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The Autism Spectrum According to Autistic People

Autism neurodiversity

See For Yourself – The Truth About Matthew Rushin

Can you spend a few moments to let us know what you see? A Black autistic man’s life hangs in the balance.

We want to show you the evidence– videos, police transcripts, and court testimony– that the police don’t want you to see.

In response to calls for justice for Matthew Rushin, a Black autistic engineering student who was arrested at the scene of a car accident, the Virginia Beach Police Department have issued a statement.

These claims blatantly contradict their own body cam transcripts, their own interrogation footage, witness testimony, and include open falsehoods.

When a police department openly lies about things for which there is actual video evidence, what do we do?

The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.

George Orwell 1984 

This is a sort of Orwellian moment, where we are asked to deny the evidence of our own eyes and ears, because the VBPD say we must.

So I’d like you to take a look at the police’s claims, and the evidence, and tell us what you see.

If you aren’t familiar with the case of Matthew Rushin, that’s okay. In fact, that’s great! Fresh eyes and ears are always welcomed in a case like this. The more the better.

No one wants to allow a potential attempted murderer go free. But we don’t send kind, loving people to prison for having a seizure, either.

So will you please loan us your eyes and ears?

Let’s look at Commonwealth Attorney Colin Stolle’s claims… and then look at the evidence.

The Commonwealth v Matthew Rushin 
The offense: On Jan 4 2019, Rushin struck an occupied vehicle leavine the parking lot of Total Wine at the intersection of Laskin Road and First Colonial Road. His vehicle struck the front driver's side of the victim's vehicle and Rushin fled the scene.
The commonwealth v. Matthew Rushin
On January 4 2019, Rushin, operating a 2007 Chevy Tahoe struck an occupied vehicle leaving the parking lot of Total Wine at the intersection of Laskin Rd and First Colonial Road. His vehicle struck the front driver’s side of the victim’s vehicle and Rushin fled the scene.

Right away, Stolle’s opening sentence conflicts with the facts of that dark and rainy night. Who struck who that night? We aren’t even sure. The other vehicle was moving out of a stop sign, and Matthew was turning in from traffic.

Who has right of way there?

The police state that it was Rushin who hit the other car, although they presented no evidence or data from this fender bender. We don’t even have an insurance report. No pictures. Police obtained footage, but it was never entered into discovery evidence. Its existence was never mentioned.

But never mind who struck who.

It was dark. It was raining. Two cars failed to see each other and dinged each other as they turned. These things happen. Matthew pulled into the parking lot and parked. He took off his seatbelt and waited for the other driver to pull up next to him.

Matthew talked about that fender bender a lot. He never changed his story. He said the guy hit him but looked at him all angry like it was Matthew’s fault. Matthew waited for him but was scared because he wasn’t getting out and he looked so angry.

We found out later that the driver was making a call. He did not pull over and get out of his car to exchange information as the law requires. He remained where he was.

Do you know anything about autistic people and rules?

We suffer extreme anxiety when people don’t follow them.

Matthew sat there in the dark, watching the other car, afraid. His heart was pounding. Car accidents terrify him.

Two years prior, he got into his car… and awoke from a coma days later in the hospital with a traumatic brain injury, from which he was still recovering.

photo of a young Black adult in a hospital bed, eyes closed, with a neck brace and tubing around him.
Matthew was in a coma after his accident in 2017

The other car continued to sit in the intersection.

Matthew didn’t know what to do. The things that were supposed to happen weren’t happening, and he didn’t have a script for how to proceed.

A neurotypical person may have gotten out of the car and walked into the road, confronting the other driver. But Matthew Rushin is autistic and didn’t have a script for this. Nor is he a confrontational person. His panic began to rise.

Matthew described the encounter.This is directly from police transcripts summarizing body camera footage (text version below image):

The following is a summary of statements made by Matthew Rushin as documented on Officer J. Dolida’s body camera video to Officer Dolida and Officer Kera on 01/04/19:at 2016 hours. An audio video recording is available.

