VIDEO BY CORNELL SQUIRES OF PRESS CONFERENCE DEC. 24, 2015
Cop crossed Detroit border, chased Matthews on foot, away from view of dashcam video, then shot him in a backyard.
Neighbors say they heard at least six gunshots—Matthews was unarmed; ME says Matthews died of “multiple gunshot wounds”
‘No more unarmed Black men killed by police; let them police with their hands, not their guns’—Rev. Charles Williams II, National Action Network
‘We want justice and we are going to fight this all the way’—sister Karen Matthews
By Diane Bukowski and Cornell Squires
December 25, 2015
DETROIT – The family of Kevin Matthews, 35, gunned down by a white Dearborn cop on Dec. 23, wept in agony during a Christmas Eve press conference called by the Rev. Charles Williams II, Michigan chair of the National Action Network (NAN). Matthews’ mother and immediate family, and generations from infants to great-grandparents crowded the stage at Historic King Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit.
The cop, who Detroit police chief James Craig and Dearborn police chief Ronald Haddad have refused to name, followed the unarmed Matthews on foot across the Detroit border on Tireman, to a backyard on Whitcomb, out of sight of his police car’s dashcam video. Neighbors said they then heard six gunshots. The Wayne County Medical Examiner has now said that Matthews died of “multiple gunshot wounds.”
“We want justice and we are going to fight this all the way,” the family vowed. Williams announced that NAN and other organizations will hold a massive national rally in Dearborn Jan. 4, 2016.
“We’re going to send Bill Melendez a letter,” Williams said, referring to the former Inkster cop now locked up in the Wayne County Jail, after his conviction of major felonies for a vicious assault Jan.31 on Detroit autoworker Floyd Dent. “We going to tell him—make room, there’s another one on the way.”
Matthews’ mother Valerie Johnson said, “My son was a good son, a good brother, he hurt nobody. He didn’t do anything wrong to anybody to deserve to die like this. I loved my son and he loved me. My son was on his way to see about me when he was shot down. He always had a smile on his face. He always would do anything he could for anybody, he would help anybody. I love him and I’m going to miss him. I’m going to miss my child.”
Tears streamed down Kimberly Matthews’ face. She was Kevin’s sister.
“My brother was very loving, he was my closest sibling,” she said. “Every time I saw him he told me he loved me, and he would kiss me. We talked on the phone every day. He was a family-oriented person, the person in our family that made everybody laugh, that made everybody feel special. He is going to be a big loss. He was the star of this family, just the sweetest, loving, caring person. We want justice and we are going to fight this all the way. We are not going to let my brother die in vain.”
Grimacing in pain, his brother Lavell Matthews added, “That was my brother; that was my brother. I loved him and he loved me back. I need justice. Something is going to happen because I’m never defeated. They took my brother and they shot him like a dog.”
His family said Matthews suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, for which he was on disability income, and that he had also been hit by a car Thanksgiving Day, breaking his arm and sustaining injuries to his head. They said his cast had just come off, but he still could not use his arm; his fingers remained clenched up.
“He was one of those folks in the community who was definitely a respected person,” Rev. Williams said. “Not only did they know him well, they knew his challenges well. Police officers on the Detroit side knew him also. When they saw him wandering, they would give him a ride to his mother’s house. It is concerning to me that the officer claimed he felt threatened. Not only did Kevin have a broken arm, but he was a very small guy.”
Numerous supporters attended the press conference, including Sierra Wither and Grover Easterling, Jr. of the national Organization for Black Struggle.
“This is a family that just lost a loved one who was differently abled,” Wither said. “Across the country, police are using mental illness in conjunction with Blackness to criminalize people.
Easterling added, “We need the officer’s name released. They let the victim’s minor police record be known before they even identified him.”
Bill Davis, President of the Detroit Active and Retired Employee Association (DAREA), said “Anytime somebody can be gunned down because they are not white, we are all affected. We just had 108,000 people in Flint poisoned by Governor Rick Snyder, who engineered the phony Detroit bankruptcy. The Department of Justice is sleeping at the wheel. If that had happened in any other country, we would be bombing them.”
The picture Rev. Williams and the family painted of Matthews contrasted greatly with the view that Matthews was a “troublesome criminal,” put forward by Detroit Police Chief James Craig and Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad.
