Man killed after leading officers on chase in NC, SC identified

David Whisenant | WBTV
David Whisenant | WBTV

KINGS MOUNTAIN, NC (WBTV) - A man who was fatally shot by police in Kings Mountain after he reportedly was involved in a hit and run in North Carolina and led multiple law enforcement agencies on a chase through two states has been identified.

According to a spokesperson with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, a police officer began following a vehicle driven by 26-year-old Matthew Whitley who was believed to be involved in a hit and run in Gastonia Thursday morning.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol came across the vehicle and attempted to stop Whitley. Officials say the chase continued down Highway 321 into South Carolina where the York County sheriff's Officer and Clover police joined the chase.

Whitley reportedly shot at officers during the chase in South Carolina.That's when he reportedly drove back into North Carolina and Gaston County deputies and troopers continued chasing the man.

When the driver got into Kings Mountain, officials say Whitley reportedly jumped out of the car and started to run. As he ran away, officials say he fired shots over his shoulder at officers. When he came to the corner of Branch Street, he reportedly stopped and pointed his weapon at two Kings Mountain police officers.

Both officers fired shots at Whitley, killing him. No other people were injured in the shooting.

"What led up to… beside the hit and run. What was the shooting who shot first?" Matthew Whitley's brother John asked. "This don't sound like my brother."

Family members said the 26 year old used to get in trouble with the law. They said he changed once he was released from prison in January 2016 after serving time for felon in possession of a firearm.

"He was a different person – everybody deserves a second chance," John Whitley said. "Anybody can change right  - and he did change. There were some changes in him. The way he lived, his lifestyle everything."

Matthew Whitley's mother, through tears, said she had a message for people.

"We've got a lot of questions but I just want everybody to know that he's my son and regardless of the mistakes he might have made or didn't make or has made in the past it does not matter to us that we all love him," Jan Whitley said.

She added, "it's heart wrenching to know that your son is no longer with you. He had a heart of gold and he did not deserve this."

"I just hope that people take this as maybe a warning or something," Jan Whitley said. "Just please please if you're going down the wrong path or whatever – just please change your life around. Give it to God please."

Relatives have set up a GoFundMe account to help the family pay for funeral expenses.

Matthew Whitley's fiance said Thursday morning he was driving her car, and was on the way to pick her up to take her to work.

Miranda Davenport said when she she saw her car on the news, she and her fiance's mother went to the scene to find out what happened. Shortly after, she was informed her fiance was the driver who led police on the chase and was shot and killed.

"I talked to witnesses where it happened and they said he didn't get out of the car shooting," Davenport said. ""We want the body cam. We want the videos and they're saying it's going to be three months. That's not okay."

A police source said a weapon was found at the scene.

"He was my Matt. He was full of life. He could always make you smile. He could make you mad but as soon as he made you mad he had you laughing," Davenport said. "And, he had a big heart he would help anybody no matter what they did to him. He was always there."

Relatives said they can't reconcile police's account of the man shooting at officer with the Matthew they knew.

"I really don't get that… I don't get that," his brother John said. "Not Matt. Not the way he is now from where he used to be. No, I don't see him doing it maybe back then."

Two Clover police officers and two York County deputies also fired at the suspect when he was in South Carolina. He also crashed into two patrol cars, according to Sheriff Tolson.

The two deputies and the two police officers are on administrative leave pending the investigation. That makes six officers who fired shots.

One Clover officer was injured when the suspect was driving by. He was taken to the hospital with head and arm injuries, but has been released. No other officers were injured.

Officials with the NC Bureau of Investigation were able to recover body camera video and dash cam footage from the incident.

This statement was released Friday:

"As always, please keep the family and Kings Mountain community as a whole in your thoughts."

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