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Dickinson man arrested following pursuit, 9-hour manhunt

Matthew J. Kostelecky, 38, was arrested Tuesday on charges of terrorizing a family member, and fleeing law enforcement.

Stark County Sheriff
A Stark County Sheriff's Department vehicle is pictured.
Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press

DICKINSON — The Stark County Sheriff's Office arrested a 38-year-old Dickinson man early Tuesday morning after a nearly nine hour manhunt resulted in law enforcement finding him in a hay field.

Matthew J. Kostelecky, of Dickinson, was arrested at approximately 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday and subsequently charged with terrorizing, a class C felony. Stark County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Eldon Mehrer said he will also be charged with fleeing law enforcement.

“We had spent most of the afternoon working with some family to locate where he was, we'd also pinged his cell phone through AT&T,” Mehrer said. “He was taking some really active measures to conceal himself. We had actually come onto him in a vehicle; he was a ways ahead. When officers responded, he ran out into a field through some tree rows but it was dark.”

At that point law enforcement established a perimeter and the Dickinson Police Department brought in their Bearcat, a wheeled SWAT vehicle designed for military and law enforcement use. Law enforcement used thermal infrared flare cameras to no avail and called off the search. Within minutes law enforcement dispatch received a call from a family member who notified them of his location.

A second short pursuit through a hay field ended with Kostelecky’s ultimate arrest.

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Emergency services dispatch is staffed by the City of Dickinson through its police department, and Lt. Mike Hanel of the Dickinson Police Department confirmed that an emergency message was sent to residents in error — complicating matters for law enforcement. According to Hanel the message resulted in notification being sent out to the entire county stating that there was a "dangerous suspect on the loose" instead of being sent to only the residents in the immediate area of where the pursuit took place.

As a result, numerous phone calls swamped dispatchers as concerned citizens called to ascertain the veracity of the emergency message. Hanel discouraged residents from inundating systems during such crisis situations unless they had pertinent information or a separate and unrelated emergency.

“We did notice after that first text went out, we were inundated with over 100 phone calls within a short period of time inquiring if this was valid, or a scam and whatnot. We had a limited number of dispatchers in the center at the time, so that obviously flooded their capabilities to be able to handle the situation,” Hanel said.

Hanel noted that preventative measures have been implemented to avoid a similar situation from occurring in the future.

“We're currently reviewing the incident. There'll be directives and protocols to mitigate recurrence of this in the future,” Hanel said. “It's good technology to have, but obviously there's that human element there that's still prone to error.”

Stark County Sheriff Corey Lee also addressed the incident Tuesday during a bimonthly Stark County Commission meeting. He apologized for the dispatch error and praised his deputies and supporting law enforcement agencies for their relentless efforts to safely apprehend Kostelecky.

The chase and manhunt was centered in Stark County, about six miles south of Highway 10, in proximity of the intersection of 116th Avenue Southwest and 44th Avenue Southwest.

“I really want to commend some members of our staff. We work 12-hour shifts from 6 to 6, both nights and days. We had a couple gentlemen out until 10 o’clock last night. I had to force them to go home,” Lee said. “That’s four hours after their shift, knowing they had to come back in at 6 a.m. this morning. So kudos to them, they were like a couple of bloodhounds out there last night.”

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Lee said the silver lining of the error is that it demonstrates to people how this system works.

“It's unfortunate the mistake was made, but on the bright side people know what this looks like,” Lee said.

First responders use the 9-1-1 Citizen Notification on rare occasions to alert residents about immediate threats to public safety such as dangerous weather, wildfires and certain criminal activity. Landline phone numbers registered with the 9-1-1 addressing system automatically receive these notification calls but cell phone users must opt in. To register for this system, visit starkcountynd.gov .

Jason O’Day is a University of Iowa graduate, with Bachelor’s Degrees in Journalism and Political Science. Before moving to Dickinson in September of 2021, he was a general news reporter at the Creston News Advertiser in southwest Iowa. He was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. With a passion for the outdoors and his Catholic faith, he’s loving life on the Western Edge. His reporting focuses on Stark County government and surrounding rural communities.
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