A Michigan city has agreed to a $1.25 million settlement over the fatal 2015 shooting of a Black man accused of stealing an energy drink.
Kevin Matthews, 35, was fleeing on foot when Dearborn Police Officer Chris Hampton shot him nine times.
Hampton, 33, took his own life just weeks before the settlement was announced Tuesday. Matthews’ family and Dearborn, a Detroit suburb, reached the settlement out of court as a result of Hampton’s sudden death.
Mathews’ family now “wants to move forward,” attorney Milt Greenman told The Associated Press.
The shooting happened on Dec. 23, 2015, when Hampton noticed Matthews walking by several hours after he was accused of stealing a can of Red Bull from a gas station.
Matthews had fled the scene earlier, and Hampton was familiar with him because of prior similar incidents at the gas station. Matthews suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Hampton attempted to take Matthews into custody, but Matthews fled and the officer chased him. After Matthews jumped over a fence, Hampton followed and landed on top of him, according to one account of the event offered by authorities. The officer was 6 feet 2 and 215 pounds, while Matthews was about 5 feet 9, 140 pounds and recovering from a broken arm.
A struggle ensued, and Hampton claimed that he feared Matthews was standing over him and trying to take his gun before he shot the Black man nine times. There were no witnesses to the shooting, nor is there any footage of the encounter.
Crime scene and ballistics experts hired by Matthews’ family say Hampton was shooting down rather than up, since two bullets were found under Matthews’ body and one was next to it.
No criminal charges were filed against Hampton after Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy said she believed the officer acted in self-defense.
Greenman called the killing “egregious” and said charges would have been filed against the officer had there been footage of the shooting.
“Had this been on a body camera, there’s no doubt that Officer Hampton would have been prosecuted,” Greenman said.