Rushin states I was turning into the parking lot where Panera is (by Total Wine) near Chipotle, Dairy Queen, and Chic Fil A. Rushin says he was going to pick up some pastries and his dad said to “be home by 2015” because “it is raining out and he doesn’t like me out in this weather”. Rushin says he turns onto the service road and is turning into the parking lot when a Volvo hits him. He states; it hits my front left. 

Rushin says so I stop and “I look at him and he’s not backing up, he is not going anywhere, so I freak out because I thought he was just going to pull off”.

Rushin said he freaked out and wanted to get away from that area as soon as possible. He said “my mind went into flight mode and I wanted to get away so I tore through the parking lot”.

The following is a summary of Statements made by Matthew Rushin as documented on Officer J. Dolida’s body camera video to Officer Dolida and Officer Kera on 01/04/19:at 2016 hours.

Rushin states I was turning into the parking lot where Panera is (by Total Wine) near Chipotle, Dairy Queen, and Chic Fil A. Rushin says he was going to pick up some pastries and his dad said to “be home by 2015” because “it is raining out and he doesn’t like me out in this weather”. Rushin says he turns onto the service road and is turning into the parking lot when a Volvo hits him. He states; it hits my front left.

So Matthew has stated from the first that the other car struck him, and the police never presented any evidence to the contrary. Why is Stolle claiming so boldly that it was Matthew who struck the other car?

But that doesn’t really matter. What matters is what happened next. Here is how the Commonwealth Attorney Colin Stolle describes it:

He fled at a high rate of speed through the parking lot and onto First Colonial Rosd, he entered the unoccupied left turn lane and ran the red light crossing Laskin Road. Rushin then made a u-turn, crossed through an empty paved median, and drove into oncoming traffic. He intentionally struck a Ford Explorer driven by George Cusick and occupied by George’s wife Danna who was in the front passenger seat. Rushin’s vehicle violently rotated, causing a Honda Element to impact it from the rear. The driver and the passenger of the Honda Element were transported to the hospital where they were treated and released. Danna and George Cusick suffered serious injuries and George will suffer from his severe injuries for the rest of his life.

This is where we come to the crux of the matter. The fender bender no longer matters. A parking lot collision with a 2001 Volkswagon is not a life changing moment.

The big question is – did Matthew Rushin pull a u-turn and then deliberately drive headlong into an incoming car?

Was he suicidal? Was he trying to end his life? Did he intentionally speed over the median into oncoming traffic?

It matters, because this crash caused serious and lasting injury to an innocent family.

The police say yes, this was intentional.

Matthew was charged with two counts of malicious wounding. His lawyer Melinda Glaubke told him he had better plead guilty if he wanted the slightest chance of going home any time soon.

Glaubke told Matthew that they would look at him and the case and determine he’s guilty. By looking at him. Because he’s Black? At least, that much may be true. Except, Glaubke told Matthew’s parents that she would not allege that VBPD or the prosecutor were profiling Matthew and she refused to believe that race would be a factor in how the Virginia Beach police treated Matthew.

Matthew insisted that he did not crash intentionally. His story is backed up by the police body cam transcripts, the interrogation videos, and the court transcripts. Not to mention the psychiatrist, the forensic crash report, and Matthew’s own medical records

I’ve compiled the highlights from his interrogation in this brief video clip so you can see and hear for yourself.

If you want, you can view more of it here. We have nothing to hide, but we value your time. The reader’s digest version is below:

As you can see, Matthew states again and again that he did not intend to hurt anyone, including himself. He was distressed beyond what was reasonable or in character for him and was trying to undo his mistake of leaving the scene of a collision. He remembers those bright LED lights…

The police were left with a mystery. Why did Matthew Rushin accelerate into that car?

It’s clear that, to them, the only explanation possible is that Matthew accelerated purposely, hoping to drive himself into oblivion.

They don’t appear to consider the most common cause of accidents such as this, which is not suicide, but people panicking and hitting the accelerator by mistake instead of the brake.

My own father did this when I was 16 – tried to brake and ended up accelerating at a gas station. There are a lot of wild videos on Youtube of people doing this, too.

This is called “brake misapplication;” it is a serious-but-fairly-common mistake, and the subsequent forensic analysis report named this the cause of the crash.

