A split grand jury decided it would not bring charges against an Eagle Point, Oregon police officer who fatally shot a jaywalker in the back after following him into a restaurant bathroom.
Officer Daniel Cardenas and his backup CJ Davis were justified in the shooting death of 33-year-old Matthew Thayer Graves, who they caught jaywalking, because they thought he had a gun, the grand jury decided 5-2.
The Sept. 19 incident began when Cardenas, who was patrolling southbound on Highway 62, observed Graves, who was on foot, start to cross the highway in front of him against the light in the crosswalk.
Cardenas pulled a U-turn in his cruiser to talk to him, according to Heckert.
“Originally all that Officer Cardenas wanted to do was talk with Mr. Graves about the dangers of crossing Highway 62 against the light,” Heckert said.
Mail Tribune reports: When Cardenas tried to talk with Graves, the latter walked away and yelled at the officer, “You are not following me, f— you.”
Cardenas testified that he followed Graves to the Carl’s Jr. restaurant at 78 W. Linn Road, where Graves immediately went into the bathroom.
When Graves refused to comply with Cardenas’ commands to show his hands, a struggle ensued. Davis arrived as backup. Cardenas used his Taser on Graves, but it had “little effect,” Heckert wrote of Cardenas’ testimony.
Graves punched Davis in the face, knocking him to the floor. Cardenas took Graves down. The Taser fell to the floor.
“Officer Davis stated ‘There’s a gun’ and Officer Cardenas asked ‘You have a gun?’ to which Officer Davis stated ‘There’s a gun,’” Heckert wrote of Cardenas’ testimony. “
At that time, Officer Cardenas testified he believed Matthew Graves had a gun and was about to shoot Officer Davis. Officer Cardenas observed both of Officer Davis’ hands trapping Matthew Graves’ hands and he saw the butt of a gun. Officer Cardenas then drew his firearm and shot Matthew Graves twice in the back area.”
Deputy State Medical Examiner Dr. James Olson testified the two bullets Cardenas fired entered Graves’ left upper back and right upper back. There were also two Taser dart marks, one on the upper left chest and the other on the left forearm.
The grand jury deliberated for 15 minutes before announcing its decision, Heckert wrote.
Graves had not consumed alcohol or drugs that night, according to toxicology reports, but in earlier news reports Graves’ family members have stated that he struggled with schizophrenia and often talked to himself.
Bodycam footage will be released Thursday. Family members will be given time to view the video privately before its release to the media.
Graves’ sister Laurie Bentson said the family is still reeling from their sudden loss five weeks ago, while Matt Graves was on a walk to get hamburgers at Carl’s Jr.
Bentson’s 18-year-old son, Jeremy, is still living with his grandparents in Eagle Point and helping with the chores that Matt Graves once did for the family.
Laurie Bentson said she understood the grand jury would only look at the less than two minutes of footage in the bathroom in determining whether the shooting was justified, but the bigger issue for her is “all the moments that led up to that interaction.”
“They are leaders in the community, and we trust them,” Bentson said. “What are those choices that led from A to B?”
She wondered aloud whether police could have done something differently.
“Those decisions for me are something that should be reviewed.”
Bentson’s husband, Brian Bentson, who’s known Matt Graves for 25 years, said he wants to see the bodycam video, though he’s not looking forward to hearing the footage. The camera was reportedly knocked to the ground, so the body cam mainly records the sound of Graves’ death.
“It breaks my heart,” Bentson said. “And for everybody in the restaurant that heard it that night.”