Waseca officer shot known as a ‘family man,’ involved in numerous efforts in Freeborn

Published 12:55 pm Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Community members in Freeborn County are rallying around the family of a Waseca police officer who authorities say was “gravely injured” Monday night in an officer-involved shooting in Waseca.

A GoFundMe page set up for the family of Arik Matson had already reached $82,571 as of 9 p.m. Tuesday, and donations are also being received at Farmers State Bank in his family’s name.

Arik Matson

“We’re just all praying for him — optimistic for the best because he’s a hell of a fighter and he’s not going to give up,” said Freeborn Fire Department Chief Steve Seipp, who has worked on the volunteer fire department with Matson for about seven years.

Matson, 32, lives with his wife, Megan, and their two daughters in Freeborn and grew up in Albert Lea.

He has worked for the Waseca Police Department since 2013 on patrol and as the D.A.R.E. officer, and is a member of the South Central Drug Task Force SWAT team. He previously worked for the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office and Wells and New Richland police departments. His father, Tim Matson, is retired from the Albert Lea Police Department.

In addition to being on the volunteer fire department in Freeborn, Arik Matson is a member of the Freeborn City Council, where he stepped up in 2018 to fill a vacancy.

Nicole LaFrance, city clerk-treasurer for the city of Freeborn, said Matson made friends easily in the community and has made a name for himself in the efforts he is involved with in the small Freeborn County community.

“He’s one of those council members — he’s a doer,” LaFrance said, noting Matson is not afraid to visit residents who have voiced concerns or make phone calls. “He’s not just a person who shows up to the meetings, that’s for sure.”

Freeborn City Councilor Jim Beach and Seipp said Matson has brought a new perspective to the community, having not grown up in the city. Matson is from Albert Lea, while his wife is from Freeborn.

“He’s always willing to dig in,” Seipp said.

Authorities said Tuesday morning in a press conference in Waseca that Matson received a gunshot wound to the head during an incident right before 8 p.m. Monday in Waseca and is in critical but stable condition at North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale.

Calls for prayers for Matson spread like wildfire on Facebook Monday night and into the day on Tuesday as news of the shooting began to unfold.

Waseca Police Chief Penny Vought on Tuesday morning asked for those prayers to continue for Matson and his family. She said this was the first time a Waseca Police Department officer has been shot, though the county has seen one fatal officer shooting with former Waseca County Sheriff Donald Eustice.

“This is the worst nightmare a law enforcement agency could face, and we’re living it right now,” Vought said.

Freeborn County Sheriff Kurt Freitag said the news of Matson’s shooting has been difficult for him and other law enforcement personnel in the community.

“It was devastating,” Freitag said. “I worked with Arik, and he’s a good guy. There’s no question about that. He’s a good family man, he’s a hard worker. He’s just chasing his dream, and for this to happen, I can’t help but to wonder if this was an ambush or something along those lines. I just don’t get it.”

The sheriff said he is hopeful Matson will continue to improve and said he has heard that doctors are cautiously optimistic.

LaFrance encouraged people to take part in a Light the Town Blue initiative and show support for law enforcement in the coming days by replacing outdoor house lights with blue light bulbs.