“Comprehensive Violence Reduction Task Force” does the opposite
Joseph may have been shot 50 times in hail of gunfire
Tests allegedly show police shot each other
By Diane Bukowski
April 29, 2013
DETROIT – Members of the regional multi-agency “Comprehensive Violence Reduction Task Force” shot 23-year-old Matthew Joseph to death in a hail of gunfire at Linwood and Hooker on Detroit’s near west side April 2. Sources including witnesses at the scene and others familiar with the case say that he was shot as many as 50 times as he sat in the driver’s seat of his car, never exiting the vehicle.
As partially confirmed in daily media reports, they say ballistics tests show “friendly fire” was responsible for the shootings of the two Detroit police officers at the scene, who worked with the federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) Detroit division. They are Patrick Hill, who remains in critical condition with wounds to his head and chest, and Sgt. Joseph Pacholski, who was shot in the leg and has since been released.
“The car was smashed between two police cars, and the driver was hanging off the side of his seat belt, dead,” said one neighborhood resident who was at the scene for several hours. “The gunfire sounded like New Year’s Eve, and we heard police sirens all over.”
Photos of the scene show the driver’s side window of the car smashed out by the gunfire.
“I was driving to see a relative, and the SUV that ended up in front of the victim’s car almost ran me up on the side of the road,” said another resident who stayed at the scene.
“I stopped at West Grand Boulevard and McGraw and saw them pull some guy out of a car, and lay him on the ground. Then the cop in the Tahoe took off, and there were police cars coming from everywhere. The Tahoe pushed the Magnum [car which Joseph was driving] from the front, and another black police car hit it from the back.”
VOD has since learned that the man lying on the ground actually jumped from his car prior to the police stop. He and a young woman in Joseph’s car, who has not been identified, were later arrested. He remains in custody on a probation violation, while police say the young woman, thought to be a friend of Joseph’s, was released.
“I didn’t actually see the cops getting shot,” the second witness, who estimated she was about 50 feet from the cars involved, said. “There was too much gunfire from everywhere. Then the trainees came out of the Police Academy from across the street, and started pushing us back. We stayed at least two hours, and no ambulance came to the scene to take the people out of the car the dead man was in. We waited. I wanted to see why they were letting people sit in the car so long.”
Meanwhile, the wounded officers were rushed to nearby Henry Ford Hospital.
The second witness said police in the two cars which penned Joseph’s car in were dressed in black street clothes, and that the cars were unmarked as well. She said she also saw at least 20 Detroit police cars, and “a few” State police cars at the scene.
“The Detroit police cars came flying down the street, about as many black unmarked cars as blue and white cars,” she said. “The man who was killed was still in his car. I don’t think he ever got out of that car. One lady was at the scene crying and fighting to get down there, saying ‘They killed my babies,’ but the police stopped her.”
Police allege they were pursuing Joseph as a suspect in a March 28 killing at the McNichols Riviera Motel. Daily media has reported that the victim was a crack cocaine dealer who was the son of a retired Detroit police officer. There is, however, no arrest warrant for Joseph on file at Detroit’s 36th District Court.
Neither police nor the media have released the names of the man killed at the motel, who was reported to be 23 years old, or that of his father. During a visit to the motel recently to locate witnesses, VOD observed a black and white car with no police insignia in the parking lot, but was not able to obtain the information requested from those present. Daily media has reported that “nefarious activity” regularly takes place at the motel.
The day after Joseph’s killing, the daily media blew up with stories on Joseph’s criminal background, saying outright that he shot the police officers and painting him as a “bad seed” from his childhood on.
One report said, “When Detroit police officers stopped a car being driven by a homicide suspect on the city’s west side Tuesday evening, a woman in the car, a police source said, cried out: ‘He’s got a gun!’ The driver opened the car door and began firing at police, striking an officer in the head and a sergeant in the leg, a source said. Police fired back, a source said, killing the suspect, whose hand was reportedly still gripping his gun after he was shot.”
Daily media reported later that it was likely that Officer Hill, at least, was the victim of “friendly fire.” At that point, Detroit Police Chief Chester Logan announced that an investigation by the Michigan State Police was underway. However, they themselves are not a disinterested party, having been involved at the scene of Joseph’s death. They are also members of the “Comprehensive Violence Reduction Task Force.”
The daily media stories included reports from Joseph’s Third Judicial Circuit Court files and from his juvenile records as well, which normally are not open to the public or media.
VOD requested Joseph’s adult criminal files weeks ago from the court clerk’s office, but to date has not received a call that they are available. VOD can only surmise that police immediately provided the records to the daily media reporters involved to justify the shooting, painting Joseph as an armed and dangerous thug.
Records located on-line show that Joseph, born 12/29/89, served time in the state prison system for what appear to be two incidents, on Dec. 19 and Dec. 23, 2006, involving charges of armed robbery and felony firearms. He was sentenced on May 22, 2o07 by Third Judicial Court Judge Bruce Morrow to terms of up to 15 years. He was paroled after five and a half years on Oct. 2, 2012.
VOD also requested a copy of Joseph’s autopsy report, which is a public record. In the past, VOD has received such reports in a timely fashion without problems. However, the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office responded to VOD’s Freedom of information Act request as follows.
“The above request has been received and reviewed. After a diligent search for the requested records, I have determined and certify that the records do not exist. An autopsy can take 30-90 days or longer to complete, depending on the length of time for test results to be received. Therefore, your request is denied. We encourage you to contact the undersigned at the Office of the Medical Examiner in 30 days to check on the status.”
Vanessa Denha-Garmo, the spokeswoman for Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, emailed the response, but did not respond to a request for a statement on the cause of Joseph’s death.
Daily media reports, however, quoted the Examiner as saying that Joseph died from “multiple gunshot wounds,” contradicting an original police report that he was shot once. A source familiar with the case told VOD that Joseph was shot 50 times.
Attempts to speak with Joseph’s family have so far been unsuccessful. VOD has learned that they may be filing a wrongful death lawsuit in his case. Attorneys frequently advise clients in such instances not to speak with the media.
(VOD: it is the policy of this newspaper not to name witnesses cited in police brutality case stories, due to the potential of retaliation. This policy is based on the author’s extensive experience covering such cases. Meanwhile, statements from witnesses in this story are being further validated. Other witnesses are asked to contact VOD at 313-825-6126.)