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Off-Duty Corrections Officer Charged in Fatal Shooting of Colorado Black Man Protecting His Girlfriend During Dispute Over Fireworks

A corrections officer in the Denver suburb of Aurora, Colorado, is facing criminal charges in a fatal shooting sparked by an argument over fireworks.

The incident unfolded Thursday when Scott Mathews and his girlfriend, Katherine O’Neal, grew angry after a 14-year-old boy, a 9-year-old girl and their mother began lighting fireworks in their neighborhood on the Fourth of July, according to an arrest affidavit.

Jaharie Wheeler and Scott Mathews

Jaharie Wheeler (left) was shot and killed by his girlfriend’s neighbor Scott Mathews during an argument over fireworks. (FOX 31 Denver / video screenshot)

The couple argued with the group, and complained that the fireworks had startled their small dog. Mathews and O’Neal, who both work for the state  Department of Corrections, were armed during the confrontation.

A war of words ensued, and at one point, Mathews head-butted the kids’ mother, Shamira Cotton, the affidavit states. The impact left her injured, causing “pain and swelling to her upper lip and upper left eye.” The reportedly also pointed his gun at the woman while shouting for her and her children to “get the f–k back.”

O’Neal also admitted to drawing her gun during the incident but denied pointing it at anyone. 

Things continued to escalate and Cotton admitted to throwing a plastic drink cup at Mathews, hitting him in the face. 

Cotton’s boyfriend, Jaharie Wheeler, eventually emerged from the family’s apartment to find his girlfriend hurt and bleeding, the affidavit says. That’s when he confronted Mathews, 26, and socked him in the face. A physical struggle ensued before Mathews un-holstered his gun and shot Wheeler in the chest.

“Cotton observed Mathews draw the handgun from his right hip and fire one round at Wheeler,” according to the affidavit. “Wheeler retreated backward into the courtyard, where he eventually fell to the ground.”

Police noted that O’Neal attempted CPR and aided the injured man until authorities arrived. Cotton called 911.

When police responded, Mathews told an officer, “I shot him,” the affidavit states.

Authorities arrested Mathews the following day on suspicion of second-degree murder. The Aurora man, who worked as an officer at the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility, has been suspended without pay, the Department of Corrections said.

His bond was set at $100,000. Formal charges were scheduled to be announced Wednesday.

Watch more in the video below.

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