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Five-hour S.D. hospital hostage situation ends peacefully

An armed man barricaded himself in the Redfield Community Memorial Hospital from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday. Ellen Bardash / Forum News Service1 / 2
Spink County Sheriff Kevin Schurch, Deputy Jenna Appel and Spink County State's Attorney Vic Fischbach share details of the negotiation following Mathern's arrest. Ellen Bardash / Forum News Service2 / 2

REDFIELD, S.D. — A hostage negotiation at Redfield Community Memorial Hospital resulted in an armed man being arrested Monday afternoon, June 25.

No one was harmed in the more than five hours that Matthew Mathern was barricaded in the hospital and negotiating with law enforcement, and he eventually surrendered peacefully.

At about 6:45 a.m., the Spink County Sheriff's Office was first alerted that Mathern, 30, of Redfield, a city of about 2,300 residents about 70 miles west of Watertown, had come to the hospital and was upset. Once law enforcement was notified, Mathern left the hospital, and about an hour later, Deputy Jenna Appel found him on the street and told him to stop and talk to her.

Instead, Mathern got in his car, and a short chase ensued, ending with Mathern barricading himself inside a room in the hospital.

Law enforcement was able to call the hospital before Mathern got there, allowing the building to be put on lockdown. Mathern held a 10-year-old boy hostage inside the hospital for several hours, but negotiators eventually convinced him to release the boy unharmed.

"We're very thankful that everybody's safe, especially this young child," Spink County State's Attorney Vic Fischbach said. "It was a complete relief knowing that that child had been released from here, and then our next goal became keeping everybody else safe."

In total, between 35 and 40 hospital staff members were evacuated from the hospital when it was put on lockdown, as were six patients, hospital CEO Michael O'Keefe said. People who had appointments scheduled for later in the day were alerted not to come to the hospital.

"We just recently put in our lockdown system not quite a year ago. This was the first time we really used it, and it works," O'Keefe said. "It went live. It wasn't a drill anymore."

More than 10 police departments, sheriff's offices and other law enforcement agencies were on site while the hospital was on lockdown. Negotiators, who were in contact with Mathern's employer and family members throughout the day, communicated with Mathern using a cell phone they gave him early on. In addition to releasing the boy, Mathern also gradually surrendered some ammunition.

"Throughout this entire process, there was dialogue going back and forth, so we were able to keep everybody in the loop," O'Keefe said.

Mathern was arrested around 1:30 p.m., more than five hours after he first barricaded himself in the hospital.

"Patience played a role in this," Spink County Sheriff Kevin Schurch said. "We talked to the man that was barricaded and reasoned with him, and the negotiators were pivotal in getting him to release the child and then to eventually come out and surrender himself."

In addition to the single handgun Mathern had inside the hospital, an assault rifle was found in his vehicle, Schurch said.

"This could've had a much worse outcome, so I definitely want to thank all those staff members that were here and on site for their quick actions," O'Keefe said.

Mathern is being held at Brown County Jail. The investigation is ongoing, but Fishbach said his charges will likely be for aggravated eluding, child endangerment, aggravated assault and simple assault. Charges may also include kidnapping and child abuse/neglect.