Family still waiting on answers after fatal shooting of Matt Murdock by police
by John Roach
jroach@mdjonline.com
April 01, 2012 12:00 AM | 4734 views | 30 30 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A solemn Robin Murdock, father of police shooting victim Matt Murdock, and Matt’s sister, Nancie Wakefield, visit the site where Matt was shot to death by a Cobb Police officer on May 19, 2011. After 313 days, they’re still waiting for conclusive word on the circumstances of the shooting.<br>Staff/Laura Moon
A solemn Robin Murdock, father of police shooting victim Matt Murdock, and Matt’s sister, Nancie Wakefield, visit the site where Matt was shot to death by a Cobb Police officer on May 19, 2011. After 313 days, they’re still waiting for conclusive word on the circumstances of the shooting.
Staff/Laura Moon
slideshow
Rob Murdock walks alongside a row of auto repair shops on Thursday, stopping in front of 642 Puckett Drive and looking around at the loose gravel and empty 1-ounce liquor bottles lining the side of the road.

“I think this is it. If I’m not mistaken, he was parked over here,” he says, pointing to a nondescript patch of broken asphalt where, 10 months ago, his son was shot to death by a Cobb County police officer.

He still doesn’t know why a police officer killed his son. In fact, he doesn’t know why his son was stopped at all. He hopes to learn something when Cobb’s Internal Affairs issues their report on April 9, but doesn’t get his hopes up.

“We’re a long way from getting all the answers, especially as long as this whole process has taken so far.”

It’s been 313 days as of Thursday since Matt Murdock was killed, as his family doesn’t know much more than they did 312 days ago.

***
Here is the story of Matt Murdock’s final hours, pieced together from numerous police reports:

At 11:25 p.m. May 19, 2011, 34-year-old Matt Murdock of Cumming was driving away from Scott King’s auto repair shop on Puckett Drive, in the heart of Mableton. He was stopped by a Cobb County Police officer, who was patrolling the area due to a rash of break-ins and saw Murdock leaving a business that appeared to be closed for the night. Murdock, who was described in police reports as acting very nervous, told the officer he had been helping King with his car, and Sgt. G. Beasley, a Cobb Sheriff’s K-9 sergeant who had stopped to help the Cobb officer, stood by with Murdock while the officer confirmed his story with King.

A toxicology report would later reveal that Murdock had been using methamphetamine.

While the two were waiting for the officer to return, Beasley asked Murdock if he was carrying a weapon. Murdock said he usually carried one in the glove compartment and had a concealed weapons permit. Beasley asked to see it, and Murdock took it from his wallet, at first passing right over it even though it was in a transparent pocket and clearly visible when the wallet was opened, police said. Beasley looked at it and then put it on the roof of the car.

At this point, Officer Sean Henry arrived to serve as back-up.

Beasley asked Murdock if he could search his car. He agreed and stepped out. Beasley turned him so that he was facing the car and started patting him down. At this point, Murdock grabbed the permit and thrust his hands toward his waistline in a manner that suggested to Beasley and Henry that he was grabbing a gun.

Accounts differ as to whether Murdock dove into the car or whether Beasley forced Murdock’s body facedown into the drivers seat, but all agree that Beasley was behind and on top of Murdock. Henry and Beasley told Murdock to put his hands where he could see them. He refused.

Murdock then looked at Henry, who felt as though he was being targeted, according to reports, and again reached for his waistline as if to draw a weapon.

Officer Henry shot Murdock twice, hitting him the side, then called for medical attention.

Murdock died at Atlanta Medical Center about two hours later.

***
On Thursday, separated by just a few feet but 10 months from his son’s death, Rob Murdock muses on how little he knows about Matt’s final minutes.

“No one is saying why this stop was even necessary,” he said.

Cobb Police say that while 10 months may seem like a long time to wait for answers, it takes some time to complete a thorough investigation into a shooting.

“You have a very complex case where you have to look at all aspects of the the shooting,” said spokesman Sgt. Dana Pierce. “That includes the officer's standpoint, the suspect's standpoint, what evidence indicates happened at the scene, and the gathering of all evidence, up to and including the interviewing any witness involved. We also have to have autopsy results, and toxicology information that comes back to complete that investigative file.”

He hasn’t been told that his son tested positive for meth use, that multiple law enforcement officers described him as acting nervous, that he twice reached for his waistline after telling a deputy that he carried a weapon. His attorneys, Howard Weintraub and Ben Alper, have the police reports, but Murdock hasn’t read them.

