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Matthew Tucker
Matthew Tucker

Temecula, CA — Matthew Tucker and his family were residents of Temecula. Those who knew Matthew adored the teen. He is known for having a smile that ‘lit up a room.’ Matthew, a natural comedian, loved to ‘make everyone laugh.’ He was selfless and would give his last dollar if someone needed it more. He spent his summers riding horses at his grandparent’s ranch in Wyoming. His passion for animals led him to find work in a local feed store. He had a promising future. At just 18-years old, Matthew Tucker was transitioning to the family’s six-figure revenue-generating business.

On Wednesday, May 4, 2016, at approximately 5:21 pm, Matthew Tucker was emotionally distraught over a failed romantic relationship, angst stricken, and momentarily contemplating suicide, he dialed 911.

Behind accidental injury, suicide is the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 15 and 34. The percentage of those having serious thoughts of suicide is highest among adults aged 18-25. Matthew was distraught, depressed, momentarily suicidal and in need of crisis intervention. His family trusted officials from the local sheriff’s office would be able to de-escalate the situation.

Officers from the Riverside County Sheriff’s office responded to a 911 request for suicide crisis intervention for the emotionally distraught teenager, Matthew Tucker. They arrived at the Tucker family home at approximately 5:41 pm. Immediately upon arriving on the scene, deputy officers were reminded the teen is suicidal and wants to die. They were cautioned by several pleas from Matthew’s mother. ‘He is suicidal. He wants to die. Do not shoot him.’

In what would soon be a tragic turn of events, police entered the home, directing Matthew’s mother to search for him through the house while they accompanied her. In the garage, they see the teen who quickly grabbed a knife. Matthew made several movements towards the officers and backing away from the officers. The officers drew their guns and were yelling commands to Matthew. The mother was yelling ‘do not shoot him’ to the officers. At this point, the officers shot Matthew. However, Matthew was also shot in the back after he was no longer a threat.

Despite being cautioned that Matthew was suicidal, in a two-step process, county officers ordered the emotionally distraught teenager to ‘drop the weapon,’ drew their guns, and then, shot to kill. The sheriff’s department is claiming Matthew rushed towards the deputies while holding the knife. Matthew, however, faced the deputies at the time of the shots. He fell forward, dropping the knife, as per deputies’ sworn statements. Yet he ended up with a fatal shot in the back. According to the coroner Dr. Mark Fajardo, the shot to Matthew’s back was the fatal shot that took Matthew’s life. And now, the county is arguing their own pathologist/coroner Dr. Mark Farjardo is not an expert, and his opinion that Matthew may have been shot while on the ground in the prone position is invalid.

Inaccuracies of Published Reports In the wake of the fatal shooting of Matthew Tucker, the following statement was released to local news (Source: Riverside County News):

A knife-wielding man was shot and killed during a confrontation with deputies from Temecula PD May 4, according to Riverside Sheriff Public Information Officer Deputy Michael Vasquez.Coroner’s officials have identified the man killed in this officer-involved shooting as Matthew Tucker, 18, of Temecula. The coroner’s release indicated Tucker’s time of injury was 5:43 p.m. The release also revealed Tucker survived for shortly more than two hours and succumbed to his injuries at 8:01 p.m.

The deadly encounter occurred after someone called sheriff’s 911 emergency communications dispatchers to report an unknown type emergency at a residence in the 32600 block of Hislop Way, in Temecula. Deputies from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Temecula Police Station were dispatched to the emergency call for service.

As deputies arrived on [the] scene, they made contact with the 911 caller, who directed them to the garage at the residence.

Deputies made contact with a male, later identified by coroner’s officials as Matthew Tucker, in the garage who was armed with a knife. Upon contacting the man, deputies attempted to calm him and repeatedly ordered Tucker to drop the knife he was holding. Despite their efforts, Tucker refused to drop the knife he was holding.

The armed subject then reportedly “advanced towards the deputies while still holding the knife” in an aggressive and threatening manner, at which time “an officer-involved shooting occurred,” Vasquez explained. Two deputies discharged their weapons at the knife-wielding subject, according to Vasquez.

A statement by the Riverside County police department was released immediately after the shooting and was mimicked across several local news outlets. These news reports and published reports, carefully omitting details of the incident that would potentially stir outrage, include no input from or reference to the victims family members who were present at the time of the shooting. Published reports fail to indicate deputies had prior knowledge that the victim was morbidly depressed and suicidal. They also fail to indicate there was no crime committed. The teen had not threatened anyone in the home, and police were not called in to respond to any crime. Matthew was standing alone in his own garage with a knife in his hand when he was confronted by police ordering him to drop the knife. This was Matthew Tucker’s home, where he lived with his family. The actual length of time police officers spent in the Tucker home was fifty-two seconds. The most shocking omission is the actual time police spent in the garage with Matthew, between ordering him to drop the knife and the use of deadly force was approximately twenty seconds. And while #BlackLivesMatter is a concern that weighs heavily on many and stirs public outcry, when officer-involved shootings occur, published reports omit Matthew Tucker’s ethnicity. Matthew Tucker was an African American male of mixed-race heritage, who reached out to 9-1-1 in a desperate cry for help.

