“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.
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.
“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.
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.”