While the internal affairs report will undoubtedly contain more details than Cobb Police have yet released, Rob Murdock said he doesn’t think it will answer his questions.

“I think it’s just another step,” he said. “We’re a long way from getting all the answers, especially as long as this whole process has taken so far.”

Even basic facts, such as what ultimately killed his son, have been kept from him, he said.

“The chief said I had no right to the autopsy report and I’d never get a copy of it,” he said.

The autopsy report, available under an Open Records request, contains a detailed description of the two gunshot wounds that took Matt Murdock’s life, a narrative of the events leading to his death and the results of a toxicoligy screen showing that he used meth.

Rob Murdock said he had no idea his son used drugs.

“I’m dumbfounded,” he said Friday.

The drug use may explain why a simple traffic stop turned deadly in a matter of minutes.

“Violent and erratic behavior is frequently seen among chronic abusers,” a Cobb County investigator quotes the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in a report on the Murdock shooting.

“Murdock’s behavior during his encounter with Sgt. Beasley and Officer Henry (grabbing his weapons permit, shoving his hands into his waistline, and refusing to comply with their commands for no apparently reason) could certainly be characterized as erratic,” the investigator writes.

***
On Nov. 10, the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office told the grand jury about the night of May 19, asking them if they believe the shooting was justified, as they do with all officer-involved shootings.

The grand jury, composed of Matt Murdock’s peers, said deadly force was justified in the Murdock case.

Rob Murdock didn’t even know about the hearing, much less get a chance to see the evidence that convinced a group of people to say a police officer was justified in shooting his son to death.

“The victim’s advocate office … never once shared with me that the case had been presented to a grand jury, and they found no culpability on the officer’s part.”

But now, the Cobb County Police Department has finished its investigation and will release its findings on April 9, concluding 10 months of silence and finally releasing their various of what happened the night of May 19, 2011.

But Matt Murdock’s sister, Nancie Wakefield, seems resigned that no matter what answers the family eventually gets, their life won’t be the same as before Matt Murdock pulled out onto Puckett Drive.

“We don’t get to go backwards. This is our lives now.”

Comments
(30)
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Pam J
|
April 02, 2012
In light of the Trayvon Martin shooting, dare I ask what race the policeman was who shot this guy? Because if he was black, I want to start a march to protest it.
Don't Shoot Me
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April 02, 2012
Boy, the MDJ quickly let this story drop off the front page of the online version and fall way down the chronological list of stories.

Why even cover it again if you are not really gonna keep the light on it, MDJ?

This story recounts ONLY the language from the police generated report...too much standard police "fudge" language to be anything other.

What about the shop owner who hit the deck, along with the other cop, when the shooting cop started swinging his gun around like a freak? ...where is the shop owners side of what he saw? Its not in the report, is it?

The grand jury only heard what Pat Head wanted them to hear. And rest assured he wanted them all to believe that this guy was just another wacked out meth head who deserved to have the police blow him away. (Note: District attorneys don't get re-elected often without the support of law enforcement)

Something stinks...and the cops certainly want us all to think that Murdock was just another meth head that was "acting erratic" (note that they never said he was acting "illegally").

BTW "a toxicology screen showing that he used meth" is not the same as saying that he was under the influence of meth at the time of the shooting. But having A Cobb investigator quotes the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in this report to introduce the "fudge" language to say “Violent and erratic behavior is frequently seen among chronic abusers,” almost makes someone who is not paying attention think that the cops are saying that Murdock was in fact high on meth at the time and really acting "erratic".

The police community has become very comfortable just blowing away peoples dogs when they enter a property. We should all be more than a little concerned that they not become more comfortable with just blowing away people.

Very sorry to see the MDJ try to get this story out of the light of day so quickly. Something still stinks with the Murdock case.

Your wrong
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April 05, 2012
"What about the shop owner who hit the deck, along with the other cop, when the shooting cop started swinging his gun around like a freak? ...where is the shop owners side of what he saw? Its not in the report, is it?"

This was all retracted from MDJ's original report. The guy admitted he lied to MDJ. He never witnessed what he said he did.

"BTW "a toxicology screen showing that he used meth" is not the same as saying that he was under the influence of meth at the time of the shooting."

The amount of Meth per cubic inch of blood is different than a test of the kidney or liver showing a presence of Meth after death. I.E. you can absolutely tell he was high and currently using Meth at the time of the incident.

