Trial begins in police officer's death
matthewstrial300.jpg

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- It's been more than a year since Wilmington Police officer Richard Matthews died after crashing into a tree during a high-speed chase. Today jury selection is underway in the trial of the man who led that chase, Anthony Pierce. He faces several charges, including second-degree murder.

In February 2009, a police officer stopped Pierce for speeding on South College Road, but Pierce sped away and led officers on a chase. Ofc. Richard Matthews was called in for backup. He responded from Carolina Beach Road reaching speeds of more than 100 miles per hour. That's when something went terribly wrong.

As Matthews was traveling down Shipyard Blvd., he saw a cardboard box in the road. He swerved to avoid the box, and his car turned left across Shipyard and into trees killing him.

Now District Attorney Ben David will try to prove that Pierce's actions that night caused Matthews's death.

"It's important to send this message to anyone who would flee from officers that if a death results in the course of that pursuit, they will be held responsible to the fullest extent of the law," David told reporters on March 10, 2009.

In other words, if Pierce had stopped for the officers pursuing him, they would not have needed to call for back up, and Matthews would not have been driving down Shipyard at the time of his crash.

If a jury convicts Pierce, the trial could set a precedent for those who lead law enforcement on high-speed chases.

"We are very pleased to take this case forward," David said last year, "and if we have to fight to make precedent in this state, frankly we believe this is a fight worth having."

This week the prosecution will argue that Pierce's reckless behavior resulted in the first death of a Wilmington Police officer in more than thirty years.

Pierce was indicted on charges of second-degree murder in March 2009. He also faces charges for fleeing to elude arrest resulting in death, pot possession and two charges of gun possession by a felon.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.

You can be charged in the death of ANYONE if their death is directly or indirectly due to your actions while committing a felony.

If you and your buddy try to rob my store and I kill your buddy, YOU can be charged for his "murder," because he died as a result of your committing armed robbery. (We can't try him.)

If you are robbbing a bank and a customer gets so scared that they have an MI and die, YOU can be charged with murder.

This is nothing new, people. Pierce's actions indirectly led to Officer Matthews death, beacuse he was rushing to provide assistance to another officer.

It should be a slam dunk.

If this case does succeed and set a precedent then it will definitely be going the wrong direction. This officer, while it is a sad story, had an accident. What if his tire blew out or he got hit by a tractor trailer, would they charge Mr. Pierce? This officer just didn't know how to handle the automobile and if anything comes out of this, it should be that law enforcement officers receive better training in daily driving.

Somthing that few may remember is the box, that same box was laying in the same spot at 10:30 am on the morning of the 17 the same box that law enforcement drove by I drove by and many others Im sure,the question is why did the box stay in the roadway Im sure that county officers drove by this box, also it is said that speeds were reached in excess of 105 mph is not north carolina a state that says if pursuit speeds reach 100 mph the pursuit should be stopped in the interest of public safety Im not sure but I know I heard it somewhere, it was also said that the officer was nearly a mile away from the actual pursuit when he was called to join in,this is truly a tragic affair and should not be down played in any way by any means,mistakes were made, yes mr peirce may be a bad man with a long criminal history and he should be made to pay for whatever crimes he may have committed but lets not lay all the blame soley on this one person were obviosly others are at fault,anyone could have swerved to miss that box lost control possibly hitting someone else the possibilities are endless were fate is involved and as was said If he is convicted and the laws are changed woe be to us all for the playing field will be made larger and all could be suspect.

So we are prosecuting someone for murder because an officer was doing his job, his civic duty, his job description..if he didnt have criminals to pursue and arrest, why would he be needed and working as a policeman..because the guy driving the car decided to flee, he put the officer's life in jeporady??..no one was holding a gun to the officer head and telling him to pursue the criminal..he did it because that was in his job description..so now everytime an officer chases a criminal running or driving or even walking and gets hurt in the process, we are going to prosecute the perputraters?? So if Officer John fell and broke his leg while running after a criminal, he will have the criminal prosecuted for attempted murder?? A waste of taxpayers money..this story needs to make the National News so people in America can see emotional runned justice first hand..It was a shame that the officer lost his life but he was doing his DUTY..Im sure his family got his medal so wouldnt that be contradictory of saying that the guy driving the car was the reason the officer died? Get off the emotional band wagon DA and trial some real cases!!

Guest 228, this is the second time today i've responded to your post. What is wrong with you? Yes, it is an officer's duty to apprehend criminals, but that's not their purpose. It is to deter crime, not just pick up after crimes are committed. Their presence is what is to deter criminals before they commit crimes. Your "medal" comment was cruel to say the least. When people like Pierce are feeding your kids drugs, you'll wish WPD is there to arrest the trash.

