A couple dozen protesters spent much of the afternoon Friday, Sept. 25, at the intersection of Nuevo Road and Perris Boulevard, a heavily traveled intersection just under a mile north of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department’s Perris Station, where a sheriff’s deputy who shot 18-year-old Matthew Tucker in 2016, now works.
Meesha Moghaddam, one of the protesters in Perris, said the first time she heard Tucker’s name was at a vigil for George Floyd in front of Temecula City Hall at the end of May, where she heard a woman reciting a poem about Tucker and his story.
“When she was reading that poem, I looked up his story, and I couldn’t find anything,” Moghaddam said. “There were no news articles – there were a couple with very vague information, but it wasn’t a big story.”
Protesters involved in weeks of Black Lives Matter demonstrations that took place over the summer at the Temecula Duck Pond began circulating a petition calling for the immediate firing of Michael Hamilton, the deputy who shot Tucker.
Moghaddan said she and many of the other protesters were demonstrating in Perris “to let the people of Perris know who Michael Hamilton is and know that Michael Hamilton works for them, because these people don’t know. It’s big news in Temecula now, but the people of Perris have no idea. They have no idea that the guy who killed Matthew Tucker works for them.”
According to media reports from a lawsuit filed against the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department over Tucker’s death, Riverside County Sheriff’s deputies Michael Hamilton and Rosa Calderon responded to a call May 4, 2016, that Tucker was depressed and suicidal.
When the officers arrived, Courthouse News reported in 2018, Matthew’s mother Jenny Tucker told them her son was depressed, had a knife and was seeking “suicide by cop.”
While contacting Tucker, some sort of altercation ensued, and Hamilton fired his weapon.
Hamilton said during the civil suit trial that Tucker did not respond to commands to drop his knife and lunged at officers.
The Tuckers’ attorney argued that officers should have tried to get a handle on the situation using nonlethal methods and that deadly force should’ve been “the last option,” especially because they were already aware Matthew Tucker was suicidal.
A federal jury later cleared both Hamilton and Calderon of any wrongdoing during the civil suit trial.
Tucker’s brother said in an op-ed in The Washington Post in June that his family was forced to pay the sheriff’s department’s legal fees.
“The system also punished my family by ordering my parents to pay almost $18,000 in legal costs,” Tucker’s brother said in his op-ed.
Protesters at the Perris demonstration said it was unconscionable that no one involved in Tucker’s death should face any consequences.
“The cop is still out in the streets, living his best life, and there’s no justice,” Ashley Kampf, a protester, said. “So no justice, no peace.”
Kampf said she knew Tucker and drove all the way from Phoenix to show her support. She said while it was good to see newfound attention for Tucker’s case, the reason behind it is far less than ideal.
“It’s really sad that it keeps happening,” Kampf said. “When it happened to him, it wasn’t on the news a lot and stuff, not a lot of people knew about it.”
Amir Hassan Gates, one of the protest organizers, said while he hoped to see more people show up than the 20 or so who were present around 3 p.m., he was happy to be giving attention to Tucker’s case.
“We’re hoping for a bigger turnout, but it doesn’t matter if it’s two or five (people), if it’s just our group out here,” Gates said.
Josh Crawford, a protester from Temecula, said he was there because “I’m just so sick of cops getting away with murder.”
“I’m here for the change,” he said. “I’m here for my brothers and sisters here, and we’re just here to make a difference, make a change, and people just need to be educated why we’re saying Black lives matter. Y’all want to talk about get used to Trump, but the thing is, you better get used to us being here, and we’ve had enough, and we’re gonna vote him out, and we’re gonna vote for the people who can’t vote. We’re gonna do this for Breonna Taylor. We’re gonna do this for Matthew Tucker, Elijah McClain, Andres Guardado, George Floyd, the list goes on and on.”
The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.
Will Fritz can be reached by email at email@example.com.