Tea man accused of attempting to torch ex-girlfriend’s car, eluding

Police said the man showed up to his ex-girlfriend's home and poured gasoline on her vehicle. After he fled, officers reported finding a torch near where he was parked.


SIOUX FALLS — A Tea man is facing felony charges after police in Sioux Falls say he attempted to light his ex-girlfriend’s car on fire before leading officers on a high-speed chase on Thursday, March 2.

In a criminal complaint filed in Minnehaha County on Friday, March 3, authorities said Matthew Garner, 38, of Tea, was wanted in connection to three felony charges and one misdemeanor, including aggravated domestic assault with a deadly weapon, attempted second-degree arson, aggravated eluding and stalking.

After a warrant was issued for Garner’s arrest, he was located Tuesday, March 7, and appeared in court that same day.

The Department of Corrections is looking for land to replace the aging penitentiary near the city's downtown.

The charges stem from just after 5:30 p.m. Thursday, when police in Sioux Falls were dispatched to the 9100 block of West 41st Street in response to a report that a woman’s ex-boyfriend was stalking her and had claimed that he would light himself on fire.

As authorities were en route, one officer spoke on the phone with the victim, who said that she had been receiving letters, notes, roses and business cards from Garner over the weeks prior, and that she wished to be left alone. During the phone call, court documents say the victim suddenly changed tones, telling the officer that Garner had returned.


“Oh my god he is here, somebody come here please, please, please,” the officer wrote in a court document, recalling the victim’s fear. “He is gonna kill me, he is gonna kill me, he has gasoline.”

Four minutes after the call, authorities found Garner’s vehicle near the intersection of 57th Street and Tea Road. When an officer activated his lights and sirens, court documents say Garner failed to stop.

A pursuit began, with speeds increasing from 55 mph to nearly 100 mph. After roughly three minutes, supervisors terminated the chase without arrest.

Following the chase, police turned their attention back to the victim’s vehicle, where authorities observed a large amount of gasoline poured on and around the vehicle. Police say they also found a green Coleman propane torch on the sidewalk, next to where Garner is assumed to have parked.

Violent crime rate was flat last year and lower than the 2020 spike. The police chief says he’s “pleased,” but not happy with the overall state of public safety in the city.

In further conversation with the victim, she told authorities that she saw Garner pouring gasoline on her vehicle, and that she thought he would “absolutely 100% kill me.”

Following Tuesday’s court appearance regarding the warrant, Garner is set to appear in a Minnehaha County courtroom on March 22 for a preliminary hearing. He has not yet entered a plea to the charges.

If convicted, he could be sentenced to serve as many as 22 years in prison and ordered to pay fines of up to $44,000 plus restitution.

A temporary protection order is in place between Garner and the victim.


A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021 and now works as a digital reporter for Forum News Service, focusing on local news in Sioux Falls. He also writes regional news spanning across the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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