HALL SUMMIT, La -- He began with the National Guard. Then came years as a lawman with Minden Police and the Webster Parish Sheriffs Office. Then came four years in Afghanistan. Through all of that, Tony Matteson never had to fire his weapon in a use of force incident.
Not until he came back home to resume his law enforcement career.
It was August 2, 2017. Matteson was a lieutenant with the Red River Parish Sheriffs Office.
“We were going to a house in Coushatta to help a veteran in crisis,” Matteson recalled.
Matteson and his partner were going to take Preston Thornton to the VA for care. But, as Matteson’s body cam showed, Thornton went for a gun and fired shots toward Matteson and his partner, Chris Sibley.
Matteson returned fire, fatally wounding Thornton. Sibley suffered a leg wound. But Matteson escaped physical harm.
“Then it's about a year later, I started developing some memory problems, anger issues, stuff that was beyond my control," Matteson says.
Matteson says he was diagnosed with PTSD from that firefight at a home in Coushatta, Louisiana.
“And it's gotten worse this past year and finally retiring from the sheriff's office as a lieutenant, and medically retired I guess. I'll start the next chapter of my life, whatever that might be. It won't be law enforcement,” he said.
“I just wish this nightmare would go away," Matteson went on. "And it's every day. Nightmare, dreams, night sweats. Dreams about the shooting over and over and over again.”
Matteson had gone to work with Red River after four years in Afghanistan, working for the U.S. military contractor, company Dyncorp. They were hired by the U.S. State Department to help form the Afghanistan National Police as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“I was the tactical police trainer lead man. Basically there's a boot camp for police officers. We would recruit them, bring them to the academy,” he explained.
He began that three years after the 9/11 attacks that propelled the US to war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
"I wanted to do something to help out,” Matteson said.
While there, Matteson also led a humanitarian drive that became wildly successful. He says it delivered 500,000 boxes of clothing and care items for the people of Afghanistan, donated by Americans.
Back in the US after his Afghan duty, Matteson was honored for his work in with the Red River Parish Sheriff’s Office. He earned two life saving awards, and a Meritorious Service Award for his actions on that dark day four years ago when he had to use deadly force.
He won’t let that tragic incident define his career.
“There's a lot more good that outweighs the bad. This shooting was a less of 1 percent of what I've done in my career. I loved helping people. And that's why I got into it. I loved helping people. I love protecting people that can protect themselves."
Regarding the US pullout from Afghanistan, Matteson has urged President Biden and others to grant a visa to evacuate a translator who worked side by side with him in Afghanistan.
Matteson believes the U.S. should not completely withdraw from Afghanistan, and should not leave anyone behind who helped our side.