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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Matthew Hoffman Suicide-By-Cop Case: Exonerating The Officers Who Kill You

     If you threaten a police officer with a fake gun, you will get shot by a real one.

     Around noon on Sunday January 4, 2015, Matthew Hoffman approached several police officers at San Francisco's Mission District police station with questions about the kinds of firearms and ammunition they carried. The 32-year-old was friendly and unthreatening.

     At five-fifteen that evening, three sergeants came upon Mr. Hoffman standing in an employee-only area of the police station parking lot. The officers informed the intruder he didn't belong there and asked him to leave.

     Upon being told he was trespassing, Mr. Hoffman, without turning from the officers, backed away with his hands in his sweater pockets. The officers told Hoffman to show his hands. Instead of complying with the police command, Hoffman lifted his sweater revealing, above his waistband, the handle of a firearm.

    When Hoffman reached for his weapon, the officers opened fire, hitting him three times. Shortly after the shooting, the sergeants discovered that the man had been in possession of an Airsoft pellet gun that wasn't equipped with an orange-tipped muzzle.

     The seriously wounded man underwent emergency surgery at San Francisco General Hospital but died later that night. The officers who shot him were placed on paid administrative leave pending the results of an internal investigation.

     On Hoffman's cellphone, investigators discovered a message to the police that read: "Dear Officers: I provoked you. I threatened your life as well as the lives of others around me. You did nothing wrong. You ended the life of a man who was too much of a coward to do it himself. You were completely within your legal  rights to do what you did. God made a mistake with me. Please take solace in knowing that the situation was out of your control. You had no other choice."

     In the typical suicide-by-cop case, investigators have to infer the shooting victim's motive through his mental history and provocative behavior toward the officer. In this case, Matthew Hoffman left nothing to the imagination. Mr. Hoffman, on his cellphone, had described himself as "lonely" and "hopeless." Beyond that, why he no longer wanted to live will probably remain a mystery.  

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