hearts and minds

August 6, 2006

R.I.P. Matthew Sheridan

Filed under: police and the people,Race hate crime,War on Drugs — Hearts & Minds @ 3:26 pm

A plastic bag, designed to be impermeable and to prevent any (potentially toxic) air from getting inside the bag and then to the lungs, was yanked roughly over his head.

He couldn’t get the bag off, or tear it open, or even make a little opening to let some air in, because his ankles were bound and his hands were bound behind his back, and he was shackled where he was seated. He said over and over, “I can’t breathe”, and he begged for help. He was terrified, he struggled, and he desperately needed help to live. But no help came. He lost consciousness. And then he died, not old enough to count yet as an adult, in the back seat of a Mequon police car.

The Coroner officially declared the cause of death was asphyxia. That sounds right. The Coroner also declared it was an accident. That doesn’t sound right. It’s not an ‘accident’ when a person, bound hand and foot, with a plastic bag secured over his head, dies due to lack of oxygen. You fall off a ladder, that’s probably an accident. You skid on a patch of black ice, that’s an accident. You die for lack of air with your hands and feet bound and an airtight bag pulled over your head, that’s not an accident. That’s a homicide, and the Coroner should leave the work of determining the nature of the homicide to a jury of citizens, as the law provides.

The Coroner also saw fit to officially declare that the airtight bag was placed over the victim’s head because he was spitting. Was there physical evidence of this that the Coroner collected at the scene? Or was this speculation? Was the Coroner simply repeating without independent examination what he was told by someone? Was Matthew just trying to clear his mouth and lips of the dirt on the side of the road his face had just moments earlier been shoved into? Was the bag put over the head of the deceased victim just to silence him? Was it an emulation of the video images of the abuse of ‘detainees’ raked off the streets and out of the homes in Iraq? Was it an excessive, unnecessary use of force? Why not do an unbiased, objective official investigation and report?

Of course, it’s not particularly relevant whether he did or did not spit, since spitting, while sometimes rashly employed as an expression of frustration and contempt for an injustice, and considered obnoxious by polite society, is not an offense that is legally punishable by on-the-spot summary execution. Not even under the cruel archaic code of Leviticus. Come to think of it, riding with friends who are DWB (driving while black) is not a legitimate excuse for stopping a car and searching without a warrant, unless our Constitutional Bill of Rights have been repealed while I wasn’t looking.

Police work isn’t easy, and it can be dangerous. It can also be dangerous being a high-spirited kid encountering police who lack respect for human life and basic rights.

It doesn’t take specialized formal training for anyone of reasonable intelligence to know that placing an airtight bag over the head of a person manacled head and foot will kill that person. Whitewashing this stain by simply paying police officers to attend hours of classes cautioning them not to put plastic bags over the heads of people in handcuffs would insult the intelligence of professional police officers who respect life and the responsibility with which they are entrusted. For generations, every toddler in America has been warned repeatedly by parents and teachers about the danger of putting plastic bags over their own or their playmate’s heads.

It is time to come out of the shadows and stop pretending that you just didn’t see. It is not ‘premature’ to speak up now. Did not this young man have a right-to-life? Pulling that bag over the head of an untrained person bound hand and foot is the same as pointing a loaded gun at his head at point blank range and pulling the trigger, except that asphyxiation takes several minutes to kill. Did Matthew Sheridan die due to “an accident” caused by lack of training, or due to inexcusable official misconduct, criminal negligence and disregard for life? Or did Matthew die from extra-judicial punishment meted out on the street? The answer is blowing in the wind.

July 22, 2004

An Inquest into the death of Matthew Sheridan was held on September 20 and 21 at the Ozaukee County Justice Center. See “Examining an Inquest” for a sequel to this story.


