Man says he heard suspect, Dearborn cop confrontation
A man who claims he witnessed last week’s reported struggle between a Dearborn police officer and a larceny suspect that ended in a fatal gunshot says he told his story to investigators, including recounting the man’s last words: “Stop it! Stop it!”
Thomas Gray said he was working on his truck behind his west side home on Sussex at about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday when he heard someone shouting.
“I heard some arguing, and then it sounded like someone got slammed into a wood fence, because I heard the wood crack,” he said. “I looked (across his fence into the backyard of a home on Whitcomb) to see what was going on, and I saw a guy wearing beige pants and a purple jacket, kind of wrestling with a cop.
“They went in front of the garage (and out of view), and then I heard the man say, ‘Stop it! Stop it!’ Those were his last words; right after that, I heard five gunshots. Then I heard a police radio, and then a bunch of sirens.”
Gray said a homicide detective and Michigan State Police investigator asked him about the incident. “They came to my work and interviewed me,” he said. “I told them what I saw.”
Police also interviewed a woman who said she saw the struggle between the officer and Kevin Matthews, 35, Detroit Police Chief James Craig told The Detroit News.
Matthews’ death was ruled a homicide by multiple gunshot wounds, the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office said Friday in a statement.
The Dearborn 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. A Dearborn police press release said Matthews was wanted for a probation violation and had escaped from officers earlier Wednesday after committing a larceny in Dearborn.
According to Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad, the officer claimed Matthews tried to wrest his gun from him as they struggled. He offered his condolences to the family in a written statement.
The Rev. David Bullock, national spokesman for the Change Agent Consortium, which organized a protest last week, said the officer should be suspended without pay. The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality made the same demand.
The officer’s name and duty status has not been released.
Family members said Matthews was recovering from a broken arm sustained when he was hit by a car Thanksgiving Day. He reportedly suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and was prescribed medication.
“Instead of wrapping presents with my baby, I have to bury my brother,” Matthews’ sister, Kimberly Matthews, 37, said during a news conference last week.
The incident started at 12:27 p.m. Wednesday, when the officer radioed in to Dearborn police dispatch: “Approaching one on foot, Tireman and Whitcomb,” according to dispatch audio.
Three minutes later, the officer, breathing heavily, reported: “Shots fired,” before adding, “I’m OK ... we have a suspect with a gunshot wound.”
When more 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, Craig said.
“There clearly was some kind of a struggle,” Craig said.
A Detroit police homicide task force that includes Michigan State Police is investigating the incident. “After that, we’ll forward the findings to the Wayne County prosecutor to determine if there was any criminality,” Craig said.