Given the totality of evidence that I have reviewed thus far, the vehicle data and statements do not support the theory of suicidal behavior or attempted homicide. On the contrary, the evidence presented strongly suggests pedal misapplication as the primary collision factor. Further, the angle of impact given the velocity and specifications of the 2008 GMC Taho he wasa driving suggests that Mr Rushing was trying to avoid a collision rather than cause one.

The forensic analyst named three primary reasons for believing that Matthew was not attempting suicide:

First, if Matthew was suicidal, he wouldn’t have pulled a U-turn. A U-turn would slow him down a lot, and matches his claim that he was returning to the scene of the first accident. Why pull a u-turn when he could have just accelerated through the intersection into the concrete wall of the upcoming overpass? Or, if he felt the need to take someone else out with him, accelerate into the oncoming lane right from the intersection?

Why slow down, pull a u-turn, and THEN try to crash? It is not consistent with the behavior of a suicidal person.

According to the forensic analyst:

“Of note, the vast majority of vehicular suicides are single-car collisions into a fixed objects and those incidents involving another vehicle are almost exclusively heavy-operations vehicles like semi-trucks (Pompili 2012). In Mr. Rushin’s trajectory, wherein he would have had the time and distance to reach a higher speed and the maneuverability to direct his vehicle, he made a u-turn away from the large bridge abutment for the overcrossing of Interstate 264 to the south. Making this u-turn almost immediately before the crash is counter-indicative of a suicide attempt, as he made a maneuver that greatly decreased his velocity shortly before impact.”

Second, the head-on collision was not centered. It impacted on one side of the Ford Explorer, causing the cars to spin. This suggests that Matthew was not aiming at the car towards the Explorer but was steering away from it.

Third, pedal misapplication (hitting the gas instead of the brakes) is a much more common reason for crashes like this, and it is most common in people Matthew’s age. The old (like my father) and the young (like Matthew) are most at risk.

People with autism and ADHD (Matthew has both) are more likely to make this mistake as well, regardless of our age.

“Pedal misapplication is common among certain demographics. A 2012 study performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on pedal misapplication errors crashes queried by age shows a significant over-involvedment by the young (ages 16-20) and oldest (ags 78 and older). That is, pedal misapplication is more prevalent in young and older drivers. Furthermore, people with certain diagnoses, such as those with ADHD or autism are prone to such errors as well. Mr. Rushing disclosed in his post-accident interview with the responding officers that he has been diagnosed with both autism and ADHD so his age and cognitive profile would make him a driver predisposed to making pedal misapplication errors.”

You can read the report in its entirety here.

But after all, a forensic analysis can only ever be an educated guess. It can show what, based on the data compared to similar collisions, the behaviors that happened right before the crash, not the thoughts of the person behind the wheel. Based on data from hundreds of thousands of other collisions, and on the math, a reliable educated guess can be made.

Could Matthew have been struck by a suicidal impulse seconds after completing his U-turn, and aimed for an oncoming car – poorly?

According to the official statement from Mr. Stolle, Matthew outright claimed to be attempting suicide at the scene.

This section of Stolle’s letter is pretty darn clear, regardless of what a forensic expert says, don’t you think?

“A witness uninvolved with the crash as well as several responding officers made contact with Rushin immediately following the crash. When asked by the driver of the HOnda Element what Rushin was thinking, the civilian witness hear Rushin state, “I dont know man, I was just trying to kill myself.” Officer G. Cordingley, while standing with Rushin, heard Rushin yell to the driver of the Element, “I was trying to kill myself.” Officer R. Nash also heard Rushin state “I was trying to kill myself.” Officer M. Smith heard the driver of the Honda Element ask Rushin “who do you think you are? You almost killed m and my wife.” Officer smith then heard Rushin reply, “I was trying to kill myself, okay?” Immediately Officer Smith relayed that statement to Officer J. Curtin, and the relay of the information was caught on police body worn camera minutes after the crash. During a subsequent interrogation Detective J. Hosand and Officer J. Dolida, Rushin stated multiple times “I said well maybe I was trying to fucking kill myself.”

That sounds pretty cut-and-dry, you have to admit! If he openly admitted to doing it, who cares what the forensic report says, right?

