REDDING, Calif. (AP) — A Northern California man who vanished while officials searched for his missing infant daughter stole a car at gunpoint and later died in a shootout with deputies, authorities said.
Matthew Graham, whose 6-month-old daughter went missing July 2 from his Happy Valley home, about 150 miles north of Sacramento, stole a couple’s car Monday and led authorities on a chase, the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department said.
Michael Prado said Graham, a stranger, robbed him and his wife of their car Monday morning after sleeping in the yard of their Shasta Lake home overnight.
Authorities traced the car through its navigation system and chased it 48 miles north to Dunsmuir. Graham got out of the vehicle, holed up in a nearby garage and exchanged gunfire with authorities, the sheriff’s department said. Deputies shot and killed him, the agency said.
Graham, 23, became a person of interest in his daughter’s disappearance after giving inconsistent statements to investigators. He stole a semi-automatic gun from his mother Saturday after hearing the search for his daughter had turned up a possible lead, authorities said. The girl, Ember, has not been found.
Graham was seen buying cigarettes Sunday at a Lake Shasta convenience store and turned up at Prado’s house a few miles away.
Prado went outside to fetch his newspaper about 6:15 a.m. Monday when he noticed the gate to his backyard was open. He checked the yard and noticed cushions were missing from the patio furniture. Moments later, Graham confronted him and his wife.
“He said, ‘Don’t be scared. I’m afraid too,'” Prado said. “‘Stay together.'”
Prado said it appeared that Graham used the patio furniture cushions as a bed and slept in a side yard.
After Prado retrieved the car keys, Graham made him start the 2007 Buick Lucerne while pointing the gun at his wife in the carport.
Graham drove off, warning Prado to wait until noon before calling authorities. Prado called 911 moments later.
The Siskiyou sheriff reported the shooting of the Buick driver an hour later, but his name wasn’t released for several hours.