Family of man fatally shot by a Dearborn officer settles their civil lawsuit.
A Detroit suburb has agreed to a $1.25 million settlement in a civil lawsuit after fatal shooting of an unarmed Black man, Kevin Matthews, by an officer. Matthews was chased on foot and killed in 2015 after being accused of stealing an energy drink from a convenience store, an attorney said. The deal between the city of Dearborn and Matthews’ family came after the Dearborn officer, Chris Hampton, 33, killed himself.
Matthews, 35 at the time of his death, was said to have been “harassing a female store clerk for an extended period of time to let him have a Redbull for free because he did not have enough money,” documents filed by prosecutor Kym Worthy, stated. Worthy declined to press charges against Hampton based on the physical evidence at the scene.
“Later,” her statement continued, “he concealed a Redbull in his pocket and she confronted him about it. She repeatedly asked him to put it back and leave. Mr. Matthews became loud, agitated and hostile, and tried to start a physical fight with an older male customer who attempted to intervene. The clerk then locked Mr. Matthews in the store and called the police. Upon arrival, Dearborn police officers asked Mr. Matthews to step outside the gas station. Instead, he fled from the scene on foot.”
Matthews was significantly smaller than the officer, both in height and weight. However, despite the size difference, Hampton insisted in deposition he was on the ground and Matthews was over him, trying to get his gun. Court records show, “The responding Dearborn officer said that the officer told him Mr. Matthews grabbed at his pepper spray and that Mr. Matthews attempted to take his gun. The responding officer took his weapon from him and gave it to another officer. He observed the Dearborn police officers ammunition magazines on the ground. One was on the driveway under a barbecue grill, and one was on the driveway next to Mr. Matthews’ feet.”
Worthy cited People v. Heflin, 434 Mich 482 at 502 (1990) in her previously 2016 decision, prior to the civil lawsuit, a case in which the Michigan Supreme Court held that “the killing of another person in self-defense is justifiable homicide if the defendant honestly and reasonably believes that his life is in imminent danger or that there is a threat of serious bodily harm.” She said the evidence in the case supported self-defense. Specifically, “the police officer and Mr. Matthews were on the ground, in the grass area, struggling over Freeze +P spray, which Mr. Matthews had grabbed from the officer’s duty belt.”
Matthews had a history of mental illness and was recovering from a broken arm. Hampton shot him nine times. Crime scene and ballistics experts believe Hampton was actually shooting down, because two of the bullets were found under Matthews’ body while one was next to it.
“This was an egregious killing,” attorney Milt Greenman said, however, adding that a civil lawsuit “trial would have looked different without the deceased officer” present. “With Officer Hampton having passed, how he passed – that’s generally why the case was resolved. Had this been on a body camera, there’s no doubt that Officer Hampton would have been prosecuted.”