…Except that none of that appears to be true.

You’ve seen highlights of the interrogation, and if you like you can watch more on our Youtube channel. We’ve watched the entire thing and we have the transcripts as well.

At no point does he say that he was killing himself. He is respectful and emphatic that he was not trying to kill himself.

The police’s own transcripts of the body cam footage don’t record him saying any of these things.

Through every interaction, on multiple body cams, Matthew is recorded telling the same story you heard about in the interrogation. He pulled a U-turn, then he lost control of the car.

He also admits to saying “I want to die, I want to die,” after he first got out of his car and was accosted by an angry driver. An autistic person will recognize those words – we say them when we are in meltdown.

He also keeps insisting that he doesn’t really remember the details of the actual crash.

Officer Kera asks when you punched it do you go left or you went straight, and Rushin Says straight. Rushin said he did not realize he could not make a U-turn (by the interstate) until he was staring at the sign while making the U-turn. He said when he came out of it he lost control of the vehicle. Rushin said “I was not fish tailing but I just couldn’t turn”. 

Officer Kera Says what happened next? Rushin says “I saw the white Ford I don’t know what make and model the vehicle is, but I did end up coming into the Ford”. Rushin says “I don’t know how fast I was going I honestly don’t know”,

Officer Kera says when you lost control did you wind up turning the wrong way in that same lane or what happened?. Rushin says he went from coming that way to coming into oncoming traffic. 

Officer Dolida Says so you spun around the wrong way? Rushin says yes. Rushin says “no, no, no I made the U-turn I was driving the correct direction so I was out of control, and then I realized I was out of control, and I was in oncoming traffic”. Kera says what car hit you first? Rushin replies “I saw the Ford turning. I don’t know if I hit them. I don’t know who I hit first. I don’t remember.”
Officer J. Dolida’s bodycam transcript on 01/04/19 at 2016 hours. “was staring at the sign while making the U-turn. He said when he came out of it he lost control of the vehicle. Rushin said “I was not fish tailing but I just couldn’t turn”.
Officer Kera Says what happened next? Rushin says “I saw the white Ford I don’t know what make and model the vehicle is, but I did end up coming into the Ford”. Rushin says “I don’t know how fast I was going I honestly don’t know”,
Officer Kera says when you lost control did you wind up turning the wrong way in that same lane or what happened?. Rushin says he went from coming that way to coming into oncoming traffic.
Officer Dolida Says so you spun around the wrong way? Rushin says yes. Rushin says “no, no, no I made the U-turn I was driving the correct direction so I was out of control, and then I realized I was out of control, and I was in oncoming traffic”. Kera says what car hit you first? Rushin replies “I saw the Ford turning. I don’t know if I hit them. I don’t know who I hit first. I don’t remember.”

At this point, the officers knew that Matthew was autistic. One of the officers had recognized Matthew from his 2017 accident. He knew Matthew had been in a coma after that crash. He knew Matthew had a brain injury.

All of the officers on the scene – 17 of them – had been trained in autism response.

They knew that autistic people will repeat things said to them when under stress. So when a man yelled “were you trying to fucking kill yourself?” at him, he repeated it back.

Or did he?

Body cam transcript for Officer J. Dolida on 1/04/19 at 2030 hours. “Hosang asks how many times he thinks he told that guy (Wentz) that he was thinking of killing himself or wanted to kill himself. Rushin says five or six. times. Hosang asked if he recalls what words he used and he replies, “I want to die.” Hosang asked him to tell us about that statement. Rushin explains he is very empathetic and felt the guy’s emotions, and that he started to feel that when ‘he got out and saw how bad everything was.”

What Matthew admits to saying, and what witnesses report him saying, was ‘I want to die”, which is not the same as “I was just trying to fucking kill myself”.

The man who yelled at Matthew after the crash never reported Matthew saying that he had been trying to kill himself.

He heard “I want to die.” That’s not the same thing.