Craig told reporters directly after the killing that there was “evidence of a struggle” in the backyard, and said they had one eyewitness. Haddad said Matthews had tried to take the cop’s gun, and that he supported his officer’s actions.
The Detroit Police Department works on numerous inter-agency task forces involving suburban police. One which also included the federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) was involved in the June 24 shooting death of Terrance Kellom, 19, in his father’s home on Evergreen near Joy Road, not far from the site of the Matthews shooting.
Detroit police earlier worked directly with Dearborn police and the FBI to assassinate Imam Luqman Abdullah, shooting him 21 times, in October, 2009. The U.S. Department of Justice later exonerated the killers.
Craig, whose department allegedly has taken over the investigation, claimed Matthews was wanted on a a $2,500 misdemeanor warrant from Redford Township, while Haddad said he had a probation violation warrant from Redford Township.
No such warrants for Kevin Matthews are shown either on the state police ICHAT website, or in Wayne County Circuit Court online records. The ICHAT site does include numerous arrests of Matthews, nearly all with no subsequent judicial action. He served probation for 12 months for one misdemeanor case in 2013.
In any event, Matthews had never even been arrested for a felony, the only valid excuse the Dearborn cop might have had for chasing him. But as his family has said, he was constantly being harassed by police.
Other mainstream media is now reporting without foundation that Matthews may have just committed a larceny, recalling the police murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Media was quick to pounce on an earlier store video of Brown and a friend allegedly shoplifting. The cop who killed Brown, however, had no knowledge of that incident at the time.
Brown’s killing ignited fiery rebellions and protests across the country as police continued to shoot down hundreds more unarmed Black men in the ensuing months.
Ironically, two Black residents of southwest Detroit were talking to this reporter at the same time that Matthews was killed. They complained of racist practices by both Dearborn and Redford Township police, and detailed stories of illegal stops they had undergone only recently.
One stop involved a Redford Township cop pulling one man over as he was driving his pick-up truck. The man repeatedly asked why he had been stopped, but the cop refused to explain, instead demanding his license and other papers. Finally he told the man he had stopped him for a barely visible chip in his windshield, which could not have been seen from even a short distance away.
He then claimed that Township police were looking for a vehicle and a driver fitting his description, the age-old story used by racist cops.
Antoinette Austin said she believes Dearborn and other white suburban police are targeting not only Black men, but differently-abled men as well. Austin’s cousin Terry J. Jones was diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder as a child, she said.
In 2011, while he was walking down a Dearborn sidewalk off Michigan Avenue getting some air, he was brutally beaten and nearly killed by Dearborn cops for no reason other than “walking while Black.”
“If the courts and the Justice Department had acted when Dearborn police beat my cousin Terry to the point where he might have died, Kevin Matthews might be alive today,” Austin said. “Terry is still undergoing numerous operations for the injuries he received. They tore his muscles from his tendons. Next week, he is going into surgery to repair his rotocuff.”
Austin said Jones was slugged and knee-kicked in the head after cops threw him to the ground, using the “N” word, and then choked with a noose around his neck while he was handcuffed behind his back. They called for assistance from other cops in a dispatch terming it a “fun run.” They said he was probably a crackhead and continually insulted him.
The cops allegedly involved, who have not been disciplined, are Cpl. Edward Doulette, Cpl. Chad McDonald, and Sgt. Edward Fries.
Then, she said, Dearborn courts and a public defender tried to get Jones to plead guilty to lesser charges in exchange for not suing the city, and also threatened to commit him to a mental hospital. (See video of Jones’ beating below).
“Terry refused absolutely to take any kind of deal and give up his rights,” she said. He was eventually completely exonerated of charges brought against him and is currently pursuing a civil lawsuit for damages in federal court. The City of Dearborn has moved to dismiss the lawsuit. The judge has extended the plaintiff’s time to answer to motion until Feb. 4, 2016, according to federal court files.
Jones’ case drew the attention of Detroit Channel 7’s Heather Catallo when she was working with the Local 7 Investigators. She followed it with a series of reports, running a police dashcam video of the assault to CODthe shock of the Dearborn police, Austin said. The police did not know they had obtained a copy of the video.
KEVIN MATTHEWS PRESS CONFERENCE Q & A PART TWO; VIDEO BY CORNELL SQUIRES