Conservation Wildlife Management

Wanted Man Leads Police on High-Speed Chase with an Elk Shoulder Mount in His Truck Bed

A destructive fire, a high-speed car chase, and a case of mistaken identity are all part of this wacky, multi-state criminal case
Katie Hill Avatar
elk mount in bed of truck
Tidwell escaped police with a shoulder mount of a bull elk sitting in the bed of his truck. Someone thought it was a poached carcass and reported it to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Whitcom County Sheriff's Department / Facebook

Brian L. Tidwell of Clarkston, Washington, is being held in Idaho’s Nez Perce County Jail on $25,000 bond after what can only be described as a whirlwind 24 hours on the run. Tidwell currently faces three Class C felony charges: two counts of eluding a pursuing police officer and one count of first-degree reckless burning. He led officers on a high-speed chase across multiple counties. Tidwell was also suspected of poaching a bull elk at one point, though officials later realized the head, neck, and antlers seen sticking out of his truck bed were actually a part of a shoulder mount.

On June 30, Asotin County Sheriff’s Office deputy James Gibson responded to a call about a fire at a residence in Clarkston, Washington, according to arrest records obtained from the Asotin County Clerk’s office by Outdoor Life. The report shows that Tidwell was living near where the fire occurred, and a friend of Tidwell’s neighbor had made the call. Gibson got in touch with Tidwell’s neighbor, who alleged that Tidwell was burning trash at his residence when the fire got out of control and spread to the neighbor’s residence. Tidwell’s entire trailer home, multiple farm implements, and the back of his neighbor’s barn and outhouse had all been damaged. 

Two weeks later, while Gibson was on patrol at roughly 7:30 p.m., he spotted Tidwell’s truck, an orange and black Dodge, at a local park. Tidwell was still a suspect in the burning incident at the time, so Gibson parked his patrol car in front of Tidwell’s truck and approached the driver’s side of the cab, which appeared to be empty. But as Gibson got closer, Tidwell popped up and immediately turned his truck on, saying he had to go. Gibson opened the truck door and told him he wasn’t free to go, but Tidwell slammed the door shut again and sped away. 

A high-speed pursuit began and another officer got involved, chasing Tidwell down the highway while Gibson stationed himself closer to town. Eventually, Tidwell drove back in front of Gibson again, who observed him run a four-way traffic stop full of cars. The second officer noted that Tidwell was exhibiting signs of driving under the influence. As the chase continued, Tidwell eventually drove the wrong way up a one-way exit ramp, forcing several vehicles to pull off the road. Once he got to the top of the ramp, he fled across the Washington state line (formed by the Snake River) into Lewiston, Idaho. The Asotin County officers communicated with the Lewiston Police Department and Nez Perce County, who eventually called off the chase for the night.

The next day at 6:00 p.m., Gibson received word from the dispatcher that a vehicle matching the description of Tidwell’s truck was fleeing Whitman County. Gibson set up on the Clarkston side of the Red Wolf Bridge and watched as Tidwell’s truck drove across. As soon as he crossed, Gibson turned on his lights and siren and attempted to pull over Tidwell, but Tidwell drove straight into a heavily trafficked area, forcing Gibson to abandon the pursuit again for the safety of pedestrians and other vehicles. Later, Tidwell came back into the county. Officers tried to use spike strips to stop the truck, but just barely missed the tires. Tidwell escaped back into Lewiston again, where he was eventually captured on foot.

A press release from the Whitman County Sheriff’s Office, which was posted to their Facebook page, provides some different insight into what happened on the second day of the pursuit.

“The vehicle in question had been reported to [the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife] earlier in the day of possibly poaching in the area and at that time the vehicle was not located,” the press release reads. “Deputies attempted to stop the vehicle using emergency lights on Steptoe Canyon Road but the driver refused to pull over and drove around the patrol car that was northbound on Steptoe Canyon Road. While following the vehicle an elk head with antlers was observed in the bed of the pickup.”

WDFW communications manager Staci Lehman confirmed with Outdoor Life that WDFW is not conducting a poaching investigation into the incident since the antlers and head in the truck bed turned out to be part of a shoulder mount and not a poached carcass. But Lehman also says that law enforcement is looking into whether the mount could have been stolen. 

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Class C felonies get a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. If Tidwell is convicted of all three charges, he could face triple that. But the punishment doesn’t stop there. Because one of his “attempting to elude a pursuing police officer” charges involves endangering countless lives with his reckless escape driving, he will get a mandatory 366-day sentence enhancement to whatever penalties he receives, court documents read.