KJ: Okay, what did he say back to you? Do you recall?
TW: Yeah, he said something back to me and it sounded something to the effect of “I want to die”…
KJ That’s what it sounded like.
{…]
KJ: Okay, so you yelled some stuff at him about, you know, the accident and he responded back to you with “I want to die” – or that’s what you perceived him to say…
TW: Yeah, its something -“I, I wish I was dead or I want to die” or something like that. […]
TW: I know that doesn’t really help you though, but that’s my recollection.

Even though the police pumped him to say that he heard Matthew express clear intent, the man was very clear that Matthew had said “I want to die” not “I was just trying to fucking kill myself”.

When he was under oath in court, the man told the exact same story.

“I confronted him. I said, you know, what the F is wrong with you? YOu could have killed people. His response to that was, I want to be dead. I should be dead, or words to that effect.”

Matthew’s own defense lawyer double-checked that Matthew had said “I want to die” not “I was trying to kill myself” or “I wanted to kill myself, okay?”

The witness confirmed.

Q: And then you said a couple of things today that you thought he had said. I want to be dead. I wish I was dead. Do you recall telling the police he said similar thinga?
A: Yes, and there was a police officer…
Q: I want to die. I wish I was dead or I want to die or something like that or I should have died?
A; Yes.

It’s true that “I want to die” is not a normal thing for someone to say. But it is a normal thing for an autistic person to say while in meltdown.

I said it once when I melted down after my mother accused me of not trying hard enough to keep the house clean. If I thought I had just killed someone in a car accident I couldn’t remember, and a strange man slammed me up against a car, then another was restraining me, and I was disoriented, and a stranger was yelling in my face… I would probably say that, too. Doesn’t mean I meant to get in a car accident.

To some people, though, “I want to die,” and “I want to kill myself,” are synonymous.

To someone not trained in autism, anyway.

Here is what another witness said about Matthew:

Witness for the prosecution, Aug 6 2019
“Matthew was very distraught. He didn’t seem like he was all there. Like I was trying to talk to him and he wasn’t really answering very well. And his speech was a little slurred. So I asked him if he was drinking. He said, no. And he said he tried to kill himself, he hit a few cars, in the conversation there but that was it.”

This passage may be one of the most important pieces of evidence in the entire case, both for the prosecution and the defense.

In it, the witness remembers Matthew saying he was trying to kill himself. But he also notes that Matthew was not in a lucid, fully-conscious state of mind. Slurring his words, deeply distraught, “in shock,” in “hysterics,” flailing…

Was Matthew a doomed man confessing his sins? Or was he a horrified man dealing with the reality of a ghastly car crash and the possibility that he may have killed someone?

Did the witness hear “I want to die” or “I should have died” and misconstrue it to mean he had been suicidal before the crash?

Was Matthew in a rational state of mind, capable of controlling himself and speaking rationally? Or was he an autistic in meltdown, controlled entirely by his amygdala, impulsively repeating the words that had been yelled at him, desperate to escape the nightmare he was experiencing, and unable to even understand what was happening?

All 17 police officers were trained in autism response. Matthew told them he had ASD. He told them that he was saying he wanted to die because of the accident, not the other way around.

The police should have take this into consideration, rather than assuming malicious intent.

They also should have been much more concerned by the fact that Matthew seemed confused about the crash and couldn’t really remember or explain what had happened.

That witness of the crash, who recalled in court hearing Matthew saying that he wanted to kill himself, also said Matthew was in a severe state of confusion.

“So the police officer asked him for his ID. Police officer told him, you know, don’t reach into your pocket. He asked him, Do you have anything in your pocket that can hurt me or poke me, anything? Matthew said no no but he continued to reach in his pocket for his ID. I told him — I told myself, don’t reach in your pockets, man. Don’t reach in your pockets. And he still did it so he wasn’t receiving what the officer was saying to him.

When someone with a traumatic brain injury loses control of their vehicle and crashes into oncoming traffic, you should be concerned when they are confused, slurring their words, can’t follow simple instructions, and can’t remember exactly what happened.

Was Matthew in a fit state of mind to be interrogated without a lawyer?

They asked him repeatedly if he wanted to go to hospital and he declined. But someone with a head injury, who has just been in a major vehicle accident when they weren’t wearing a seatbelt, should always be taken to hospital.

