Family of Black gay teenager found dead on NYC train tracks demands answers

Deandre Matthews, 19, had “significant burn wounds” throughout his body, New York police said. “Who would kill a beautiful soul like that?” his mother asked.


The family of a 19-year-old gay Black man who was found dead on train tracks in Brooklyn, New York, this month are demanding answers, and justice.

The body of Deandre Matthews was found around 4 p.m. Feb. 7 on freight train tracks near the 2200 block of Nostrand Avenue, New York police said.

Officers said Matthews was unresponsive, with “significant burn wounds” throughout his body. He was pronounced dead at the scene. 

The city chief medical examiner's office said he died of "gunshot wounds of the head with perforation of the skull and brain." His death was ruled a homicide.

No arrests have been made in the case, which remains under investigation. 

Danielle Matthews described her son as a “calm, silly, friendly person” who was studying criminal justice at State University of New York Broome Community College in Binghamton. He liked to go by the nicknames "Dre" and "Prince."

Deandre Matthews.Danielle Matthews

“He was just a beautiful soul. He was a great kid. Never had police contact. First in my family to go to college. He was amazing,” she said. 

Matthews said she last heard from her son Feb. 6, when he asked to use her car. She didn't know where he was headed that night, and police said he was last seen leaving his home at 5:45 p.m.

Danielle Matthews said that at about 2:30 a.m. Feb. 7, her mother called her asking where her car was because it wasn’t in front of the house. 

“That was the worst phone call I got in my life. I went to my window. My car was not there. I began to call my son. My son did not answer his phone," she said.

"I then located my car about 3:30 a.m. with a tracking system on my car because I have a new car. I located my car. I called the police. They came. My car was burnt, and from there I knew my son was gone,” she said.

She said the back seat was burned, with no sign of Deandre Matthews.

“My son was missing. A couple of hours later Feb. 7, that evening, is when they located my son’s body,” Matthews said.

“This was not something we expected, never thought it was going to happen in a million years,” she said.

Matthews said she wishes she knew what led to her son's death. There were no red flags, and he never vocalized concerns about his safety, she said.

She said she believes his death was a hate crime possibly motivated by the fact that he was gay.

“I don’t know, but I believe it was a hate crime. Who would kill a beautiful soul like that?” she said.

Deandre Matthews’ sister, Dajanae Gillespie, also said she believes he may have been the victim of a hate crime. 

“He was gay. And I feel as if this could’ve been a hate crime,” she told NBC New York

“I want to know why [the killer] did it. What was the reason? Deandre wasn’t a violent person. This wasn’t for retaliation. He wasn’t in the streets,” she said. 

Police officials have not said whether they are investigating the case as a hate crime.

Danielle Matthews believes her son’s killer will be caught, saying she has been in contact with police and “they are doing a good job.”

“Let's not give up. Let's not let Deandre’s name go in vain. I want justice for my son," she said.