Victim of police shooting was a father working at seniors' home but 'struggling with poverty': video

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By Selena Ross, CTV Montreal

MONTREAL — A family friend of the man who was shot and killed by Montreal police on Thursday says he worked at a seniors’ home, though he struggled with poverty.

Sheffield Matthews, 41, was also a father, and he spent nearly all his earnings on his children, to the extent that he sometimes went hungry, said Sabrina Folland in a video posted on Facebook on Friday afternoon.

“I want people to know who he was, and I don’t want him to be painted…as something that he’s not,” said Folland, who described Matthews as “a very good family friend.”

Matthews, who was Black, died early Thursday after police shot him on a thoroughfare in the NDG borough in west-end Montreal.

He was in crisis and wielding a knife when officers drove up around 6 a.m., according to the police watchdog agency, which is now investigating how police handled the case. The officers stepped out of their vehicle and ended up shooting him. 

"I just don’t really want to talk too much about the situation, but I want to talk about Sheffield’s character,” said Folland, who cried throughout the video. 

She said she didn’t want him to simply be “transformed” into a narrative of “someone who was was just suffering with mental illness and wasn’t doing well and that racist police shot him.”

She said Matthews was a gentle person overall who had a really dark moment.

“Sheffield was working in an old folks' home, taking care of old people,” she said.

“He was so kind, so thoughtful, you know, working in that environment—it's not always easy and a lot of people don't want to do it. But he did it and he did it well.”

 

 

A FATHER TRYING TO MAKE ENDS MEET

Matthews also did some home renovations and house-painting on the side, and he would often throw in extra favours at the same time, she said, if he saw something broken or run-down. 

“He would go out of his way,” she said. “He wouldn’t charge you extra—he would just do that out of his own integrity.”

Despite his various jobs, “he was struggling with poverty” as well as some “abuse” from people in his life, Folland said, though she didn’t specify what it was. She didn’t respond to a request for more information.

“He never complained. He worked hard,” she said in the video.

“He often was a beacon of hope and life for people who come from that background, who come from a background of poverty, to just endure it and to make it and to make something out of his life.”

She said he had kids to whom he was dedicated, and that most of his earnings went to them. 

Money was a major struggle in general for Matthews, she said, and his employers “would underpay him.”

“He would give like 80 per cent to his kids—he wouldn't even have enough to eat or to take care of himself the way he deserved to be taken care of,” she said.

'CONSUMED WITH SADNESS'

Still, he wasn’t generally “off and on” with his mental health, she said, nor was he violent—he was “a peaceful man,” and the crisis early Thursday was unusual for him.

“I don't know what happened at this moment—if he was just consumed by sadness—but it wasn't Sheffield's true character at all. He was so far from that,” she said.

“We've all had that moment where we're consumed with sadness and darkness and anger and pain and we don't feel well,” she said. 

“And that was that moment. He wasn't a sick man.”

At one point, Folland said that Matthews wasn’t into gangs or drugs. She barely spoke about police actions, but said she didn’t want the way he died to overshadow his personality or accomplishments.

“I just want people to know that Sheffield was more than just a statistic,” she said. 

“He was a person that took responsibilty for things and he worked hard and gave his best.” 

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