Dearborn cop fatally shoots unarmed suspect in Detroit

Candice Williams and Tom Greenwood
The Detroit News

Detroit — A Dearborn police officer fatally shot an unarmed man on the city’s west side after the man allegedly went for the officer’s weapon, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation.

The shooting of the man took place around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday on the 8000 block of Whitcomb in Detroit.

Dearborn police gather on the 8000 block of Whitcomb in Detroit, where a Dearborn cop fatally shot an unarmed suspect.

The officer — who reportedly has been on the Dearborn Police Department only a few years — was patrolling the area of Tireman and Greenfield in Dearborn “when he observed a man who was known to be wanted on a probation violation warrant, and who escaped from officers earlier in the day after committing a larceny in Dearborn,” a Dearborn police release Wednesday said.

“The officer approached the subject, a 36-year-old Detroit resident, and the subject fled on foot. The officer chased the subject and encountered him several houses away, in Detroit, where a struggle ensued. Subsequently, the officer fired his department issued weapon; striking the subject,” the release said.

Police released neither the officer’s nor the victim’s names, but a family representative said the man who was shot was Kevin Matthews.

According to the source, the officer caught up with the fleeing man and tried to subdue him with pepper spray. The officer and the man ended up in the backyard of a home on Whitcomb, where the suspect reportedly tried to grab the officer’s weapon. At that point, he was shot by the officer, the source said.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig said there was clearly a struggle between the man and the officer. Police said the officer’s uniform was torn and equipment in disarray.

“There is a witness that indicates there was a struggle,” Craig said.

Dearborn police Chief Ronald Haddad confirmed the suspect was wanted for a misdemeanor warrant out of Redford Township, near Dearborn’s border with Detroit.

There was a brief chase on foot and a struggle leading to the fatal shooting, Haddad said.

Broadcast dispatches show the officer called in reports as he approached the suspect on foot. At one point, he is heard breathing heavily before saying the other man was wounded and “we have a suspect down” in the backyard.

The officer was taken to the hospital, Haddad said.

“This is extremely tragic, and while we are grateful that the officer involved did not sustain serious injuries, our condolences go out to the family of the decedent,” Haddad said in a statement Wednesday evening.

In addition to the warrant, the man was suspected of numerous crimes in the area, Craig said.

Because the shooting occurred in the city of Detroit, the Detroit Police Department will conduct an investigation. Craig said police will review surveillance cameras in the area.

The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality issued a statement Wednesday afternoon, saying it planned to look into the shooting.

“We remain vigilant about these shootings, and will withhold any other statements until our investigators have completed a fact-finding,” coalition spokesman Ken Reed said. “We want to make sure that proper procedures were followed, and will continue to monitor Dearborn and Detroit police departments relative to this incident.”

Meanwhile, supporters gathered Wednesday evening at the home of Matthews’ mother, Valerie Johnson, who lives around the corner from the shooting. She sat in her living room and received hugs from visitors.

The Rev. Charles Williams, who was also at the home, confirmed the name of the deceased, but blocked a reporter from approaching Johnson. He said further information would be released Thursday morning and that a news conference was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. at Historic King Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit.

“As I stood outside in the cold, wet, rain the day before Christmas Eve, there were many members of the community and family who made it clear to me that Mr. Mathews was loved,” Williams said later in a news release. “We only want justice, and a fair investigation. "

Detroit News Staff Writer Mark Hicks contributed to this report.