Knife-Wielding Man Killed By Cops, Prosecutors Clear Cops
By Jesse B. Gill
The incident began about 7:50pm on January 30, 2011, when a man called 911 and claimed in frantic whispers that he was in danger of being shot to death by another man. The dispatcher actually received two calls from the same man, according to a prosecutor’s report.
When the dispatcher tried to zero in on the victim’s location, he said he was at “Pete’s house” before being cut off. San Bernardino police worked with dispatchers to trace the call back to a home in the 200 block of South Golden Avenue and dispatched officer Nicole Lindsey to the scene.
A second officer joined Lindsey as backup. Lindsey rolled up to the home and knocked on the front door. A woman answered the door and told Lindsey nothing weird was going on, but according to Lindsey’s account, she didn’t buy it. Prosecutors say the woman was a bit stand-offish at first and not at all helpful, but she eventually gave Lindsey permission to enter the home to check for any problems.
As Lindsey walked inside, a handful of kids kind of flowed out the front door.
Almost immediately, Lindsey heard muffled voices coming from behind the bathroom door. The bathroom door that also just so happened to be locked.
Lindsey told investigators that she identified herself as a cop before asking whoever was in there to open up.
“Hold on a minute,” a muffled male voice replied.
Then a second male voice piped up.
“Please, please. No.” the second voice said.
“Open the door,” Lindsey ordered. “It’s the police.”
At that point, both voices behind the door clammed up.
By now, other officers had arrived to provide more backup. Lindsey spoke to one of those officers, Joey Zink, who went back in with her to check out whatever weirdness was going on behind that bathroom door.
He told a homicide investigator that when he reached the door, he heard what sounded like a muffled argument between two people before one of the voices said, “Help me.”
That’s when he told whoever was in the bathroom that they had until the count of three before he kicked the door down.
No answer. So he counted.
“One . . .”
“Two . . .”
Still no answer, so Zink held up his end of the bargain and kicked the bathroom door in. It splintered, with the lower half of the door caving in and the top half staying in place. Zink stooped to get into the bathroom and what he saw—at least in his account to investigators—is what led him to draw his gun.
Zink said he saw a man—later identified as San Bernardino resident Richard Matus—holding 73-year-old man—called “Z” in the prosecutor’s report—by the head with a knife pressed to his neck.
Now “Z” has an extensive criminal record. He told investigators he lived in the South Golden Avenue home with his two daughters, a son-in-law and three grandkids. He said he had known Matus for about six months, having met the guy at a liquor store. Z said Matus lived over near the intersection of 3rd Street and Tippecanoe.
He said he was sitting at home watch TV when he heard a knock at the door. His daughter answered and a few moments later told Z that a man wanted to speak to him.
It was raining that night and when he got to the door, he recognized Matus, who asked to come in out of the rain. Z’s daughter wasn’t having it, but Z let Matus in anyway.
Matus asked to use the restroom and Z walked him down the hallway. He told investigators he didn’t exactly trust Matus. When they reached the bathroom, Matus pulled Z inside and slammed the door before locking it.
Z told investigators that Matus said someone was following him and was trying to kill him, though he could—or wouldn’t—explain why he believed that. (Not for nothing, a toxicology report showed that Matus had opiates and amphetamines in his system when he died.)
Then Matus pulled out the knife and started sweating a lot, Z said. Matus started pleading with Z, asking for his help. At this point, Z said he was pretty freaked out so he tried to get out of the bathroom. Matus didn’t like that.
“No, don’t,” he said, and the two started to grapple, Z trying to escape and Matus trying to keep the elderly man in place.
Fast forward to Zink counting down outside the bathroom door before kicking in the bottom half. He ducked under the top half, saw the men tangled up together and he saw the knife pressed to Z’s throat. Zink thought Matus was moving toward him in an attempt to back him out the bathroom door. He reached in to try and separate the two men. That didn’t work.
Then Zink tried to grab the knife. That didn’t work either.
That’s when Zink shot Matus, twice in the back. Matus went down, the knife still in his hand.
Zink called for medical aid, but it was two late. The two shots ended Matus’ life; both entering his back and exiting his torso.
On Friday, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office cleared both Lindsey and Zink of any wrongdoing in Matus’ death, saying he used lethal force to protect Z and himself.