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Man charged in shooting deaths of Garfield Heights teens worked with Homeland Security

September 6, 2018

Man charged in shooting deaths of Garfield Heights teens worked with Homeland Security

GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio — A private security officer contracted by the United States Department of Homeland Security has been charged in the death of a teenager and a woman following a fight, Garfield Heights police said. 

Matthew Nicholson, 29, is charged with murder and domestic violence in the shooting death of Manuel Lopez Jr., 17, and Giselle Lopez, 19, Garfield Heights police Robert Byrne announced during a Thursday afternoon press conference. 

Nicholson and his girlfriend, America Polanco, got into a fight over text messages she received from an ex-boyfriend, police said.

Manuel Lopez heard the two fighting and tried to protect his mother, police said. 

Investigators are unsure what happened next, but Nicholson shot the siblings several times with a .45 caliber handgun, police said. They were both found in the driveway of the home with multiple gunshot wounds, police said.

Police recovered what was described as a “numerous handguns” from the first floor of the home, and an AK-47 from the basement, according to a police report. Nicholson was also wearing body armor when police took him into custody after a prolonged standoff with authorities.

Neighbors described Nicholson as volatile.

Manuel Lopez was taken to Marymount Hospital, where he died of his wounds.

Giselle Lopez was taken to MetroHealth Medical Center where she died while undergoing surgery, police said.

Their mother was treated at MetroHealth for minor injuries.

Polanco told police that their argument turned physical, and her son tried to defend her, a police report says. The daughter had just returned home from work during the fight and got involved in the argument.

Nicholson threatened to kill everyone, and Polanco and her children walked out the front door, the report says. Nicholson followed and fired at the mother and children with a pistol. His gunshots struck the children, the report says.

Polanco screamed to neighbors that “he killed my babies,” according to a neighbor’s account of the incident.

Police arrived to find the children lying in the driveway near the entrance to the home.

Nicholson’s mother came to the home and told investigators that she spoke with her son on the phone from the time the shooting ended. Nicholson threatened to shoot any officers who tried to enter the home, the report says. This prompted the arrival of a SWAT team that set up a perimeter around the home, and in the front yard of the home.

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