Kevin Matthews was unarmed and killed in an encounter with Dearborn Police on Dec. 23
Kevin Matthews, a Detroit man who was killed by Dearborn police two days before Christmas, was shot 5-6 times, including one from “very close range” according to a private autopsy report obtained exclusively by the Detroit Free Press.
Requested by the victim’s family following his death, the autopsy report on the unarmed 36-year-old African American man offers new details as to what exactly occurred prior to his death last December, a shooting which sparked numerous civil rights protests.
Milton Greenman, an attorney for Matthews’ family, says the report shows clearly that police were at fault in the incident, which is also being investigated by the Detroit Police Department.
“Death was caused by multiple gunshot wounds,” read the report by Dr. Bader J Cassin, a former Wayne County medical examiner, “At least six bullets struck the body, one from very close range, and all coursed right-to-left and in an upward trajectory. Some of the wound paths were sharply upward.”
Family members have stressed repeatedly that Matthews was mentally ill and was being treated for schizophrenia, calling into question whether officers were adequately trained to deescalate a situation involving an emotionally distressed civilian.
“They shot my son for nothing,” said his mother Valerie Johnson at the time, “He didn’t have no weapon.”
The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office has not yet released their full report from the original autopsy conducted in December, but at the time it said that Matthews died from homicide caused by multiple gunshot wounds.
Detroit Police have stressed that there was a struggle before the shooting, leading the officer to discharge his weapon.
“The officer approached the subject, a 36-year-old Detroit resident, and the subject fled on foot,” Dearborn police said in a statement released in December, “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.”
According to Greenman, the autopsy report is a clear indicator that the shooting was improper and that police worked diligently to ensure the misconduct was subverted.
“This isn’t an example of an accidental shooting, where the gun goes off,” Greenman told the Free Press “There is evidence of intent because he was shot several times.”
The autopsy comes coincidentally at a time when the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it will be working with Dearborn police to review their use of force practices and help increase diversity, part of a larger initiative nationwide to revisit and reform policing in the wake of unarmed shootings disproportionately involving African Americans.
Following the Justice Department’s announcement, Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly said that the Dearborn officer who shot Matthews “had a positive relationship” with him, was aware of Matthews’ mental health problems and had “brought him home at times.”
There is no evidence from Matthews’ family corroborating these actions.
According to Greenman, should O’Reilly’s account of their history be true, then it only further supports the overt failure from Dearborn to preserve Matthews life.
“Here’s a person that the Dearborn police had come into contact with,” Greenman said, “They knew he had a history of mental illness. They knew where he lived. He had an outstanding misdemeanor warrant for his arrest.”
Greenman continued further saying, “If we accept that the officer had a positive relationship with Matthews, as O’Reilly said, why are you killing this man when he was unarmed?”
On Friday, perhaps looking ahead to the release of the autopsy or unrelated, the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality reiterated its call for Dearborn’s police chief to resign, saying that the DOJ’s action “is not enough”
“Swift and thorough action is necessary to ensure that not another citizen’s life is compromised or lost because of the actions of rogue officers who abrogate their responsibility to serve and protect the community,” the coalition said in an official statement released by spokesman Kenneth Reed, “The families of Kevin Matthews and Janet Wilson, and the entire Detroit/Dearborn community deserve no less than this.”