Following a state autopsy, local authorities believe the man who shot and critically wounded a Saraland policewoman last month took his own life after opening fire on two officers responding to a domestic disturbance call that quickly turned violent.
Matthew Blake Richardson, 27, was no stranger to the Saraland Police Department. In fact, Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich said in 2016 alone, the SPD responded to at least 13 “domestic incidents” at the Saraland residence Richardson shared with his grandparents.
“Upon going to the home and speaking with the grandparents, they knew Matthew Richardson was armed — as he’d been armed on numerous occasions when they had responded to that location,” Rich said. “They approached the door and asked Richardson to come out, but before he did, he racked his gun, stuck his hand out of the door and fired on the officers.”
The responding officers were Jackie Tucker and her partner, Ron Hannah.According to police, One of the shots Richardson fired struck Tucker in the head, critically wounding her. Hannah then returned fire while dragging Tucker to safety “behind a patrol car” under what Rich described as a “barrage of gunfire” from Richardson.
On Friday, Rich said an autopsy revealed only one of the “six or seven” shots Hannah fired from his service revolver struck Richardson — penetrating the suspect’s arm and passing into his rib cage. However, Rich said the shot wasn’t fatal.
“Matthew Blake Richardson committed suicide by shooting himself in the head after he’d been shot by officer Hannah,” she added.
One of the things that remains unclear is the type of weapon Richardson used when he opened fire on the officers last month. According to Rich, that’s partially because the bullet that struck officer Tucker was never recovered from the scene.
As others have reported, some of Richardson’s previous social media posts indicated both a disdain for law enforcement and an interest in firearms, which Rich said Richardson owned “a number of.”
“We believe he shot himself with a .40 caliber Glock, but what gun he used to fire on officer Tucker is unclear,” she said. “[He] had many guns in his possession, and in the home, there were so many different types of shell casings that we have no evidence to prove what type of weapon he fired.”
Though officials declined to get into specifics about the type repeated domestic incidents that occurred at Richardson’s residence, she said they’d occurred frequently enough for the SPD to become familiar with the suspect and his grandparents.
According to Rich, on many occasions, the family would bypass 911 and call the SPD’s dispatch directly. Officers had been able to diffuse previous incidents, even when Richardson had been armed.
Rich said the family was so familiar with the SPD they would sometimes “request a specific officer” to respond, which the department would accommodate when possible. It’s unclear at this point if anything like that occurred before the Dec. 21, 2016 exchange of gunfire.
As back up arrived on the scene on the day of the shooting, Tucker was immediately transported to a hospital in Mobile for medical treatment. Despite recent “rumors” of Tucker’s condition improving enough to be released from the hospital, Saraland Police Chief J.C. West told reporters today Tucker was still being treated in the intensive care unit as of Jan. 13.
“She is still struggling but making some small steps, and we anticipate her to be in that status for at least two more weeks,” West said. “We still need everybody praying for officer Tucker. Her condition, hopefully, will continue to improve, but it’s going to be a roller coaster, some ups and downs and a slow process.”
Out of respect for the family, officials declined to give additional details about Tucker’s medical condition. For the same reasons, Rich said body camera footage captured on the scene by Hannah would not be released.
“If any charges were to be filed, they would have been filed against Matthew Richardson, and he is now deceased,” she said. “This case is closed, and there’s no reason for that video to ever been seen or disclosed.”
Following SPD protocol, Officer Hannah was placed on administrative leave as the incident was investigated, which is common following any officer-involved shooting. He has since returned to the force after completing evaluations to ensure he was “ready and fit to go back into duty.”
Like the city of Saraland, West said his department is small and close knit, and with only 45 sworn officers, he said Tucker’s shooting and recovery have affected the entire force.
“I come from a department with over 500 officers, and you can see the difference. They’re all tight,” he said. “We’re a family, and we love each other. Every night we go to bed thinking about Jackie. I want our young lady out of that hospital.”
While the experience has been difficult, West said the entire department and the community have pulled together since Tucker was shot. Continuing, he said the support from the community has been “overwhelming to see.”
So far, residents from throughout Mobile County and beyond have helped raise money through the crowdsourcing website like Go Fund Me, and local businesses have also gotten involved.
FM Talk 106.5 radio host Sean Sullivan is selling “Back the Blue” bracelets to raise money, and on Tuesday, Jan. 17, Wintzell’s Oyster House is giving 10 percent of all the proceeds at its Saraland location directly to the Tucker family.
West said other events are still in the works as well.
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