A Pittsburgh Police Department officer who was seriously wounded in the October 2018 mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue will be one of President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump’s guests at the State of the Union address Tuesday night. Timothy Matson was injured while rushing into the synagogue to save lives and try to stop the shooter, according to the White House.
“In October 2018, Tim responded to the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue. He suffered multiple gunshot wounds and saved countless lives in that heinous, anti-Semitic attack,” the White House said in its announcement of the Trumps’ guests for the president’s second State of the Union speech.
The 46-year-old gunman killed 11 people and wounded seven others, including Matson. The wounded officer, who is still recovering from his injuries, will be joined at the State of the Union by another survivor of the synagogue attack, Judah Samet.
“Judah Samet is a member of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. In October 2018, he survived the horrific shooting that killed 11 members of his community,” the White House said. “Judah is also a survivor of the Holocaust. Judah immigrated to Israel after the war and was present for the declaration of the Israeli State in 1948. He served as a paratrooper and radio man in the Israeli Defense Forces and moved to the United States in the 1960s.”
Matson has not issued a statement about the shooting and being chosen as one of the Trumps’ guests. Trump visited the wounded Pittsburgh officers in the days after the Tree of Life shooting.
Here’s what you need to know about Pittsburgh Police OFficer Timothy Matson:
1. Matson Has Been a Pittsburgh Police Officer Since 2005 & Joined the Department’s SWAT Team in 2016
Timothy Matson has been a police officer with the Pittsburgh Police Department since 2005, according to the White House. He joined the department’s SWAT team in 2016, the White House said. “As a key member of the SWAT team, he would breach the entrance during raids, a very dangerous task,” according to the White House.
“The Department of Public Safety and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police are honored that Officer Matson, on behalf of all city first responders, is being recognized for his life-saving service,” the Pittsburgh Police said in a statement about Matson attending the State of the Union address as a guest of the Trumps. The department said the decision for him to attend the speech had nothing to do with politics.
While Matson was in the hospital after the shooting, his fellow officers praised his good spirits, saying he was laughing and making jokes with them.
“We were in his hospital room today, visiting, and as soon as we walk in he’s already cracking jokes,” Commander Jason Lando told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in October. “He’s in that situation, where his life is the one in danger, and everyone is so worried about him — but he’s cracking jokes and it makes everyone feel better.”
Lando added, “When bullets are flying and people’s lives are in danger, Tim Matson is the guy you want going through the door. He’s the guy who goes in and calmly gets the job done.”
2. He Was Shot Along With Another Officer When They Encountered the Shooter in a Hallway While Trying to Clear the Synagogue
Matson was shot along with another Pittsburgh officer, Anthony Burke, as they searched the Tree of Life synagogue for the shooter. Matson and Burke entered the synagogue along with other members of the SWAT team to clear the building and search for those who were wounded and other survivors, along with the gunman.
According to police, Matson and the other SWAT officers encountered the shooter on the third floor of the synagogue and he opened fire on them. Matson was shot multiple times. Burke was shot in the hand. The gunman was wounded during the exchange of gunfire and eventually surrendered. He is awaiting trial on several charges related to the shooting, including hate crimes and murder.
Another Pittsburgh officer, Daniel Mead, was also wounded during the shooting. He was shot in the hand. Officer Michael Smidga was wounded by shrapnel that hit his face. Two other officers, John Persin and Tyler Pashel, suffered hearing and knee injuries respectively during the active shooter situation, police said at a press conference in October.
“I still want to praise the officers for what they did,” Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert said at a press conference in October. “They ran into danger. They ran into gunfire to help others. Some of that is training, some of that is experience but it’s their inner core that wants them to help others, that wants to save lives and they did that yesterday.”
Diane Mead, whose brother was injured in the shooting, thanked Trump for coming to visit the wounded officers after the shooting. “There was healing going in the room, validation, of someone putting their life on the line and for a leader to come in and talk to them one on one… what it did for those men and their families was amazing,” Diane Mead told WPXI-TV in October.
3. A GoFundMe Has Been Set Up to Help Him & His Family as He Continues His Recovery
A GoFundMe was set up by Officer Anthony Seretti, who has worked alongside Officer Tim Matson for several years, to help him and his family with medical and other expenses as he continues his recovery from the wounds suffered during the shooting. The GoFundMe had raised more than $80,000 of its $100,000 goal as of Tuesday evening.
You can make a donation here.
“Pittsburgh Police SWAT Officer Tim Matson injured in the line of duty in an active shooter situation. Starting this Gofundme to help cover his routine bills and any expenses needed in his recovery. Page ran by his brother/ Officer Anthony Seretti,” the GoFundMe says.”
According to updates on the GoFundMe page, Matson was hospitalized for several months. He was released from the hospital in January 2019. He was the last of the seven wounded by gunfire during the shooting to leave the hospital.
“Your donations and supportive comments are highly appreciated not only to Tim but every Officer who walks in to the unknown daily. Knowing that friends,co workers and the community will come together to support us is amazing,” Seretti wrote on the GoFundMe page. “City of Pittsburgh Officers make substantially less than most surrounding departments therefore working a lot of overtime is a must. Unfortunately worker compensation only is based off of your 40 hour a week pay.”
4. Matson Was Given an Award in 2017 Along With His Partner for Rushing Into a House During a Home Invasion to Help a Woman & Child Who Were Inside
Officer Timothy Matson received an award along with his partner, Officer Justin Susich, in January 2017, for their actions during a home invasion in December 2016, according to the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Facebook page. Matson, who was a patrol officer in Zone 5 at the time, rushed into a home with Susich to capture an armed man and chase off others in order to save a woman and child who were still inside with the intruders, the police department said.
They were given the Law Enforcement Agency Director’s Award on January 27, 2017.
“Officers Susich and Matson responded to a Penfield Court address in early December for a home invasion robbery with one person possibly shot. Upon arrival they found the wounded male homeowner outside the residence. He advised that he had been pistol whipped and that several armed men were still inside the home with his wife and son. Susich and Matson broadcasted this on the radio and requested back up. No units were immediately available due to simultaneous high priority calls in Zones 4 & 5,” the police department said on Facebook.
The officers decided they could not wait for help.
“Susich and Matson then moved to the front of the home where they made observations that confirmed that the actors were still inside. Recognizing the immediate need to act in order to preserve the safety of the remaining victims, Susich and Matson forced entry. They quickly apprehended one of the gunmen in the living room. While Susich and Matson were securing their prisoner, the other actors fled out the back door discarding two firearms and assorted stolen jewelry on the lawn as they ran,” police said. “The presence of several other then unknown persons in the home prevented pursuit, so Susich and Matson took the best position of advantage available to them inside the home and awaited back up.”
The department added, “Additional units arrived and the remaining victims were identified. The home was cleared while searching for additional actors in a controlled and systematic manner.”
5. The 41-Year-Old Officer Is a McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, Native & Lives With His Wife in Pittsburgh
Tim Matson, who is 41, is married and lives with his wife, Jenifer, in Pittsburgh. They have been married since 2015.
Matson is a native of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, in Allegheny County, not far from Pittsburgh. Matson graduated from Sto-Rox High School in Allegheny County in 1995, according to the school district’s website.
“They were heroic,” Bob Swartzwelder, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1 told the Post-Gazette about Matson and his fellow officers who were shot during the Tree of Life incident. “They engaged in a substantial gunfight at the doorway, they engaged and suffered some serious injuries, both patrol and SWAT, at great peril to themselves.”