Grandmother who shot boy speaks out

September 30, 2010 (CHICAGO)

"I didn't want to be a statistic at the hands of some young man," said Margaret Mathews.

Matthews says she doesn't want to be called a hero. She says she was just protecting herself.

Neighbors say Matthews had been the target of what they call a campaign of harassment by the 12-year-old and his friend. They claim the boys had set one of her rugs on fire, damaged her grill and broken windows at her home as recently as last week.

"There is nothing heroic about any individual getting hurt by another individual's hand," said Matthews.

Still reeling from the ordeal that ended with her shooting a 12-year-old neighbor, Matthews spoke publically for the first time about how she defended herself after she says she was terrorized by neighborhood children for more than a year. The 68-year-old widow remains concerned about her safety and didn't want to be on camera, especially after media reports about the incident.

"I'm sorry all of this happened, but it has happened and I hope and pray that something positive will come from what has happened here," said Matthews.

On late Tuesday afternoon, Matthews says she returned home from the grocery store to the coach house where she has lived for 30 years to find two of her windows broken and the boy and his friend running away. She called police.

The former day-care workers says just minutes later the boys returned, stood on the roof of a shed in her yard and began to pelt her with rocks as she stood on her front stairs. She was struck in the chest and knee. That's when Matthews says she got her deceased husband's gun from the house and fired several shots to scare the boys.

"I didn't want to hurt nobody, but God knows when it came to getting hurt, I had to make a choice. I had to make a choice," said Matthews.

The South Side boy was hit in the shoulder. The evening of the incident, his family painted a much different picture of what happened, claiming the 12-year-old did nothing to provoke the attack.

Meanwhile, some of her neighbors who've had contact with the same boy support the grandmother's actions.

"I tried to talk to him, but he didn't listen," said Hilda Brunt, Matthews' neighbor, adding that the boy has caused her problems as well.

Matthews once again rejects the moniker of hero bestowed upon her by those who have rallied around her.

"I pray for this young man and I'm so happy that he's going to be alright. And I hope something is learned from this," said Matthews.

Margaret Matthews was not charged after she was questioned and released by police. The 12-year-old was charged with misdemeanor aggravated assault of a senior citizen as was his 13-year-old friend who was unharmed.

Police confiscated the handgun used in the incident because Matthews did not have a valid firearm owners identification card. The weapon was legally registered to Matthews' husband who died two years ago.

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