People don’t always know when they are ok.

They should have taken him for medical examination, to assess whether there was a medical cause for the accident, like a seizure. They should have committed him to psychiatric care, considering that they thought he was capable of murder-suicide.

Instead they questioned him for four hours at the scene, and then took him into the precinct for further interrogation – which you have seen – and then arrested him for attempted murder.

They should have asked themselves if there weren’t more rational explanations for an autistic man with a traumatic brain injury straying over the median and having no memory of the crash.

Did Matthew have a seizure?

You saw in the interrogation video that Matthew remembered the LED lights of the oncoming Ford very distinctly. The officer interrogating him even remarked on that, didn’t she?

Do LED headlights strobe when you look at them? They do to me. I, like many autistic people and some non-autistic people, see strobing from LED headlights.

It is known that the strobing from LED lights – particularly against a dark background – can trigger seizures.

Now, obviously Matthew didn’t have the kind of seizure people usually think of when they think of a seizure. We think of the pass-out-shake-uncontrollably kind of seizure. That is the tonic-clonic, generalized type of seizure. It affects the whole brain.

But there’s another kind of seizure, called a focal seizure. Focal seizures happen in only a part of the brain.

They are common in people with head injuries, and the people having them don’t fully lose consciousness, but they are often unaware that anything has happened. They simply freeze for short while, or they may even continue walking but lose time. They may see things that aren’t there.

Many people have focal seizures for years and have no idea. Family members just think they “zone out” or dissociate.

You know, exactly like Matthew did in the interrogation room, when he stopped pacing, stood in an odd posture and didn’t move.

We have shown this video to neurologists and they agree that this is what a focal seizure looks like.

Autistic people are at high risk of having seizures. So are people with brain injuries. Matthew was diagnosed with both.

38% of autistic people experience seizures, focal or generalized, compared to 1% of the population. Seizures are the leading risk of death for autistic people, and EEGs show that our brains’ frequently go through “electrical discharges” which are essentially tiny subclinical seizures, even when we never show any signs of a seizure.

So, we have an autistic person – who is naturally prone to having seizures and/or is frequently experiencing subclinical seizures – with a history of traumatic brain injury. The more severe the injury, the greater the chance of developing epilepsy.

Matthew was in a coma after his 2017 crash. That is a severe head injury. He also experienced seizures while in the hospital recovering from that injury.

Knowing this – one of the police officers remembered Matthew’s 2017 crash and had attended the scene – Matthew should have been transported straight to a hospital and seen by a neurologist.

What was clear to the officers was that Matthew was confused, disoriented, and unable to give consistent details of the night after the U-turn. He also refers to “coming to.”

Officer J. Dolida’s body cam footage transcript
“Hosang asks Rushin what he remembers about the oncoming traffic. Rushin says there were two cars coming this way. (points south bound) and he remembers seeing that car, and points at the Ford. He said he remembers seeing the LED lights. Rushin said the newer Ford SUV’s have the LED nighttime lights. Hosang says “you remember LED lights and the newer looking Ford”. Rushin says.“yes” and Hosang responds “tell us what else you remember”. Hosang tells Rushin that she is trying to figure out what he does remember because now he is tellingSe 2019-000563 Page 97 of 120 Officer Dolida that he does not remember certain things, but remembers a specific detail like the LED lights.”
{…}
“Rushin does not recall what was going through his mind when he was “losing control” of the car. He recalls “the lights”. Rushin says he doesn’t recall “the truck spinning or the airbags going off”. He states that he remembers seeing that Ford and “coming to”. Officer Dolida asks what lane the Ford was in and Rushin says it was in the far right lane (if looking at it from his position in the vehicle we are sitting in). Dolida asks if he tried to steer to the left and turn that way, and points left with his pen. Rushin says that he did. He again says he was trying to get over into the grass. Rushin says “I wasn*t trying to kill myself.”

Considering that he was reporting a loss of awareness and control of the vehicle, and that the last thing he remembered was LED headlights, and his steadfast insistence that he had lost control of the car, it seems reasonable that they would get him examined by a medical professional.

