Dearborn police officers will not face charges in fatal shootings

By ZEINAB NAJM
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — Two Dearborn police officers will not face charges in separate incidents where Detroit residents were shot and killed, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced today.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kmy Worthy announced that two Dearborn police officers who shot and killed Kevin Matthews and Janet Wilson a month a part will not face charges in either of the cases.

“After careful analysis we have concluded that we cannot prove the Matthews case beyond a reasonable doubt because of the laws of self-defense,” Worthy said in a press release. “We also cannot prove the Wilson case beyond a reasonable doubt because of the law of self-defense, the law of defense of others and the law regarding apprehension of a fleeing felon.”

Both officers involved in the cases were on paid administrative leave while the investigation took place.

Kevin Matthews was shot on Dec. 23, 2015, by a Dearborn police officer in Detroit following a foot chase and struggle. Officers were dispatched to a gas station on Tireman and Greenfield on a report of a disturbance.

Matthews was harassing a female clerk inside and when police arrive on the scene and asked Matthews to step outside. He fled on foot.

That same day, police were conducting a traffic stop near the same location when the officer observed Matthews and informed dispatch he would attempt to make contact with him.

When Matthews walked past the traffic stop area, the officer crossed into Detroit to speak with him on the prior incident and warrant violation.

The officer pursed Matthews on foot yelling for him to stop, but the chase continued to a backyard in the 8800 block of Whitcomb where the shooting took place.

Five witnesses were interviewed and said the officer and Matthews “engaged in an intense struggle that started in the grass near the fence line.”

It ended in the driveway when Matthews stood over the officer and pulled the ammunition magazine from the officer’s duty belt. The officer was still on his back when he fired nine shots, killing Matthews.

“The facts and evidence in this case support the justification of the shooting under the law of self defense in Michigan,” Worthy’s report read. “Particularly important is the lack of proof to overcome self-defense. The argument that the officer was honestly and reasonably in fear of death or great bodily harm, is directly supported by the law and evidence in the case.

“There is insufficient evidence to criminally charge the Dearborn officer because the facts and the applicable laws do not support charges that can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The second shooting involving Janet Wilson took place Jan. 27 near Fairlane Town Center, 18900 Michigan Ave. after a vehicle chase which ended on Hubbard Drive.

Wilson had been shopping at Solstice Sunglasses when a female employee asked if she was looking for any particular sunglasses. Wilson then threw the pair of sunglasses she had selected toward the employee and began to yell at her.

Security was called to the store and Wilson left after she made aggressive and sexual remarks to the employee. When security asked her to leave the mall she began to argue and behave in a disorderly manner.

As she left she continued to yell at security officers and pedestrians outside JCPenney.

Wilson then entered her vehicle, then got out to chase a security car that drove past her and then drove at two other vehicles causing them to move to avoid being hit.

Police officers arrived and were informed of the incidents. When Wilson pulled out of the mall parking lot, officers attempted a traffic stop but Wilson drove around and ran a stop sign before pulling onto Hubbard.

Two police vehicles parked near her vehicle and officers asked her to turn her vehicle off and unlock the doors.

“When traffic cleared in front of her car, Ms. Wilson drove forward toward officer 2, who was positioned near the front passenger side of her car,” Worthy’s report said. “His firearm was drawn and pointed at Ms. Wilson while he ordered her to stop driving and shut off the car. Officer 2 began to step away from Ms. Wilson’s vehicle and shot three times through the front windshield on the passenger side and one time through the passenger side car window.”

Wilson continued to drive and slowly lost control of the vehicle and it began to drift until it was stopped by patrol vehicles.

Officers broke the glass, turned off the engine and removed Wilson from the vehicle.

“Ms. Wilson was incapacitated from the gunshot wounds,” the report said. “She was placed on the ground and the officers provided medical aid. Ms. Wilson was taken to a local hospital by ambulance where she was pronounced dead.”

The prosecutor’s report said Dearborn police had probable cause to believe Wilson had committed multiple felonies including felonious assault, resisting and obstructing and fleeing and eluding in the third degree.

“Currently, Michigan’s common law allows police officers to utilize deadly force when necessary to prevent the escape of a fleeing felon,” the report said. “Michigan’s common law allows an officer to legally shoot and kill an unarmed individual who flees after committing a non-assaultive felony.”

Both Wilson and Matthews suffered from some type of mental illness, which relatives stated at the time of the incidents.

“Our goal is to make sure that we make just decisions according to the applicable law,” Worthy said. “These decisions were particularly difficult and heart wrenching for all parties involved, including me. We take our responsibility very seriously and both cases had many issues to investigate.

“This added significant time to our ability to come to just decisions. We interviewed numerous witnesses, reviewed reports, analyzed all the physical evidence, police training materials, medical records, and consulted with multiple experts. Thoroughness takes time.”

(Zeinab Najm can be reached at zeinabnajm92@gmail.com.)