A former Hawke's Bay man dubbed "Bro Witness" by American media after chasing a fatal Capitol Hill police pursuit shirtless on his bike has gone viral on social media.

Matt Jacobs, 26, was holidaying in Washington on Thursday when he saw a woman in a black sports car try to ram a barricade at the White House, before driving into a police car and then attempting to flee.

Shirtless, he jumped on his rental bike to chase the unfolding drama. After a brief car pursuit the woman was killed in a hail of police bullets.

Mr Jacobs was later swamped by reporters wanting the first interview, many of whom tweeted about his lack of shirt and Miami Dolphins cap. He told eager reporters he had "followed the car with the chick in it" from the White House, Daily Beast reporter Ben Jacobs said.


His Napier-based mother Jo Pearson yesterday rang Hawke's Bay Today for more information about the incident and her son's part in the dramatic and ultimately tragic car-chase.

"I thought the worst, especially when he's on the trip alone," Mrs Pearson said. "I got hold of my other daughter and she said something about Bro Witness but told me it was too hard to explain via text message.

"Another guy at work told me he had seen a shooting and was interviewed shirtless afterwards."

She described her son as a "real sporty type" adding she was not surprised he took chase. "I was just shocked, but not shocked that he followed the action, we haven't got the kind of dangers they have in America so he would have been like, 'look at that'.

"I know he wanted to be a star, but this is ridiculous, he's not Starsky and Hutch."

National Journal journalist Matt Vasilogambros was the first to dub him Bro Witness in reference to a "fratboy" or someone who embraces the party culture of a fraternity house.

That post was retweeted hundreds of times with several major US media outlets posting stories on Mr Jacobs, with Buzzfeed compiling all known facts about him.

The New York Magazine labelled him "New Zealand's No 1 celebrity".


Vanity Fair headlined its coverage "Shirtless Brostander Effortlessly Diverts Debate Away From Gun Control and Government-Shutdown Safety".

Mr Jacobs was born in Wellington and grew up in Hawke's Bay, attending Napier Boys' High.

"He's an all-round good kid, he's a pleasure of a son to have. He's very into cross fit, which he does three or four times a week. Now he makes a living doing brick laying and concreting, with a friend who runs the business," his mother said.

His girlfriend works as a personal trainer and lives in Wellington.

"She's probably a bit embarrassed seeing him shirtless, he hasn't done Crossfit in a while - he probably needs some work."

The Kiwi was part way through a trip through the States which began in Los Angeles and will wind up in New York tomorrow.


He will be back in the Bay at the end of the month to celebrate his sister's birthday.