This is the most stupid waste of taxpayer dollars that I have seen in a very long time. While my heart aches for this young man that lost his life that doesn't negate the fact that HE HIT A BOX AND LOST CONTROL OF HIS CAR. He was not in pursuit of the man that is charged, he was on a different road. How many times have you heard of or seen a LEO driving poorly or irresponsibly? This officer got in an accident that took his life. There should be no way a jury should find this man guilty. This is a case of vindictive prosecution. The judge should not only throw out the case but should censure the DA who brought the case to trial.

FIRST OFF YOU SHOULD WATCH WHAT YOU SAY ABOUT PEOPLE BEFORE YOU JUDGE HIM MY UNCLE IS A GOOD MAN AND I THINK IT WAS THE OFFICER THAT KILLED HIS SELF HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN DRIVING AT AN CONSTANT SPEED! NOBODY NEVER TOLD HIM TO SPEED IF YOU FEEL LIKE HE SHOULD BE PUT AWAY THATS YOUR DECISION BUT GOD KNOWS THE TRUTH YOUR TALKIN LIKE THAT I THINK YOU SHOULD BE PUT UNDER THE JAIL. NOW HAVE A BLESS DAY BECAUSE MY UNCLE WILL BE SET FREE!

WHAT????

I can't even understand the run on sentences above...next time calm down a bit, think and then write.

I'll be the first to admit that I am not great at grammer. However, when you write things when you are upset they tend to come out as one or two thoughts.
Unfortunately, we are not mind readers so slow down.

Now on another note.
I feel like this gentleman should be found guilty. This LEO would never have been driving 100 mph down any road, if he had not been called as back up to help a fellow LEO.
If your "uncle" didn't flee the call never would have happened. Therefore, the crash never would have happened.

The officer did not need to drive at unsafe speeds. What if he was carrying his gun wrong and it discharged and killed him. Would the suspects be tried for second-degree murder? It's a tragic lose, but this is ridiculous. Our court system is already overworked and too many people are in jail for life. Will convicting them bring anyone back from the dead? No. Will it stop people from running from the police? No. This is sad sad sad.

Since you are playing the "what if" game. What if you were being mugged, robbed, assaulted, etc? Or, even worse, one of your children. What would be an unsafe speed for the police then????? It is easy to arm chair quarterback from the safety of your home. The defendent should never have tried to elude the police.

If it put him or another human being's life at risk, no I would not want to act dangerously. And I certainly wouldn't want the mugger to be charged with a crime he did not commit, only the crime that he did commit.

To Adam: I spent 20 years on RISHP and was involved in many high speed chases. In all cases, every operator of the vehicle being chased had either committed, was about to commit or was committing a crime. Whether the crime was a misdemeanor or a felony made no difference. Once a officer has lit the vehicle up and used his siren/whelp etc. if that person does not pull over they have committed another crime. The person who is fleeing does not care about your life or any one elses life just as long as they can try to elude the police. What they don't understand is that they can not out run the radio broadcasting the directions etc. So, if the Prosecuter can make this charge of second degree murder stick, I'll be first in line to shake his hand and the judicial system's hands as it's about time that true justice prevail. Kudos to the Prosecuter. And to the fallen officer I say, " Rest in Peace MY Brother."

This guy deserves everything that they can legally prosecute him for and more. He needs to waste away in jail thinking about it.

FIRST OFF WATCH WHAT YOU SAY BECAUSE YOU DO NOT KNOW THE WHOLE STORY MY UNCLE IS NOT GUILTY I THINK YOU SHOULD SPEND THE REST OF YA LIFE UNDER THE JAIL. IT WAS THE OFFICER FAULT HIS SELF BECAUSE HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN DRIVING AT A CONSTANT SPEED NOW SMOKE ON THAT PUNK!

Again, stop....take a deep breath, then type.

I understand you are "his niece" however, your "uncle" did have pot and guns in his car.
He is already guilty, the courts are just seeing if he is also guilty of killing a man.

I say, YES!!!!

He's not guilty? You really believe that??? Your uncle started a sequence of events that caused the death of a person. If your uncle hadn't broken the law to begin with...this officer wouldn't not have had a call to respond to. Your uncle may not have pulled the trigger, but your wonderul, not guilty uncle was charged with possession of pot and also firearms by felon...so where is he not guilty?
People refuse to take responsibility for their actions...because if it wasn't for your wonderful, uncle the felon; this officer would not have died that night

what was your Uncle, an apparent convicted felon, doing with 2 guns in the vehicle?

And, what was he doing with marijuana in the vehicle?

If he's such a law abiding, innocent citizen how do you explain the apparent conflict in reality?

One would think a previously convicted felon would go the extra mile to avoid a return to jail. But, maybe that's what he was doing.

