I know why Matthew Rushin said he wished he was dead, and why that was the furthest thing from admitting to trying to commit suicide via car accident.
Who Is Matthew Rushin
Matthew Rushin is a young Black man diagnosed with ADHD, Asperger’s, and anxiety disorder. Due to a car accident that nearly took his life, he incurred several serious injuries including Traumatic Brain Injury and two collapsed lungs, which caused him to remain in the hospital, unconscious, for several days. Although I don’t know if he was officially diagnosed with PTSD from the incident, it’s hard to imagine that wasn’t a highly traumatic experience for him.
Two years after the accident, he went to go to Panera, where he worked, to get pastries. On his way into the shopping center, he clipped a car that was coming out. This triggered a very expected response from someone traumatized as well as someone on the autism spectrum. He “freaked out” and left the scene.
I wholeheartedly believe the incident caused a meltdown, possibly an anxiety attack, and/or a flashback to the traumatic event he experienced.
If you don’t understand meltdowns, they are an intense overload on the brain that can affect being able to think straight, motor functions, and more. When the outburst of a meltdown is over, which can include screaming and crying, hyperventilating, writhing, and more, the effects are far from over.
You can feel the nerves in your body tingling. Every sensory input is heightened and it’s easy to over-react to even small things. Anything is likely to spark another one, especially immediately after. The aftereffects of a meltdown can last weeks.
The thing about Matthew is that, after doing his breathing exercises to calm down, he wanted to do the right thing and go back. He did a U‑turn to return to the scene, but lost control of the vehicle. It was very possible that it was due to hydroplaning as it was raining at the time. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to gain control of the car in time and he clipped the driver’s side of a vehicle, which caused them both to spin out of control. Another car ended up hitting Matthew’s.
Matthew managed to get out of his car from the rear, forced to use that as an exit because of the airbags going off. When he emerged, he was immediately verbally attacked by the driver of the car that hit him. Witness reports say that the man almost pinned Matthew to the vehicle, yelling aggressively and seeming to want to start a fight.
Witness reports again state he was disoriented, his speech was slurred, and he was not responsive to the Officer speaking to him.
Here’s where Matthew’s words came out, the ones that were used to put him in jail.
“I wish I was dead.”
These words would be used against him to try to say that Matthew hit the car in a suicide attempt. But that’s not at all what he meant. As an autistic individual with trauma related to car accidents (nothing nearly as severe as what Matthew endured), I would have said the same thing.
“I Want To Die”
Just months after being hit by a vehicle going at least 60 mph on the highway and said vehicle leaving the scene before police arrived, I was rear-ended in traffic. It was minor, but I was scared that I had hit the person in front of me as a consequence.
“I want to die,” was something I immediately thought. I screamed and cried in a meltdown, barely having a clear enough head to cross lanes of traffic to pull over and get out of the way.
Thankfully, I hadn’t hit the person in front of me. But the very possibility that I had participated (even if it was not my fault) in even an ounce of the pain to the person in front of me was suffocating in the moment.
People on the autism spectrum are known to do something called “eloping,” which is basically running away, often into a possibly unsafe situation.
Most people assume this is what children or high support needs individuals do, but anyone on the spectrum can do this, and it’s often an automatic response. This is what teen autistic Alex did when he hurled himself into traffic to get out of ABA therapy.
Matthew knew he couldn’t actually run away this time. So, he felt that immense pain, that he caused someone a pain anything like what he had went through just two years ago, and his version of elopement was, “I wish I was dead.”
Knowing that same sinking, horrifying, heavy, overwhelming and immense guilt and sorrow, the feeling that you just somehow ruined someone’s life, I immediately knew why Matthew said those words.
The Looming Wall of Horror
There was no time to realize that everyone was alive, or that the looming wall of horror was not as bad as it seemed in the moment. He was amidst the absolute worst of the effects of an autistic meltdown, the aftereffects of a possible panic attack, and the trauma of being in a car accident both just then and two years prior.
A Break from Protocol
Yet the responding officers did not follow protocol to check his mental health, even though they should have if Matthew had indeed intended to commit suicide. There were no drugs or alcohol involved, but his slurred speech and disorientation should have been an immediate sign of concern regarding his mental state.
Not only is Matthew autistic, experiencing the effects of serious trauma and meltdown which commonly cause incoherent responses, he also has a Traumatic Brain Injury. It was pure, absolute negligence to ignore the state of the young man and instead treat him as a criminal.
They made the situation impossible for Matthew. Tried to convince him that his foot was purposefully on the accelerator. In the midst of trauma and overload, an authority figure, a police officer, tried to convince Matthew that not only had he hurt someone, he had intended to do it.
This case makes me sick. To me, it is clear that Matthew is a caring and empathetic person. It is clear that instead of compassionate care for a person going through being in a car accident, police officers wanted to make Matthew into a bad guy. They claimed he said he wanted to commit suicide, but this statement itself was never said and never caught on body cams.
Matthew, in a trauma state, an autistic person in crisis, plead guilty to charges that were maliciously high and designed to bully him into an admission of guilt against his mother’s wishes, all without understanding what his plea actually meant would happen to him.
He is unjustly serving time– 10 years– for a crime he did not commit. He did not intend to cause harm. He did not try to commit suicide by crashing into a vehicle. He only wished he was dead when a man was in his face, screaming at him after he was involved in a car accident, because he felt an unspeakable amount of pain.
As an autistic person, it is undeniable to me that Matthew is wrongfully serving a sentence right now. It should be clear to you, as well. Please help bring attention to Matthew’s situation and call for a review of the case and his release by signing this petition.
Click here to contribute to the Rushin family’s legal defense fund.
- I Know Why Matthew Rushin Said He Wished He Was Dead — June 9, 2020