Gov’t Code § 54950: The Bagley-Keene Act
“The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”

Temecula Police Failed to Follow Proper Protocol

According to published reports, the two officers involved were Investigator Michael Hamilton and Deputy Rosa Calderon. Responding officers did not clear the house. They did not secure the scene. They did not call for backup. They did not call in an expert in for crisis intervention. Responding officers confronted the teenager, as he stood in his own garage holding a knife. They ordered the emotionally distraught teenager to drop his weapon. When the teen did not, officers disregarded all procedure for a suicide crisis and several explicit warnings from his mother that her child wants to die. Officers then fired several shots without any attempts to de-escalate the crisis, without employing any tools or techniques to apply less than deadly force. These tools and techniques include, but are not limited to, rubber bullets, Tasers, Mace or pepper spray. One or more of the responding officers was equipped with a Taser. No Taser was deployed. The suicidal teenager had not threatened anyone in the home, neither had he committed any crime. Instead of receiving crisis intervention, the morbidly depressed 18-year-old was gunned down by police in his home, in the presence of several family members, his mother, sixteen-year-old sister, and niece, an eighteen-month-old toddler. All surviving family members now remain irreparably traumatized.

African American males between the ages of 15 and 34 are 21 times more likely to be killed by cops than young white men, according to a ProPublica analysis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also compiled data which show that people of color are most likely to be killed by cops overall. This becomes even more of a growing concern when officer-involved shootings occur while they are responding to minor infractions. In instances like Matthew Tucker, Jack Lamar Roberson, Quintonio LeGrier, or Kevin Davis—all four black men were killed by police after calling 911 for assistance. Whereas Dylann Roof of the 2015 Charleston church shooting that left 9 dead and 1 injured, was apprehended alive and unharmed. Nikolas Cruz, suspected in the February 18th Florida school shooting, with a death count of 17 was apprehended alive, as was 2016 Chelsea bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahimi. All three were apprehended alive and brought to justice for their crimes, innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, before a jury of their peers. This obvious disparity is painfully upsetting to those of the African American community and all affected.

And while it has been noted in the press that coroner’s officials reported that Tucker’s time of injury in this officer-involved shooting was 5:43 p.m., the hierarchy of leadership in the coroner’s office has not been fully explained. Sheriff Stan Sniff is also Temecula/Riverside County coroner, with captain Coby Webb serving as the public administrator overseeing the Coroner’s office’s business operations, while Dr. Mark Fajardo, medical examiner, has been appointed chief pathologist. In an officer-involved shooting, this dynamic presents an undeniable conflict of interest.

Dr. Mark Fajardo, chief coroner, in his examination of Mattew Tucker, indicated in his findings that the final, fatal shot resulted from an entry wound found in Tucker’s back with a bullet lodged in his abdomen. He also specifies the angle of the wound further suggests the shot was fired into Matthew’s back while the teen was on the ground. Responding officer, Michael Hamilton, has come under scrutiny for misconduct and racial profiling (stemming from a 2012 incident involving the harassment of 15-year-old Jerry Brown and his family). County Sheriff Stan Sniff, himself, has reportedly lost the support of the union representing Riverside County sheriff’s deputies. The deputies’ union has reportedly accused Sniff of a dictatorial approach, and remain dissatisfied with his decision to forgo Bodycams and de-escalation training. Those details, along with attempts by the sheriff’s office to question the findings and credibility of their own appointed expert, Dr. Mark Fajardo, serve as an obvious and severe conflict of interest, especially when Dr. Fajardo’s findings confirm Matthew Tucker was shot in the back, while on the ground, a clear indication of an unnecessary and unjustified use of deadly force.

The Cruel Irony in Matthew Tucker’s Fatality

Matthew was eighteen years old. At 18 years old, the end of a romance can seem like the end of the world, but those feelings almost always pass and for most, life goes on. Momentarily suicidal, Matthew needed help, in the form of crisis intervention. Matthew’s father, Shawn Tucker, is currently a career firefighter and was a first responder on FEMA USAR team as a canine handler. He currently owns and operates a kennel that trains and breeds the dogs that serve as police dogs in the region. Matthew was being prepared to inherit the reigns of the family business of breeding and training police dogs. Somehow, the system Matthew was hoping to support with his passion for animals had failed him. The Tucker family has filed suit.

And as Matthew’s mother, Jenny Tucker states, “The #BlackLivesMatter movement is absolutely necessary. Those proponents who choose to nullify the importance of #BlackLivesMatter by arguing that #AllLivesMatter are losing sight of the fact that we are all at risk, regardless of race. Anyone’s child could be next.”

For more information, please contact Darryl Exum by calling 951-682-2903 or via email to maricruz.exumlaw@gmail.com

 

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