SAN BERNARDINO – A suspect who threatened to slash the throat of a 73-year-old man was fatally shot by police on Sunday night.
Richard Matus, 43, who died about an hour after he was shot, was threatening to kill Peter Zabala, said police. They said he was holding a knife at Zabala’s throat in the 200 block of South Golden Avenue just before 8 p.m.
Alerted by a cell phone call from Zabala, who told police “that someone was going to shoot him,” according to Sgt. Gary Robertson of the department’s homicide division, police arrived at the residence.
They discovered the two men in a locked bathroom. Officers attempted to make contact with the victim and suspect who were locked in a bathroom, said Robertson.
Matus, he said, would not respond to verbal commands to unlock the bathroom door. Robertson said officers heard muffled sounds inside the bathroom and, fearing for the safety of the victim, forced entry was made.
Robertson said that officers, afraid that Zabala would be stabbed, grabbed the victim and began attempting to pull him away from Matus. At the same time, said Lt. Jarrod Burguan, the officer began firing his duty weapon at the suspect.
By department policy, Robertson did not identify the officer, saying, he was “a 10-year veteran officer who had encountered Matus holding a knife close to Zabala’s throat.”
Matus was taken to Loma Linda University Medical Center where died of his injuries. Zabala escaped without injury.
Robertson said the knife was recovered, but no gun was discovered despite Zabala’s statement that said Matus was threatening to shoot him. Toxicity reports will take some time, Burguan said, “but that may shed some light into the suspect’s actions.”
Burguan said the two men were acquaintances. During a rainstorm, Matus knocked on Zabala’s door and asked if he could come into his home. Burguan said the victim “reluctantly let (Matus) come into his house.”
“The best we have so far is the suspect was acting irrational,” Burguan added.