  1. I’ve been one of Shakey’s best friends for most of his life. I just received a link to this site and was shocked that the news is still circulating. Everyone who was in his life knew he had that certain uniqueness about him. That for every ten faces you are acquainted with, there’s only one of his type of personality. I’ve grown up in Mequon since I was a grade-schooler and this has been the furthest step over the line the Mequon Police have ever taken. However, there are hundreds of stories kids living in this community could release to have others further understand how closely Police today dance to that line in which we do not feel PROTECTED by them but TARGETED by them. Rest In Peace my friend. You’ll never be forgotten and always remembered for what you really were. Toxic Glue.

    Comment by Ross — November 29, 2006 @ 12:39 am | Reply

  2. matthew sheridan was my cousins cousin
    i think what happened to him was horrible and unforgettable
    R.I.P Matthew

    Comment by gabby — December 11, 2006 @ 2:31 pm | Reply

  3. I’m friends with Matt’s cousin, and his sister somewhat. What happened to him was absolutely awful – but worse still is that fact that the m…f… who did this isn’t getting … brutally raped in a prison. We can only hope that his deeds will catch up with him. There is always retribution whether it be by God or man, and this officer will have to face his sooner or later.

    Comment by Steve — January 20, 2007 @ 3:02 pm | Reply

  4. matt is and always will be my cousin. this june marks the third year that matt’s been gone, and i miss him like crazy. yeah im younger and maybe i didnt know him as well as my older sister, but he was still my cousin. anyways, i was searching just to see if there was anything new dealing with this story, and was happy to see that people still remember him and they still care. there isnt a day that goes by that i dont think about matt or the man that killed him. hell, i cant drive past a mequon police officer, or any police officer for that matter, without being scared out of my mind.

    we miss you matt. always remember. never forget.

    Comment by Alyssa — June 1, 2007 @ 12:32 am | Reply

  5. http://www.prisonplanet.com

    Matt was one of my best friends up north. We did many crazy things, never hurt anyone though. The local police had his name in their file already and targeted him, this is outrageous, and things like this happen daily. When it hits home is a lot more scary being around gestapo police who are using more and more force every day on people who are not resisting or a threat IE Andrew Meyer from USF on youtube getting tazed for asking Kerry that hooknose, coward, NWO, scumbag … coward nothing nobody about skull and bones society and if he’s in it and the goon squad of cops go right to attack mode. I fear for our country and where it’s going. Know this, they work for US, and I’m not scared of THEM. It should be the other way around if they want to be above the law, we outnumber them. Citizen’s arrest. RIP Matthew. I know you’re at peace now bro.

    Comment by Ryan B — December 10, 2007 @ 7:06 pm | Reply

  6. i also was friends with matt and his sis …. shakey didnt deserve all that, those **** mequon **** deserve the same thing they put him through. RIP matt

    Comment by Pat — April 3, 2008 @ 4:29 pm | Reply

  7. I’ve heard this is a painful way to die. I guarantee you that group of cops were laughing at how they had brutilized that kid as he was dying because thats what people in groups or gangs do. If it was my kid….

    Comment by Mark A — June 16, 2008 @ 5:32 pm | Reply

  8. I do not post comments sent anonymously from an invalid email address, unless the sender requests and has good reason for anonymity. My usual practice is to post only the senders first name and last initial.

    Comment by clydewinter — May 22, 2009 @ 5:14 pm | Reply

  9. I kicked it with Matt only two or three times but recognized what a great soul he was. He was taken way to early and robbed of a chance to live a great life. He was at the age of finding his true self. I’m sure your rocking it out wherever you are Matt. Your memory will live on.

    Comment by TommyV — March 4, 2010 @ 7:54 am | Reply

  10. I find myself still thinking about Matt from time to time, and it is comforting to read some of the comments here from his friends that refer to simple things that I remember like his nickname and screen name he used to use; things some people would only remember. I miss him and will never forget him.

    Comment by Vanessa — November 4, 2010 @ 5:57 am | Reply

  11. thinking of Matt’s loved ones today. My brother was smothered to death by cops in 2015

    Comment by anne — June 19, 2019 @ 9:57 am | Reply

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