A 19-year-old gay man was found shot to death with “significant” burns on February 7 in a homicide case that has prompted his family to believe he may have been the victim of a fatal hate crime.
Deandre Matthews, who lived in Brooklyn, was last seen by his mother, Danielle Matthews, on February 6. His mother said she saw him in the morning as he left for work at Buggy’s Car Rental, one of the two jobs he held. She later texted with him in the evening when she gave him permission to use her car. He took the car, but never came home, so he was reported missing.
An NYPD spokesperson told Gay City News that police responded to a 911 call at 4 p.m. the following day, February 7, and found Matthews’ dead body on the freight train tracks near 2236 Nostrand Avenue near Brooklyn College and a Target. He had “significant burn wounds through his body,” a gunshot wound to the head, and signs of smoke inhalation, according to police.
Although Matthews was found dead on train tracks, his car had been set ablaze in a different location, his mother said, raising additional questions about the circumstances surrounding her son’s death.
“The car was on fire,” she said. “They moved the body.”
An NYPD spokesperson did not immediately respond to a follow-up question about the location of the car. Matthews’ mother said authorities are looking through the vehicle for any information. Police have yet to make any arrests.
“He was harmless,” Danielle Matthews said. “We know this is a hate crime. This is someone who was not happy with themselves. Some people are not as out in the open about their sexuality. [Deandre] was. Maybe it was somebody he was dealing with. You don’t know.”
Danielle Matthews said her son was not dating anyone — not publicly, at least. He came out as gay several years ago, she said, and she wonders if he may have met up with someone during the time leading up to his death.
“The way he left this world was personal,” she said. “It was intentional.”
Reflecting on her late son, she said he was “charismatic, enthusiastic, self-motivating, caring, and such an empathetic person.” He was fun-loving, too, according to the family, and would surround himself with humor and a positive attitude. He attended college and aspired to embark on a career as a social worker.
“He was just really the life of the party,” his mother said. “He was harmless.”
The NYPD said the investigation into the homicide is ongoing. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner told Gay City News in an email that the cause of death has been determined to be a homicide caused by a gunshot wound to the head “with perforation of the skull and brain.”