I'm sure your uncle is a wonderful man in your eyes. However he is also a convicted felon who carries firearms, deals weed, and runs from law enforcement. Enough said!!!!!!!!!!!!

The officer was in pursuit of someone who was eluding arrest. At that point and time, he didn't know what they had in that car or why they were refusing to stop. I think the person above said it best...if it were your child or you being robbed, shot at, etc, you wouldn't say the officer shouldn't have been driving so fast… If Mr. Pierce hadn’t acted as he did then officer Matthews might still be here today. I pray that this trial brings closure for his family. On a side note… There is a reason computers come with spell check... it amazes me how ignorant some people can be, I feel sorry for all parties involved... obviously by the comments of Mr. Pierce's family posted on here, he is just a product of his environment and for that I truly feel sorry for him..

"Niece", so you want your uncle that led a chase that caused a death to be set free and someone who simply states an opinion to go to jail?

get an education.... You poor thing! First of all, "get under jail" makes NO sense. If your "uncle" would have done the "right" thing and stayed where he was when he got pulled this poor man, husband, son wouldn't have lost his life. It makes me SO sad to think about it, he was out there protecting us - you. Now smoke on that???? What in the world does that mean????? Your uncle IS guilty and I hope the system does what it takes to put him away.

"His Niece" When did you drop out of school?

On another note...The guy was a criminal, Criminals should not go free. One of Wilmington's Finest was doing his job, going after a criminal.
Rest in Piece Brother.

I think they should charge the criminal with attempted murder for everyone he passed while RUNNING FROM THE POLICE. After all, he not only put the officers lives in danger but the public's life as well when he ran to elude arrest. The criminal could have hit a someone else and killed them....or a child.

That really wasn't him racing away from the traffic stop, was it? The WPD conspired with the studio to fake a video of him fleeing at a high rate of speed?

It's too bad that people can't accept the truth about their relatives when it is revealed right in front of their eyes.

Niece, first of all how do you know he wasnt driving and a "constant" speed? Do you even know what constant means?

Your uncle was a suspect in an armed robbery where he attempted to rob or did rob someone over a drug deal. I believe the uncle was chasing after someone or being chased and bullets were flying when the first officer spotted him. He refused to stop, throwing dope out the windows, a gun, and a single WPD car was in pursuit. He needed backup and fast.

Bullets flying, remember that. Think about how far bullets travel, what kind of harm then can do piercing the bedroom window of a little girl sleeping innocently as the drug induced shootout came down their street.

Your uncle killed this officer, just as the terrorists that crashed their plane into the World Trade Center killed the firemen that responded to help save those trapped inside.

My guess is you will end up just like him someday.

was awesome!!!! Great Job and I have to agree 100% with you. This is someone else our tax $$$ will be taking care of in the near future, Goody!!!

After I made my posting last night,I went to the star news and looked at the grand jurys report and why they made thier decision,first off to the niece I feel for you but you Must know that what your uncle was doing was wrong in all ways he made a decision that played into a chain of events that led to the death of another human being an d the others that read this know that that chain of events is indeed long no matter how trivial the box may seem it is still a factor,and just out of curiosity were are the other two occupants of the vehicle? if you read the indictment they are far far from stand up citizen.
Now putting all the emotional opinions aside lets look at the law, whether we agree or disagree it was put into place to protect all citizens of this great country, on the flip side it was once said that any goverment that picks and chooses which laws it wants to follow for its own benefit is corrupt we as americans see this all the time, the impact of this case will greatly undermine the checks and balances in our legal system and allow the courts to use more emotion and less fact to influence its decisions.
In this case the key word is malice not to go into it too much you can look it up, but the entire premise for Second Degree murder is with malice and afore thought, the grand jury based thier decision on other cases and primarily the malice aspect of the charge, I agree with most of what everyone has said on these postings but lets not forget why our laws were put into place to protect the constitution of these United States and its people goverments both primary and secondary {lacal} I believe have been givev far to much administrative power over us, and you can rest assured that Mr. Pierce is going to pay for this there is far to much stacked against him for that not to happen and to the family and friends of Officer Matthews my condolences I to knew him and his death is a great loss to many both in his personell life and his chossen proffesion.

My thoughts and prayers go to all in this case. I am proud there is a trial for this Officer. My child was murdered in Brunswick County 9-5-2006 and there was no trial but the cold blooded killer confessed and got a Plea of 2nd degree murder and 1st degree kidnapping and is in Women's Prison. That is the way the law is sometimes but nothing we say when we are hurting will undo the death of the Fallen Officer who was a child of a Mother who has a broken heart. Justice will be done by the law of NC and we all have to live with what ever the out come is. . GOD BLESS everyone on both sides. The pain will never go away for the families friends and loved ones but have faith in the law and the people who serve daily.