Get your facts straight.
Oh and...
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April 05, 2012
"Boy, the MDJ quickly let this story drop off the front page of the online version and fall way down the chronological list of stories."

This was on the front page of the MDJ last week.
anonymous
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April 06, 2012
Your Wrong, you are the first person talking about anyone retracting their story concerning what they witnessed the night of Mr. Murdocks killing. I just don't believe that the law enforcement community would have allowed that bit of information to go quietly unannounced for all of this time...relying on you to point it out to us.

As for the test, tests are capable of providing info...BUT a test indicating "use of meth" is not the same as a test that says YES, HE WAS UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF DRUGS WHEN HE WAS KILLED. Please do not tell us that testing will not show hits of meth that was ingested by someone days prior.

Be sure you are not bamboozled, You Are Wrong.
Charles Rogers
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September 25, 2013
I know everything about this county MDJ because I used to work there and the typical answers the give to justify murdering someone that´s defenseless. Cobb has its reputation of covering up whatever murders they want because they don´t want their reputation stained. But since I am a murder witness against Cobb County Police in a string of murders since 1991 to 2001 which left two female friends of the Rat Pack 1991-1992 go missing, Glenn Turner murdered while his fellow officers admit to saying nothing about their suspicions which of course the foster brother of the 1991 victim in 1998. Well RIP Randy Thompson because I know that Mike Archer and David Dunkerton had every reason to help Lynn kill you but maybe she did act alone then. I just know she didn´t act alone in murdering Clodfelter and Turner.
Correct Assumption
|
April 01, 2012
Citizens are correct in their statement that the CCPD are trigger happy. I work for another law enforcement agency in Cobb County and it's common knowledge between other Cobb County agencies that the CCPD uses their firearms often when they are not necessary. It's unfortunate because it gives the rest of us a bad name.
hooie
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April 02, 2012
I an LEO in Cobb, but not Cobb PD. You're a fake, there's no such "common knowledge" because it is not true.
What The Heck?
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April 02, 2012
I am retired LE and agree with hooie, you are a fake! Your spreading false information in an attempt at smearing the PD. Get a life, your not a cop, just a cop wanta be.
ExCobbCop
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April 02, 2012
Ditto, that guy's a fake. When I worked for Cobb, every year during fire arms training the range staff would comment on how many times shooting someone would have been justified, but other means were used. Now in this case, who knows, I wasn't there and I haven't read the report.
truth hurts
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April 01, 2012
I bet the future scholar was on his way to the Shell station to get some skittles and tea!
anonymous
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March 31, 2012
A lot of itchy trigger fingers on the Cobb police force. I suspect we'll see an IA white wash on this and the case of the 18 year old gun downed this week.
concernedcits
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March 31, 2012
You have to understand that Beasley is a "Good Ole Boy" from the Sheriff's department. They are going to do whatever that they have to do to protect him. I'm sure it is the same for the Police officer.

If Beasley was on top of Murdock and holding him down, I don't understand the reasoning for the shooting. Even someone who isn't on drugs would be nervous and may accidentally do something like grab at there waist if the officer was on top of them hurting them. I would probably do the same thing. Does that mean that I deserve to be murdered? Please....this sounds like a cover up.

They are going to protect their own at all cost. Trust me, I know.

Be Careful
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March 31, 2012
No parent should live to see their child die.

My heart goes out to the Murdocks.

However, I'm baffled by their statement that they don't know why he died. After reading the police report included in the article, it's perfectly clear why he died.

Everybody knows police officers are armed.

All Matt had to do was stand there calmly and quietly and cooperate with the officers.

And for all those who are going to follow my comment with...well, they didn't have to shoot him...I say, you weren't there. No police officer WANTS to shoot someone. It's a potentially career ending move, and they all know it. Officers don't even want to unholster their guns because of all the paper work that results.
anonymous
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April 01, 2012
"All Matt had to do was stand there calmly and quietly and cooperate with the officers."

There was no discussion in this article of why the first officer left Mr. Murdock sitting there...by himself. The officer clearly felt comfortable enough that Murdock did not pose a threat.

Don't get bamboozled by the standard crap words from the police about "use of drugs" and "erratic behavior", folks.

