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Detroit watchdog group calls for Michigan State Police to investigate fatal police shooting

Family photo

A watchdog group is calling for a Michigan State Police investigation into a fatal police shooting in Detroit last week.

A Dearborn police officer, whose name hasn’t been released, reportedly tried to arrest 35-year-old Kevin Matthews on Dec. 23.

Dearborn police say Matthews escaped their custody after being detained for suspected larceny earlier that day. He was also wanted on a misdemeanor warrant in a different city.

Matthews ran, and the officer pursued him into Detroit. After a foot chase, the two allegedly scuffled, and Matthews was shot multiple times. He was unarmed.

Detroit police have launched an investigation into the shooting.

But the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality says that investigation won’t be credible.

Coalition spokesman Ken Reed says Detroit Police Chief James Craig and others have already made “biased” statements that seem to accept the Dearborn officer’s version of events.

“[Craig] said that he [Matthews] went for the officer’s gun. Well, we don’t know that,” Reed said. “We don’t know that until the facts come out.”

A member of Detroit's Police Board of Commissioners, the city's civilian police oversight board, has also called for the state police to get involved. Craig defended his initial comments and promised a "thorough investigation."

Reed says the coalition is also concerned about potential bias on another front. Dearborn’s current police chief, Ronald Haddad, is a former Detroit police lieutenant.

Given those facts, “This investigation should be handled solely by the Michigan State Police,” said Reed.

But Lt. Michael Shaw, a Michigan State Police spokesman, says it’s unlikely MSP will get involved unless the Attorney General’s office or another law enforcement agency requests it.

Reed also called for police to release more information about the case.

Matthews’ family says he was schizophrenic, and that his mental illness was well-known in that area and by Detroit police.

Reed questions whether Dearborn police knew that as well. He also questions why the Dearborn officer hasn’t been publicly identified.

“No one is above the law. I think we have the right to know who this person is,” Reed said.

Chief Haddad released a statement last week, describing the officer’s version of events and calling Matthews’ death “tragic.” Dearborn police declined further comment on the case Tuesday.

A Detroit police spokesperson could not be reached for comment. 

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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