OC Woman Sues Police For Not Responding To Teen Son’s Suicide Threat
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HUNTINGTON BEACH (CBSLA.com) — A Huntington Beach woman says she feels local police deserted her teen son in his hour of need.
Kathy Cline contends police were alerted to the fact that her son, Matthew, 17, was planning to take his own life and did nothing until it was too late.
Matthew Cline was a well-liked varsity football player about to enter his senior year of high school, his mother said. She and her husband didn’t see signs indicating he was suicidal.
“He was kind, considerate, and cared more about others than his own self,” Kathy Cline said. “He didn’t share his own complaints with others. Matthew had no enemies, he did not do drugs, he did not drink or smoke, was not in rebellion.”
Matthew apparently reached out for help on iFunny, a mobile app with comedic photos and videos he often frequented, posting on July 16 that he was going to take his own life.
According to Matthew’s mother, a girl named Ana was perusing the site when she saw the teen boy’s post. Ana immediately called the Suicide Prevention Hotline, whose operators said that without Matthew’s address they wouldn’t be able to help him. They advised Ana to find out which city he lived in and call local police.
The girl was able to trace Matthew’s iFunny post to his Facebook account, where she saw he lived in Huntington Beach and attended Liberty High School. She called the Huntington Beach Police Department, and officers were able to track down Matthew’s home address. They assured Ana they would “take it from there” and that she needn’t do anything further.
Police submitted a report on July 16 stating officers weren’t sent to check on Matthew Cline because they had two addresses on file for that name.
The next night, Kathy Cline said, she and her husband, William, had left their son home alone for a couple of hours. She came home and found him slumped in the backyard with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The Clines say they kept the gun unloaded and hidden in their bedroom, and were unaware Matthew even knew about it.
Kathy Cline says she can’t understand why police didn’t send anyone to her family’s home or notify them of the suicide threat.
“I don’t know why they didn’t. After all, the police will come to a home with a noise disturbance which has been called in. In any case, and for whatever reason, we the parents were not notified, and 20 long hours passed before our son took his life,” she said.
Matthew’s death could have been prevented, Cline insists.
“My husband and I would do anything for our kids, and, had we known Matt’s dark secret … he would get professional and pastoral care. He would be alive,” she said.
Cline says she feels police should have notified her.
“The police are not responsible to seek out and find suicidal comments on the internet; however, a suicidal threat was brought to their attention and they promised to follow through. Because they didn’t, our son is no longer a part of this world,” she said.
Officers reportedly told the Clines they have no policies regarding this type of situation.
The family filed the lawsuit to change how police handle suicide alerts.
“The only way I can keep breathing is to try and stop this from happening again,” Kathy Cline said.
The Huntington Beach Police Department said it can’t comment on the case because of the pending lawsuit but that it offers its sympathies to the Cline family.
For more, visit the online memorial the Cline family created for Matthew.