Do keep asking yourself why this case has taken sooooooo loooong to complete. I know of know shooting that have ever been so complex that they are not resolved within a matter of weeks...unless the police have killed someone...and they have no good reason for having done so.
Drugs are bad
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March 31, 2012
Dont do drugs. One way or another drugs will kill you. Just another example of someone not listening and paying the ultimate price.
anonymous
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April 01, 2012
Drugs are bad, ...really? That is what you distill this entire situation down to?
Steven b
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March 31, 2012
Slam dunk nothing to see here people, move along...Anytime the police are involved it is squashed. Warren didn't want dad to see the autopsy report? Really? WHY? This case just seems wrong on many different aspects. He needs to hire a high powered attorney and go after them.

Cops have batons and pepper spray, why do they reach for their gun first? Are they wimps?

How many people in Cobb have been killed by cops??

Perhaps we need to get the Feds involved
tragedy
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March 31, 2012
I am so sorry for your loss. Unfortunately, you will find that Internal Affairs have actually spent this time providing cover for any responsbility the department had in this horrible tragedy. The citizens of Cobb, in an effort to back up the police and get tough on crime, have inadvertently contributed to lawlessness on the part of the department. Thoughts with your family during this difficult time.
lownotz
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March 31, 2012
this is typical Cobb County Police Dept BS. They kill innocent people and doctor the results to protect their own.
Drugs Kill
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March 31, 2012
The drug use may explain why a simple traffic stop turned deadly in a matter of minutes.

“Violent and erratic behavior is frequently seen among chronic abusers,” a Cobb County investigator quotes the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in a report on the Murdock shooting.

“Murdock’s behavior during his encounter with Sgt. Beasley and Officer Henry (grabbing his weapons permit, shoving his hands into his waistline, and refusing to comply with their commands for no apparently reason) could certainly be characterized as erratic,” the investigator writes.

So why is this being questioned?
anonymous
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April 01, 2012
RE: "tested positive for meth use" -- this does not mean that he was under the influence of meth at the time of the killing. Could mean only that he had indications of having used the drug in the past.
anonymous please
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April 03, 2012
Anonymous,

The toxicology performed on a body isn't like the piss test your employer would give you in order to tell if you have used drugs. In that case, you'd could be right... a positive result in urine doesn't necessarily equate to the drug being psychoactive in a person's system.

However, during an autopsy... a toxicology would be performed using a blood sample. If the blood has metabolites of a particular drug in it, or "test positive for meth...", then it would prove that the drug was psychoactive at time time of the death.
anonymous
|
April 06, 2012
Anonymous please, are you telling us that he was in fact under the influence of drugs at the time of the shooting?

All of your talk about the autopsy testing doesn't tell us that. And neither do the police reports say that. As a long time observer of how law enforcement puts information out to the public (kinda like Goebbels used to put information out...they give you the impression they mean something that in fact they do not--but that they want you to think), I can tell you they never hold back on telling the public when someone was was under the influence of drugs when in fact they were actually under the influence of drugs. Nor do they hold off telling the public that a person was committing a crime when they were actually committing a crime.

Tim Lee's Gestapo
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March 31, 2012
The whole mentality of Cobb Police is shoot first, ask questions later. How many young men have been killed by Tim Lee's Gestapo?

COBB - Count On Being Busted!
anonymous
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March 31, 2012
-“The chief said I had no right to the autopsy report and I’d never get a copy of it,” he said.-

THIS is a statement , that if true, should be the sole reason for firing the chief. Cobb county deserves better than a police force of officers with an "FU joe public" attitude that makes them feel it is A OKAY to blow a citizen away and then stand back and boldly assert the cocky arrogance that only a government thug could ever imagine having the balls to do. This is not the kind of talk of a real "professional".

Cobb EMC is getting cleaned out today. CCPD may be the next place to start a good cleaning out.

God bless the MDJ for not forgetting this shooting. Something has always smelled real bad about it. And the total silence of the law enforcement people only highlighted the stinky smell (the police are always ready to let any negative details of the person who has been shot out to the public ASAP). The “You have a very complex case where you have to look at all aspects of the the shooting,” talk from Sgt. Dana Pierce may go fine in Atlanta or Chicago or New York...but Cobb County deserves better.

Concerned Citizen
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April 23, 2012
Just wanted to leave a bit of information here. I am under the influence of methamphetamines every day. They are "psychoactive" in my system about 12 hours a day. Am I a drug addict? Nope. Presribed by my doctor. I can legally operate a motor vehicle, and do.

"Cold, hard, facts" presented in the preliminary reports give just a piece of information. I wonder if the police investigation contacted Matt's doctors to see a list of prescribed medication.

More questions than answers.

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