Culley then asked about the gun C.S. had and told the boys he had been in a lot of accidents and referred to himself as a “bad dude.”
C.S. believed Cully was drunk during this exchange as he was able to smell alcohol on his breath.
Culley then allegedly grabbed C.S. a second time, and pointed the gun at G.S., asking if he should just shoot him in the head.
“No, let’s not, that’s my brother and I love my brother,” C.S. said in response.
“Okay, just let me know if you need me to,” Culley allegedly replied.
Culley allegedly pointed the gun again at G.S. and asked C.S. if he was sure he didn’t want him shot, to which C.S. replied he was sure.
C.S. and G.S. told Culley they planned to place a thermal target downrange and Culley allowed them to do so. As they walked down the range, G.S. wanted to call the police, but C.S. feared if they tried that, Culley would shoot them. C.S. also told his brother not to look back at Culley because he may shoot them and told him if Culley does start shooting, to drop to the ground.
The two noticed Culley was back inside his truck and G.S. wanted to get away, but C.S. told him if they didn’t at least fire their gun at the target, Culley might get suspicious. C.S. then fired his gun twice, with Culley leaving after the second shot.
The brothers then collected their things and left the range, calling Sgt. Nielson a short time later to report the incident and provide a description of Culley’s truck.
Sgt. Nielson was speaking with C.S. and driving towards Scotts Bottom Road when he noticed a vehicle matching the description C.S. provided. Sgt. Nielson ended the call and started following the vehicle until he had backup.
Once backup arrived, he initiated a traffic stop on the truck on Barnhart Street, near Uinta Drive. Sgt. Nielson exited his patrol car and remained at the driver side door, issuing commands to Culley to put his hands outside of the window.
Meanwhile Officer Zachary Owens stayed with Sgt. Nielson while Officer Kevin Lennon took cover north of Sgt. Nielson’s vehicle.
Culley allegedly held his hands outside of the window momentarily, then pulled them back into the truck as Sgt. Nielson issued commands to him. At one point, Culley allegedly looked out of the window towards Sgt. Nielson and yelled at him. Sgt. Nielson and Owens, fearing the car would not be adequate cover, then moved behind a brick wall near Sgt. Nielson’s car, with Sgt. Nielson then calling for the SWAT team to respond.
Shortly after, Culley allegedly opened the door and leaned out of the vehicle toward the location Sgt. Nielson and Owens were previously standing and fired a semi-automatic rifle multiple times at the police vehicle.
Sgt. Nielson reported the officers were taking heavy fire to the dispatch center and requested additional backup.
The trio then moved to a better position of cover with a better angle on Culley’s vehicle. Once in place, they fired their weapons on the truck.
As officers waited behind cover for backup, Culley’s truck began to drive away. It moved about 75 feet towards Uinta Drive, then stopped. Officers could see Culley was speaking with someone on his cell phone and reported the observance to the dispatch center as other people might be en route to the scene.
At 11:17 p.m., Culley’s girlfriend arrived and parked directly across from Culley’s truck. She then walked towards the truck and pulled Culley from the vehicle.
Officers then detained Culley and his girlfriend.
Emergency medical providers responded and examined injuries Culley sustained to the right side of his face during the exchange.
While searching Culley’s vehicle, officers found a loaded Ruger 9-mm handgun and a loaded AR-15 style rifle.
Sgt. Nielson’s vehicle reportedly sustained heavy damage after being allegedly shot at by Culley, with damages estimated in excess of $1,000.