|“||Who did I take fire from?||”|
— Sepi when he was arrested
Matthew Sepi is an Iraq War veteran who shot two gang members, one of them fatally, while under the influence of PTSD. The shootings were judged to have been committed in self-defense and he was instead given counseling.
"The war was supposedly over, except it wasn't. I was a ground troop, with a grenade launcher attached to my M-16. Me and my buddies were the ones that assaulted the places. We went in the buildings and cleared the buildings. We shot and got shot at."
Very little is known about Sepi's early life, other than he was born sometime on 1985 in Winslow, Arizona, of Navajo Indian descent. When he was sixteen years old, he joined the U.S. Army with a permission slip from his mother Nora and served in the Iraq War as a specialist with the 4th Infantry Division, which was based at Fort Hood. During his year-long stay in Iraq, his unit went on a mission on December 2003, creeping through towns and attacking certain targets by stunning them with C-4 plastic explosives. One night, the unit accidentally set an innocent motorist on fire, an occurrence that traumatized Sepi afterward. Upon returning from Iraq, Sepi went to Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and began drinking in order to fall asleep. His drinking soon led to him being arrested for underage drinking and driving, and Sepi was forced to undergo alcohol and drug education and counseling; he left the Army shortly afterward. Disillusioned, Sepi moved to Las Vegas, Nevada. There, he rented a dilapidated apartment and received jobs as a road worker and an employee at a bottling plant that made plastic juice bottles. Sepi was advised by his alcohol counselor to seek specialized help at a Veteran Affairs hospital, but he was unable to do so due to his extended working hours at the juice bottle factory. Sometime prior to the July 31 alley shooting, Sepi acquired an AK-47 assault rifle.
On the night of July 31, 2005, Sepi went out, instinctively bringing along the AK-47, which he kept concealed under a black trench-coat. He walked to a 7-Eleven convenience store, which was located in a seedy neighborhood called "Naked City" due to the presence of prostitutes. After purchasing two tall cans of beer, he left the store and entered an alleyway, where he was confronted by armed gang members Sharon Jackson, 47, and Kevin Ratcliff, 36, whose territory he was allegedly passing on. Acting in self-defense, Sepi fired several shots, killing Jackson and wounding Ratcliff. He then returned home, placed 180 rounds of ammunition in his car, and drove away. He didn't get far, though, when a police car pulled him over, and he immediately confessed to the shooting; Sepi was then arrested. After spending three months in jail, he went to trial, where it was determined that the shooting was committed in self-defense, although it was never made clear on if Sepi or one of the gang members he shot fired the first shots. Due to a large amount of support from fellow soldiers and veterans' advocates, Nancy Lemcke, Sepi's public defender, pressed Veterans Affairs to find a treatment program for him and called for an unusual deal: if Sepi completes his substance abuse and PTSD treatment, then the charges filed against him would be dropped. After spending three months of treatment in Prescott, Arizona, Sepi was transferred to a Veterans Affairs-run PTSD treatment center in Topeka, Kansas. Around 2008, he completed the treatment, the charges against him were dropped, and to date (September 2013), he lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and has a job as a commercial bakery welder.
Sepi shot his victims with an AK-47 assault rifle, which he kept concealed under a black trench-coat that he wore on the day of the alley shooting.
- July 31, 2005, Las Vegas, Nevada: The alley shooting (committed in self-defense):
- Sharon Jackson, 47 (killed)
- Kevin Ratcliff, 36 (survived)
On Criminal Minds
Sepi may have been mentioned by Reid in "Dorado Falls" as an example of soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Reid's description of Sepi was that he was an Iraq War veteran who assaulted two people in Las Vegas in 2005.
- New York Times:
- 8 News article about Sepi
- Daily Kos article about Sepi
- Review Journal article that mentions Sepi
- Nieman Reports article that mentions Sepi
- Lad Vegas Sun article that mentions Sepi
- ↑ The New York Times articles about Sepi state that he was twenty years old at the time he shot the two gang members, placing his approximate year of birth at 1985