Family Seeks Answers After Officers Kill Man

December 11, 2009|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton , justin.fenton@baltsun.com

Twenty-year-old Byron Matthews didn't fit the profile of a guy who points guns at police officers, according to his family. The father of twin girls graduated from Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy in 2008, worked on his off-days at a wine and spirits distribution company in Jessup, and had no brushes with the law as a juvenile or as an adult.

His family is seeking answers after he was shot and killed by police officers shortly after midnight Wednesday during a drug investigation. Police say he pointed a .38-caliber revolver at plainclothes detectives and was found in possession of heroin, an image that family, friends and co-workers are having trouble reconciling with his reputation.

"Byron was never in trouble. He is not the monster he's being portrayed to be," said an aunt, Janet Robertson, 47. "If they say they've got a tape that shows him and he had a gun, then I'm going to have to respect what they did. But until then, we want justice."

Police, who initially identified Matthews by his middle name of Ranard, said the shooting is under investigation by homicide detectives, which is routine when officers are involved in shootings.

The dwelling that police say he walked out of in the 2300 block of W. Baltimore St. was under surveillance for suspected drug activity by members of the Violent Crime Impact Division, according to chief police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. Two unnamed officers - a sergeant and a detective - fired several shots after Matthews ran and then pointed a gun at them, police said.

A source said police haven't found anything to dispute what the family says about Matthews' character and said Matthews was not known to police. But police have not encountered any inconsistencies in the account officers gave of the incident, the source said.

Members of Matthews' family live in several homes around the corner from where the shooting took place. About midnight, they heard gunshots and conducted a head count to make sure everyone was accounted for. Matthews, who lived with his grandmother, was missing, they said.

They went outside to the crime scene, in a driving rain, and saw a man wearing flip-flops on the ground and police going through his pockets. At that point, they did not know that Matthews was the one who had been shot and did not know that it was police who had fired the shots. They were told by police to move away from the crime scene.

"I started crying. My husband said, 'You don't know that's him.' I said, 'That's somebody's child,' " Robertson said.

They tracked the man to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where officials confirmed that Matthews had been admitted.

After receiving updates throughout the morning from doctors that he was in surgery, they found out about 5 a.m. that he had died.

Later, detectives informed them that heroin was recovered from Matthews' pockets by hospital staff.

Relatives said they can't believe the police account. Cousin Tiffany Mayo, 26, described him as a "big, oversized kid" who had never been in a fight. He was a jokester and kept things light, relatives said.

They acknowledged that Matthews might have associated with "knuckleheads," but Robertson said that's inevitable in their neighborhood. "You can't get away from it. We live in West Baltimore," she said.

"We're getting calls from everywhere. Everybody's saying, 'That ain't Byron,' " she continued.

Daeemah Moore, 19, his girlfriend and the mother of his twin 2-year-old girls, said his "whole point of living was to take care of us" and that he vowed that they would soon get their own place. She collapsed into Robertson's shoulder, and together they prayed.

"When the kids ask what happened, I don't know what I'm going to tell them," Moore said between sobs.

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