Vigil after autopsy out for man killed by Dearborn cop
The death of Kevin Matthews, the man shot by a Dearborn police officer on Wednesday, was ruled a homicide after he died of multiple gunshot wounds, the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office said Friday in a statement.
The autopsy was completed early Friday, according to Lloyd Jackson, spokesman for the Medical Examiner’s Office. He said no further information would immediately be released, including the number of gunshot wounds. The Matthews family said it is planning an independent autopsy, which is expected to be completed by Tuesday.
Matthews, 35, was fatally shot by a Dearborn police officer following a foot chase about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday on the 8000 block of Whitcomb on Detroit’s west side. He was unarmed but allegedly reached for the officer’s weapon during a struggle, according to a source with knowledge of the police investigation.
Dearborn police officials declined to comment on the medical examiner’s ruling.
Meanwhile Friday evening, the family held a prayer vigil in front of the home where Matthews was shot near the Dearborn border. Nearly 30 family members and friends of Matthews walked from their home to the site of the shooting several blocks away, holding candles and lighters. After a few prayers, participants sang along to Tupac Shakur’s “That’s Just the Way It Is.”
Kimberly Matthews, Kevin’s older sister, attended the vigil with her younger sister Karen. Funeral services were expected to be Jan. 2, she said.
“We would like to know the name of the officer who did this to my brother,” Kimberly Matthews said. “That’s fair and just. We just want to put it out there that my brother was a harmless man, that he was loving, that he was caring and he was nonviolent. I want to see justice will be served. My brother did not deserve this.”
Rev. Charles Williams II accompanied family members to a news conference Thursday at which they insisted that Matthews — slightly built and recovering from a broken arm after being hit by a car Thanksgiving Day — posed no threat and could not have scuffled with the officer.
Williams said Friday following the homicide finding that the issue now will be whether the shooting was justified.
“I’m quite sure that’s the question that everyone is going to have on their lips,” he said.
The Rev. David Bullock, a community activist, is planning a protest at noon Saturday in front of the Dearborn police station. He said demonstrators will emphasize an “eerie sense that police officers are using guns to kill people instead of using their training to apprehend them.”
Williams said another, larger protest, much like those in other cities like Chicago to rally against police shootings will be Jan. 4.
Demonstrations have sprung up in that city, including on Christmas Eve, the Associated Press reported, since the release last month of A police video showing Jason Van Dyke, a white officer, shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times in October 2014. A federal civil rights investigation of the city’s police department is underway. Van Dyke is charged with first-degree murder.
Williams, who is the head of the Detroit branch of National Action Network begun by the Rev. Al Sharpton, said Thursday that Matthews was known in the community to have paranoid schizophrenia and was prescribed medication. Neighborhood Detroit police officers knew of the man’s condition and often took him to his mother’s home when he was found on the streets during an episode, Williams said.
Matthews was unemployed and supported by federal disability payments, family said. He split his time living with his mother and girlfriend.
“He was unarmed. He suffered from mental illness. He was well-known in the community,” Williams said. “This officer was just wrong, so we’re going to continue to fight for justice.”
Craig has said “this suspect has been a crime problem in this area” and that businesses were “familiar with him.”
The officer, who is white, has not been identified by police. Matthews was black.
The officer, identified by a police source familiar with the investigation as a five-year veteran with no disciplinary record, spotted Matthews walking near the Dearborn/Detroit border. Matthews was wanted for a probation violation and had escaped from officers earlier Wednesday after committing a larceny in Dearborn, according to a Dearborn police news release.
The officer radioed in to Dearborn police dispatch at 12:27 p.m Wednesday. “Approaching one on foot, Tireman and Whitcomb,” he said on recorded dispatch audio.
As the officer approached, Matthews fled on foot, according to the Dearborn release: “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.”
Three minutes after his initial call, the officer, breathing heavily, reported: “Shots fired,” before adding, “I’m OK ... We have a suspect with a gunshot wound.”
When other police arrived at the scene, a home in the 8000 block of Whitcomb, the officer was covered in mud, his uniform was ripped and the belt holding his service pistol was loosened, said Detroit Police Chief James Craig on Thursday.
According to a police source, when the officer caught up with the fleeing man, he tried subduing him with pepper spray.
Craig said a witness said she saw a struggle: “We’ve talked to her and will interview her again as the investigation moves forward.” He said it’s unclear whether the woman corroborates the officer’s story.
Meanwhile, Kimberly Matthews couldn’t hold back tears when she thought about how this “was the first Christmas in my 36 years without my brother.” She recalled how close she was to her brother and that he was their mother’s “little baby no matter how old he got.”
“It’s going to be something that we will never, ever get over,” she said, her voice breaking. “The only thing that I can think about is what was going through his mind ‘cause I know he cried for his Momma, and I know he said, ‘Please don’t kill me.’”
A Detroit police homicide task force that includes Michigan State Police is investigating.