Metro-East News

Man critical of how deputies handled traffic stop that led to his friend’s suicide

A man who says he is an eyewitness to the suicide death of his former employee last week has criticized St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson’s backing of how deputies handled the situation.

But Watson said he is standing by his deputies, whom he said did an outstanding job in trying to get a 37-year- old East St. Louis man not to take his life.

Wayman Thornton said he “strongly disagrees with St. Clair County Sheriff Richard Watson’s statement commending his officers for doing an outstanding job.” The unnamed deputies who were involved in the incident had attempted to pull the man over after running his license plates and determining that he had an outstanding warrant. The man pulled into a parking lot on North 60th Street near the business where he was a DJ and put a gun to his head, police said.

Thornton said he was able to talk to his former employee and friend and had persuaded him to remove the gun from his head. But, Thorton alleges that everything changed when a sheriff’s deputy pulled out a long rifle, wrapped the strap around his hand and pointed it at the driver, Duriel “Jay” Maton.

Watson said, “I stand by my deputies. Also, I thank Chief Hubbard and the East St. Louis Police Department. The only thing that really matters in any investigation is relevant and reliable testimony and evidence. I am confident we have exceeded those standards.”

Thornton said he arrived at 5916 State Street (Legacy Cafe and bar) at approximately 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14.

“At approximately 5:33 p.m., I contacted Duriel “Jay” Maton (Mr. East St. Louis) to ask him if he could bring a cable to (the bar). He responded that he would be there in 15 minutes. He arrived at 6:47 p.m., with two St. Clair County Sheriff vehicles in pursuit with their lights flashing,” according to Thornton.

“I was notified that Jay had parked his vehicle on the east side of the building. I looked out of the window and saw him in his vehicle with a small handgun pointed at his head,” Thornton said.

Thornton said he walked out of the front door facing north and was told by an officer not to come out, but he refused and was accompanied by another man. Thornton said he and Gary Pearson could see that at the corner of the building “officers had their weapons drawn pointing in Jay’s direction.”

At 6:57 p.m., Thornton said an officer told him that Jay wanted to talk to him.

“Gary Pearson and I walked to the northeast corner where we began to call out to ... pleading to Jay to throw his weapon out of the window. I asked Jay if he could hear me. He nodded his head in a gesture indicating that he could,” Thornton said.

“He then removed the weapon from his head. I told him that I would call him on his cell phone and he could talk to me. At that moment, one of the St. Clair County deputies, carrying what appeared to be an AK-15, came beside me and to a ready position, pointed the weapon in Jay’s direction. Jay then brought the weapon back up, placing it to the side of his head. At approximately 7:05 p.m., Jay discharged his weapon and slumped onto his side,” Thornton said.

“The facts are that an outstanding job would have had an emergency vehicle or vehicles at the scene. They arrived after the individual was contemplating/threatening bodily harm to himself. Second, there would have been a negotiator on scene after realizing the individual was contemplating (suicide). An officer was engaged in conversation with “Jay” prior to the shooting, but no negotiator,” Thornton said.

Watson said he is standing by his deputies and his statement. He said they did everything they could to have a different outcome.

Thornton said there was no sensitivity shown toward the relatives of the individual, and there was no one in charge of the officers at the scene. He said he believes his longtime friend whom he and the community loved would be alive today if things were handled differently.

Funeral services for Maton are scheduled for noon Saturday at King Church on Water Street in Cahokia. A visitation will be held beginning at 10 a.m.

Carolyn P. Smith: 618-239-2503