Even if he had recklessly and heartlessly driven himself head-first through other people’s lives in a burst of self destruction, wouldn’t that be all the more reason to get him hospitalized and given psychiatric care?

Instead, they handcuffed him, arrested him, jailed him, denied him bond and denied him access to a neurologist when his mother requested it.

They did this because they were already certain that Matthew had tried to kill himself. After all, he had done it before, in 2017, right?

Or… did he? Everyone assumed it was a suicide attempt because why else would someone get into a car, not buckle their seatbelt and accelerate into a tree?

…Unless they got into their car, had a focal seizure and their foot depressed the accelerator.

So… was he even suicidal then?

Was he suicidal ever?

Here’s what the psychiatrist who testified at Matthew’s trial had to say on the subject.

Transcript of Dr Keenan’s cross examination during Matthew’s hearing
Transcript of Dr Keenan’s testimony at Matthew’s hearing

So Matthew does not have a history of attempted suicides, or suicidal behaviour.

“But wait!” you say. “What about the wrist slitting? The VBPD statement says he attempted suicide in 2018 too.”

Yes, it does. It says this:

VBPD statement (linked at top of article)

Well, it’s interesting that they cite this because according to Dr. Keenan’s report, that was not a suicide attempt, it was cutting/self harm. That is not the same thing.

You can see the scars on his forearm for yourself, if you like. Are those self-harm marks, or suicide marks?

Screen capture of Matthew Rushin playing the piano after his 2018 admission to hospital for self-harm.

The statement also neglects to mention that Dr. Keenan’s report on Matthew’s mental health was submitted as an exhibit for the defense. In it, he cites the accident as a result of Matthew’s anxiety disorder, ASD and ADHD. He did not believe Matthew suffered from depression or was suicidal.

CROSS-EXAMINATION
BY MR. ELLIS:
Q Good afternoon, Dr. Keenan.
A Good afternoon.
Q Thank you for being here.
A Sure.
Q Now, you've stated rather clearly that you
believe that he has Autism, ADHD, a TBI, and anxiety,
correct?
A Correct.
Court transcript of Dr. Keenan’s cross examination

He did not consider the accident anything more than an accident. In fact, he thought Matthew should be in psychiatric care, and then released to the community.

better control. Given his history, I think he needs
to be in long-term psychiatric care and psychotherapy
ideally with a psychiatrist and a psychologist.
Q Okay. And you had mentioned to me highly
credentialed individuals. And by that what did you
mean?
A Well, it's a very complex background. I
mean, the Autistic Spectrum Disorder, it's a number of
things that need to be paid attention to. He also had
a traumatic brain injury where he was unconscious for
a period of time. So, again, I think the person needs
to be well versed in all of those areas to be able to
work with him effectively.
Q Do you believe if your recommendations are
followed that Matthew can be managed in the community?
A I think that he can be managed in the
community over time, yes.
Transcript of Dr. Keenan’s testimony to the defense

So.

In summary – is there any evidence at all that Matthew was attempting suicide?

Only his words, “I want to die, I want to die” after the crash, when a stranger was yelling at him and two others were restraining him?

Through all of the footage, all of the transcripts, Matthew steadfastly insists that he lost control of the vehicle and that he was not suicidal.

There is nothing in his psychiatric history indicating that he has ever been suicidal. Anxious? Yes. Self-harming? One time. Suicidal? No.

The forensic crash report concludes that the crash was accidental and not a suicide.

The forensic psychiatrist reports diagnoses of anxiety, but not depression, and recommends that Matthew be in psychiatric care, rather than prison.

“What about the videos?” you say. “They said they had videos.”

They didn’t even have videos.

They were using deception techniques in their interrogation– lying to Matthew– because the only videos produced by the prosecution failed to capture the crash.

Here’s one. Have fun looking for the crash in it.

Here is another video they produced:

Even if the videos showed the crash, they couldn’t tell us whether Matthew was having a seizure or not. For that he would have needed to be inspected by a neurologist, which has not happened.

Not in the year and a half since this crash has Matthew been checked by a neurologist.

They have no evidence to prove that Matthew was behaving in any way maliciously. Even if you take his echolalia during meltdown as God’s Truth, he never said he wanted to hurt anybody.

