Dozens protest fatal officer-involved shooting

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Dearborn — While their fellow Metro Detroiters slept or shopped for deals the day after Christmas, several dozen protesters rallied at the Dearborn Police Department headquarters Saturday. The rally was held in response to the fatal shooting of Detroiter Kevin Matthews following a confrontation with a Dearborn police officer, Wednesday.

The protest was held Saturday because "people might party away the justice" and forget about Matthews between Christmas and New Years, said The Rev. David Bullock, national spokesman for the Change Agent Consortium, which organized the event.

Matthews, 35, has been described as harmless by friends and family. Detroit police say he was known to the officers in his neighborhood on the west side of Detroit.

Dearborn police say Matthews, after trying to escape an officer looking to arrest him on a warrant, reached for the officer's weapon before being shot and killed.

The shooting is under investigation. Neither the officer's name nor what, if any, discipline has been handed down, have been made public as yet.

"We shouldn't have to meet under these circumstances," Bullock said as the protest began. "We're trying to figure out why lethal force was used on an unarmed man."

Bullock made several public demands of the Dearborn Police Department, including that the officer who killed Matthews be suspended without pay, to see the department's use of force policy, and for a formal apology from Police Chief Ronald Haddad.

In a statement after the shooting Wednesday, Haddad offered "condolences" to Matthews' family, but stopped short of apologizing.

Bullock demanded that Detroit police investigate the killing, rather than the task force which includes Michigan State Police. Bullock asked that Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy "get involved with a heavy hand."

Another speaker, Brenda Hill, talked about the grief Matthews' mother would be facing after losing a child to violence. She spoke on her own personal experience with losing a son.

In April 2009, Hill's son, Brandan Rogers, 22, and girlfriend Melinda Goodwin, 19, were shot fatally while leaving a club in Detroit — a homicide that remains unsolved. To cope with her pain, in 2011 Hill started Mothers of Murdered Children, a group that would offer the support. Hill wore a red and white jacket with the name of her son and his girlfriend and MOMC in white lettering.

"We wake up every day, and before we take our first breath, we have to remember that our children aren't alive," Hill said. As for Matthews' mother, "she became one of us" on Wednesday, Hill said.

"This has to end," Hill said. "The heartbreak has to end."

Today, the group scours media reports for homicide cases, then tracks down the victim's mother to offer support.

Hill took issue with the perception that protests only occur in Metro Detroit when the victim was killed by police.

"We're here for all mothers," Hill said.

"That's a lie from the pit of hell" that only officer-involved shooting inspire action, said speaker Tefuri Brent, who said the consortium works in the community regularly.

Still, Brent said, "law enforcement should be held to a higher standard" than criminals.

"How do you go from a misdemeanor to homicide?" Brent asked.

Nathaniel Childress, 35, came from Mt. Clemens to take part in the 90-minute protest. He carried a Black Lives Matter sign.

Childress said there was a "clear pattern" of police involved shootings in America. He cited body cameras, which a Dearborn police spokesman said the department does not wear, as a possible solution.

Another solution, Childress said, is Tasers. A department spokesman said some Dearborn officers carry Tasers while others do not. All questions about this shooting were referred to the office of Chief Haddad, which was not staffed Saturday.

Halfway through the protest, several of its leaders, including Bullock and Hill, met with Haddad privately. Bullock said that there'd be more meetings in the future. Haddad did not brief reporters on what the dialogue entailed.

"January 4th, we'll be back," Bullock said, referring to a much larger protest planned.

"We have to keep that fire burning," Childress said, "or this will just keep happening."