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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Matthew Hoffman: Man Killed by Cops Had Sent Text Messages to Officers Asking Disturbing Questions

Posted By on Wed, Jan 7, 2015 at 7:11 AM

click to enlarge SFPD Chief Greg Suhr addresses the Mission District community at a town hall meeting on 17th and Guerrero streets Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015. - MICHAEL BARBA
  • Michael Barba
  • SFPD Chief Greg Suhr addresses the Mission District community at a town hall meeting on 17th and Guerrero streets Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015.

The man police shot and killed this weekend 
had showed signs of distress months before he allegedly goaded police in the Mission District into shooting him dead in an apparent suicide by cop. 

At a town hall meeting last night, Chief Greg Suhr said that Matthew Hoffman, 32, sent a number of "disturbing" text messages to a Norwalk, Conn. police officer in March, asking the officer "what would happen if a person would point a fake gun at a cop, from six feet away.

"What if the person told the cop he was going to shoot the cop after a count of three," he continued in the text message, which prompted the officer to believe that Hoffman might be "a little unstable and off his medications."

Two police officers fired 10 shots at Hoffman Sunday evening after he pulled out what appeared to be a gun while in a restricted parking lot at the SFPD Mission Station. Hoffman was hit by bullets once in his upper body, once in the forearm, and another time in the leg. The other seven shots missed the man, according to Suhr.

Hoffman died later that night at San Francisco General Hospital. It was later discovered that Hoffman had been carrying a toy gun. 

Along with an airsoft pistol that he brandished to officers, police found several apparent suicide notes on Hoffman's phone addressed to the officer or officers who he had hoped would shoot and kill him, his father and his former girlfriend, according to Suhr. SFPD is still attempting to locate the woman.

click to enlarge MICHAEL BARBA
  • Michael Barba
"You did nothing wrong," Hoffman wrote to the officers. "You ended the life of a man who was too much of a coward to do it himself. I provoked you. I threatened your life as well as the lives of those around me."

At noon on Sunday, five hours before Hoffman was shot dead, Hoffman called his father to thank him for all he had done for him, according to Suhr.

“His father became immediately concerned for his son’s safety,” said Suhr. “But he was reassured when his son told him he was planning to go to work the next day.”

But he never made it to work. Two hours later, Hoffman began to approach SFPD officers at 16th and Mission streets, asking them what weapons they carried, the caliber of their guns, and if they had ever shot anyone do death.

The officers "noticed that Mr. Hoffman was following closely," said Suhr. "They sat in their marked police car and they noticed Hoffman watching them. They left the scene, Mr. Hoffman was left behind. The next time they saw Mr. Hoffman was at the officer-involved shooting."

At about 5:18 p.m. on Sunday, three police sergeants noticed Hoffman sitting on a planter box inside the restricted parking lot at the Mission Station, according to Suhr.  "This is not an uncommon event in the parking lot at Mission Station where some people wander in thinking it’s a public parking lot," said Suhr.

Instead of walking away, Hoffman blocked the driveway to the parking lot and stared down the officers, prompting them to get out of their patrol cars, according to Suhr. The officers asked him "many times" to pull his hands out of his sweatshirt pockets, but he instead lifted his shirt and pulled out his fake pistol, pointing it at the officers.

The cops responded by firing 10 rounds at Hoffman, said Suhr. The officers found a black Colt airsoft pistol with a 3.5-inch barrel and orange marking that had been blocked out with black to make the gun appear authentic.

Suhr said the incident was caught on police surveillance. “As soon as the investigation is closed I would imagine we can make it public,” he said. “The video that we have does show the engagement, (but) he cannot be seen as he moves underneath the trees.”

click to enlarge Mesha Irizarry questions SFPD Chief Greg Suhr on the shooting death of 32-year-old Matthew Hoffman at a town hall meeting Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015. - MICHAEL BARBA
  • Michael Barba
  • Mesha Irizarry questions SFPD Chief Greg Suhr on the shooting death of 32-year-old Matthew Hoffman at a town hall meeting Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015.
Attendees of the town hall meeting held Tuesday evening by San Francisco police at 17th and Guerrero streets were skeptical of the officers' rights to use force and the suicide notes allegedly found on the man's phone.

“This is not genuine from a suicidal person,” said anti-police brutality activist Mesha Irizarry about the contents of Hoffman’s suicide note. “‘I’m too much of a coward to do this so thank you for doing it for me.’ That sounds strange to many people.”

Police were unsure as to where Hoffman lived and worked, according to Suhr, though they were able to confirm his previous residence in Connecticut. Hoffman had a valid pistol permit and a Ruger pistol registered in his name. 

“That sounds to me like officers are firing directly on Valencia street, that’s a very common thoroughfare,” said Jeremy Miller, an attendee of the town hall meeting. “What safeguards were place? I’m grateful that no one else was hit especially if only three of the bullets hit the unfortunate victim."

Both police officers who were involved in the shooting are  "doing well" since the incident, said Suhr, though the more senior officer with 28 years of service was holding it together better than the officer of six years.

Meanwhile, the police investigation is ongoing.
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