Let me be clear – this accident was a horrific tragedy. An elderly couple’s life was forever changed. While no one died, a man suffered injuries from which he will never fully recover.

That is terrible. It should never have happened. They are innocent victims of an awful, life-changing event.

That does not mean it was done with malice.

Intent matters. It matters whether you intend to kill someone, versus accidentally do so.

Once, in Nova Scotia, an old woman had a heart attack while driving, and collided with a school bus. It was a terrible accident. A lot of kids were hurt. My own spouse suffered a traumatic brain injury from it.

But it wasn’t a murder attempt, was it?

25 letters from community members, ranging from Matthew’s employer to the little old lady down the road, insist that Matthew is the kindest, gentlest, most loving person they know.

Someone who collects socks for the homeless and does errands for old women in wheelchairs would not maliciously wound other people, would they?

It’s hard for us to accept that sometimes terrible things happen by accident.

Personally, I find it really hard to accept that 17 members of the VBPD, all of whom were trained in autism response, failed to recognize and respond appropriately to an autistic meltdown.

I find it hard to accept that these same officers handcuffed a man who had just been involved in a severe accident, who was bleeding, and confused, and slurring his words, and took him to the precinct instead of the hospital.

I find it hard to accept that officers trained in autism interrogated an autistic man with a traumatic brain injury without an attorney or parent present.

I find it hard to accept that even though the officers noticed that Matthew repeatedly seemed to think the crash happened as he exited the U-turn, instead of a quarter of a mile further down the road, and even though they noticed Matthew’s fixation on the LED lights, and even though they knew he had a history of traumatic brain injury… they did not allow him to be assessed by a neurologist.

Ever.

Matthew Rushin has been incarcerated ever since that tragic night. During this time he has experienced severe headaches, and periods of blindness. Yet he has been denied access to a neurologist.

An EEG within 24 hours of the crash could have told us whether Matthew had a seizure. No EEG has ever been done on him. He has not had an MRI. All he has been given is a prescription for Ativan. He has been in prison, not a psychiatric care facility as the forensic psychiatrist recommended.

And so, tell me – what do you think? Do you think he is proven guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt?

Do you think his lawyer was right to pressure him to plead guilty?

And finally – do you think this is justice?

To complete this trial by public opinion, I’ll let Matthew have the final words, as they did in court at his sentencing. The full apology was several pages long, but here are the key points:

Matthew’s point is an essential one.

Yes, irreparable harm was done. But if it was not done maliciously, then is prison going to help heal it? If a brain injury and a bad combination of events caused this accident, rather than deliberate malice, can prison fix it?

So, people of the Jury of public opinion…

Is he guilty of malicious wounding? Attempted murder?

Is it at least worth giving him access to his neurologist so we can find out?

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3 Responses

  1. Question from a foreign reader on your law of “exchanging information” after a road accident.
    What does the law say you should do if the other person’s attitude gives you a safety fear against violence, against telling that person your home address?
    Including, in all the culture for women against sexual violence, that has discriminatorily put men into a terror of being held guilty on a malicious word, yet does ths law protect women in road accidents against disclosing their addresses to men whose attentions they have cause to fear?

    1. Good question! Matthew was afraid of the man who hit him. I’m sure one could call the police in such a circumstance

  2. I’m not going to agree with this story. This young man should not have been behind the wheel of a vehicle since his accident that caused brain damage 2 years prior. His parents are to blame for this. His brain damage and autism combined is the reason he hurt this couple and caused this terrible accident.
    He is a student studying at ODU for Engineering. This is a major course and hard. Second, he held a job. Third, he received his license again which means he passed the tests, but that is very easy, because DMV gives a license to almost everyone. It’s a joke. Fourth, he can’t be high end Autistic to be able to function as a normal person. He has ruined a man’s life, taken away the husband of a woman and taken away children’s Father.
    Gov Northam, a Democrat, is trying to win back the black society after his Black Face fiasco came out.
    His Mother is using BLM also to fight for his release.
    This is WRONG. This would never have happened if he wouldn’t have gotten his license back. Should have never been behind the wheel if a car.

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