Here’s what actually happened.
Rushin comes to and realizes his airbags have deployed. He can’t open doors and is pinned and confused, screaming for someone to cut him out. He is pinned in the crumbled dash and extricating himself, he loses his shoes. No doors open. He wrestles through the airbags and climbs out of back of his SUV, dazed and disoriented. It’s January, raining, frigid, and he’s barefoot. He doesn’t remember the collision but sees the devastation and knows he caused it.
Here are words used to describe Matthew at the time he made the statement Stolle used to pin a murder attempt and aggravated malicious wounding onto Rushin:
agitated, a little in hysterics, distraught, he didn’t seem like he was all there, he wasn’t really answering very well, his speech was a little slurred, disturbed-like mentally at that moment, like maybe shock, he wasn’t receiving what the police officer was telling him, he was moving his head around a lot, flailing his arms quite a bit, wasn’t receiving information (from bystander holding him and telling him to calm down and suggesting he lay down), it’s like he didn’t hear me, impression that even when the officer came up he was not understanding what was being communicated to him by witness or officer.
It’s extremely relevant that Matthew was clearly not in his right mind, not making sense, not coherent, and thoroughly confused. It’s also relevant that Matthew was being restrained by two strangers. Autistic people do not do well in restraint.
Stolle stated that the driver of the Element, Thor Wentz, “asked Matthew what he was thinking.” Thor Wentz, the one reliable and accurate witness to this statement, whose story remained unchanged, was honest that he yelled at Matthew and swore at him. He admitted every time to using the word “fuck” or “fucking.”
That’s fine, of course. Mr. Wentz had a very valid reason to be angry. But, it’s relevant because Matthew was being restrained by strangers, he is autistic, he’s confused, he’s distraught, and a man was yelling at him, storming towards him, and swearing.
It’s relevant that Stolle paints Matthew as disrespectful in language, spelling out the word “fucking,” and portrays Thor Wentz as merely asking a question. This evidentiary acrobatics belies what actually happened and makes Matthew seem as if he was indignant to someone he had just intentionally harmed. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Here’s what Officer G. Cordingley said of that incident:
While we were — as soon as I got out I approached them to see if they needed any assistance. At that point a white male, who I now know to be Mr. Wentz, came up and asked Mr. Rushin if he was the driver of the red Tahoe, to which Mr. Rushin stated, Yes. At that point Mr. Wentz yelled, You could have fucking killed us.
Here’s what Wentz said:
And I walked around the back of the vehicle just in time to see Rushin come out of the back of his SUV, and I engaged him. 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.
Everyone relayed what Thor Wentz said with at least a few swear words. Thor Wentz, the man who asked Matthew what he said, said that Matthew said, “I want to be dead, I should be dead, or something to that effect.”
Thor Wentz’s wife, Woanlan Fang, said this:
And at the same time I also heard a young man crying, like really, and say, I want to die. I want to die. I want to die.
So, maybe Matthew said he wanted to die, maybe he said he was trying to kill himself. What no one said that Matthew said was a swear word. Only Matthew thought he used a swear word.
So why did Matthew think that he said something with the word “fucking” in it? The answer to that question is the whole crux of this case.
When Matthew was in the interrogation room, alone but on camera, he was talking to himself when he said:
Hmm. You’re telling me that I want to kill myself? F’real? Naw. Yeah, someone said “kill.” Twice. Trying to remember what I said.
You can watch that on video here:
When an autistic person repeats something they have just heard, that is called “echolalia.” It is one of the most common traits of autism, and it is done as a way to help process auditory stimuli when in a state of overwhelm.
There are several types of echolalia. The one that is most common in adults is called mitigated echolalia, or repeating words in communication but changing some elements of it, like reversing the pronouns (you for I) or changing a question to a statement.
Further, echolalia is associated with pronoun reversal (also known as pronomial reversal or personal pronoun reversal).
Matthew’s speech following the accident is full of mitigated echolalia, pronoun reversal, and question-to-statement conversion. Often, he answers questions based on what he expected would be asked, then immediately corrects himself.
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.”
Notice he starts with “yes,” then “no, no, no.” He does this a lot. He also has many other markers of atypical speech consistent with aphasia.
Matthew regularly refers to himself as “he” instead of “I” in the transcripts. Mitigated echolalia is associated with left temporal-frontal lobe brain damage, epilepsy, autism, traumatic brain injury, TIA, and stroke.
Matthew didn’t remember what Thor Wentz said to him. He says he didn’t know why he said what he said. It “popped out.” But any speech language pathologist or autistic person or neurologist would have recognized Matthew’s atypical echolalic speech as being typical of the post ictal phase following a seizure or as being sensorily overwhelmed and in a battle against selective mutism. Matthew has diagnosed expressive and receptive language disorder and auditory processing disorder.
Perhaps if Stolle would release the body camera footage, this could be demonstrated more clearly.
Of all the horrible things Stolle manipulated to paint Matthew as a deviant and terrible human, among the worst was:
Rushin initially denied being involved in a previous accident. He eventually went on to admit that the characteristics from the crash that night were very similar to the characteristics of the 2017 crash, and that it looks like he was trying to kill himself.
Here’s what the transcripts say:
Rushin said yeah, denies it has ever happened other than that, and denies having crashed his car before. He then says he doesn’t like to talk about that accident. Dolida tells Rushin that he was there at that crash and asks him to tell him about that. Rushin said it was “2017: January the first week”. He said he “doesn’t like talking about it because to him it doesn’t exist” but he does see why Dolida brought it up.
In a clear and obvious way, this isn’t denying something and “eventually” admitting to the truth. This is Matthew immediately correcting himself like he has had to do scores of times during this interview process because he’s autistic with a traumatic brain injury and has auditory processing disorder.
If this sounds far-fetched, then let’s look at this video where Matthew Rushin appears to have a seizure in the interrogation room:
We reached out to and retained the expert opinion of a board certified clinical neurologist and psychologist with more than 40 years of experience in the field.
After reviewing records, body cam transcript summaries, and the interrogation video, here is what he had to say:
I was shocked by the failure of the police, who believed that Matthew was suicidal, to fail to have him emergently evaluated. I think they were incorrect in assuming he was suicidal but are on their own account negligent for not having him brought to a hospital and evaluated. Also, given that he revealed that he was autistic and believing him to be suicidal, to subject him to hours of interrogation (especially without a trusted family member or professional present) would only increase any suicidal impulse. Either they felt he was not suicidal and were pressuring a “confession” from an autistic person, who has little in the way of psychological defenses to such an interrogation, or they were cravenly negligent in not getting psychiatric evaluation and stabilization of a suicidal individual.
He went on to say that,
Based on the clinical descriptions of episodes of visual loss and headache, Matthew’s presentation is suggestive of post traumatic migraine. He develops spells of staring and disconnection from his surroundings. Such spells are consistent with fronto-temporal epileptic events, which are known sequela of TBI and brain damage from a traumatic intracranial hemorrhage.
Matthew was found at the scene to be constantly bobbing his head, not in control of his arms/folding them over and over, etc.
You can read about Matthew the night of the accident with quoted evidence following the trajectory of a seizure here:
Matthew Rushin: Did Virginia Beach PD suspect seizure and hide it?
You can read about his loss of consciousness here:
First Statement from Matthew on Body Cam:Officers knew he lost consciousness
Matthew was found to be saying, “I want to die” over and over, a behavior known as palilalia. You can read about echolalia and palilalia as related to seizures here.