GLYNDON, Minn. — A former law enforcement officer who shot at a car during a police chase last summer in Clay County will avoid jail time.
Ex-Glyndon Police Officer Matthew James Tri, 36, was sentenced Thursday, April 22, to a year of unsupervised probation for a misdemeanor charge of recklessly handling or using a dangerous weapon. As part of a plea agreement, the more serious felony charge of intentionally discharging a firearm that endangered the safety of another was dismissed.
Glyndon Police Chief Justin Vogel said Friday that Tri was no longer with the department. Tri’s attorney, Paul Engh, confirmed the officer resigned as part of a buyout that was negotiated last month.
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The sentence comes almost a year after the former Glyndon police officer was involved in a vehicle pursuit. In the early morning hours of July 22, Tri had attempted to pull over Destiny Nicole Weaver, 22, of Detroit Lakes, Minn., for driving a vehicle with a burnt-out headlight on U.S. Highway 10 about a mile west of Glyndon, according to a criminal complaint.
According to court documents:
Weaver fled in her vehicle before going into a ditch. Tri told investigators he got out of his squad vehicle with his gun drawn and yelled at Weaver to get out of her car as he went into the ditch.
Tri claimed the car started driving toward him, and that’s why he fired two shots. One of the bullets hit Weaver’s rear driver-side tire. Tri then went back to his vehicle and pursued Weaver until she went into a field.
Authorities then took Weaver and a passenger into custody. No one was injured during the chase or by Tri’s bullets.
Weaver’s passenger said their vehicle remained parked until they heard gunshots. They drove away from Tri, not toward him, the passenger said.
Squad vehicle footage revealed Tri fired his first shot five seconds after leaving his car and returned to his vehicle after another five seconds, which would make it impossible for the then-officer to get into the line of travel for Weaver’s vehicle, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said in a criminal complaint against Tri. Further analysis suggested Tri was not in front of Weaver’s vehicle when he fired his weapon, the complaint said.
Tri had been with the Glyndon Police Department for 15 months at the time of the shooting. The department put him on administrative leave.
He faced up to two years in prison on the felony charge, said Otter Tail County Attorney Michelle Eldien, who took over prosecuting the case so prosecutors in Clay County could avoid a conflict of interest. The sentence Tri received is similar to others who would face the misdemeanor charge and had no criminal history like Tri, she added.
Eldien said she felt the charges were necessary to acknowledge Tri's actions were reckless. She also said it was important to hold Tri accountable, adding the conviction could potentially prevent him from being hired as a law enforcement officer in the future.
“This appeared to be a fair settlement rather than having to take it to trial,” she said.
Tri entered an Alford plea on Thursday, which means he can maintain his innocence but admits there is enough evidence for him to be convicted by a jury. If he violates his probation, he could be sentenced to 30 days in jail.
"He was an exemplary police officer and will continue to lead an exemplary life," Engh said of his client.
Weaver was charged with fleeing an officer, a felony, and a misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated. She has not entered a plea.
Her attorney, Michael Minard, did not return a message left by The Forum before publication time.