Henderson man’s motives in standoff near Hoover Dam still murky

Penned in red ink, the sign read: Release the OIG report.

The exact meaning behind the message and the motive of a man whose actions sparked a roughly 90-minute standoff Friday near the Hoover Dam with Nevada and Arizona law enforcement officials remained unclear Saturday.

Henderson resident Matthew P. Wright, 30, was arrested in connection with the standoff. His family has denied multiple requests for comment.

The event unfolded just before noon on the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Bridge, downriver from the dam, officials said. Authorities allege Wright stopped traffic after parking a black, homemade armored vehicle on the bridge, with a small sign visible from the driver’s side window.

Wright remained in custody Saturday at the Mohave County Jail. He was jailed on charges of obstruction of a highway; endangerment; unlawful flight from law enforcement; misconduct involving a weapon; and terrorist acts, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

When he surrendered, officials said, a rifle and a handgun were found inside the truck. It wasn’t clear whether the weapons were loaded.

Mark Mills, 34, was among the first witnesses Friday to encounter the truck. At first, he said, he felt confusion and frustration as his semitractor-trailer came to a complete stop. He was behind at least five other semitractor-trailers, which initially blocked his view.

“I thought there was an accident or something,” he recalled Saturday during a phone interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. On Friday, Mills was headed to Sierra Vista, Arizona to deliver a load of lumber to a local home improvement store.

Mills said he sat in his truck for nearly 20 minutes, wondering what was causing the delay. He was relieved, he said, when the trucks ahead of him began to crawl forward. But he soon felt a wave of panic as the armored vehicle came into view.

“I wasn’t sure if he was trying to blow up the bridge or what,” the Los Angeles man said.

Mills said he then pressed down a little harder on the gas pedal. He said he was able to get around the armored truck after it had pulled up against the wall of the bridge momentarily, allowing several trucks to pass, before positioning itself horizontally on the center of the bridge.

When he looked back in his side-view mirror, he saw he was the last vehicle to squeeze past the armored truck.

“I feel lucky, thinking about it now. I was just happy to get by him,” the truck driver said Saturday morning.

The Nevada Highway Patrol, Las Vegas and Boulder City police, National Park Service rangers from the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Arizona Department of Public Safety responded to the scene, quickly shutting down U.S. Highway 93 and evacuating other motorists from the bridge. Tourists on the dam walkway were instructed to shelter in place.

Just after 12:50 p.m., the armored vehicle eventually began driving south into Arizona and soon encountered a roadblock of tractor-trailers set up by Arizona authorities.

The truck then made a U-turn and began driving north but ran over spike strips that officers had placed on the road as he passed mile marker 5. The truck continued west for about 3 miles onto Cranes Nest Road and down a dry wash, before he was “contained, surrounded and surrendered peacefully,” Highway Patrol spokesman Jason Buratczuk said.

No shots were fired during the barricade. Further details were not available Saturday, as Wright’s arrest report had not been released.

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter.

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