Another truck parking tragedy

By Charlie Morasch, contributing writer and Reed Black, "Land Line Now" news anchor

Jerry Matson pulled into Oakland, Calif.'s Coliseum on Dec. 15, ready to complete his cross country delivery.

Waiting to deliver a Caterpillar generator to be used by television companies for an upcoming Oakland Raiders football game, Jerry, an OOIDA life member from Auburn, Ind., asked if he could park inside the 49-year-old sporting venue as he'd done before.

"I was quite early," Jerry told "Land Line Now." "Usually in a situation like that, what they'll do is pull you back over in a corner (inside the stadium). You go to sleep and they'll talk to us in the morning.

"I don't know why this guy was just, 'you can't be inside, you can't be inside.' I said, 'I always park inside.' He said, 'no, no, we have a concert going on. You can't go inside until after the concert.' Despite the concert, there was someplace I could have parked inside. There were parking lots they weren't even using."

The security guard pointed Jerry to a large, well-lit street near the stadium's other side. When he arrived, however, he noticed multiple "no parking" signs.

He drove a bit further and found a public park area. A uniformed law enforcement officer suggested he back into a space in the open area.

Not long after he got settled and fell asleep in his bunker, Jerry awoke to his 2012 International ProStar rocking. The time was about 10 p.m.

"I actually thought someone ran into my truck," he said.

Moments later, the driver's side window was shattered.

Jerry, 72, sat up immediately and started yelling, as he was taught in the Marines. He took action with the only weapon he had - his voice.

"I said, 'you're not gonna shoot me for nothing.' So I jumped up and started screaming."

A hand reached into the window and pulled the trigger of a .45 caliber pistol - firing a bullet into Jerry's stomach near his belly button.

The bullet lodged seat leather into his stomach before being redirected downward and stopping in his thigh.

Jerry laid back on his sleeper bed. He managed to reach his cell phone and dial 911. A dispatcher kept him engaged, though he felt like fainting.

Responding paramedics were wary of immediately entering his truck. Gunpowder hung in the air, and Jerry was screaming in pain.

By that time, the gunman had run away. At press time, no suspects were in custody in connection with the shooting.

After three surgeries and two infections, Jerry's condition is considered stable.

For Jerry's family, the incident highlights the dangers some shippers and receivers impose when not allowing early arriving truck drivers to park on their property the night before a delivery. Because truckers aren't allowed to carry guns in many states, long-haul drivers are at a disadvantage when they're accosted by crooks, the Matson family told Land Line.

"This has been terrible," Janet, Jerry's wife, said. "He's been through hell and back."

Janet, Jerry's wife of 50 years, has remained by his side through the surgeries.

At the hospital, a doctor told Janet her husband is fortunate.

"The doctor told me the bullet came within a hair of hitting his femoral artery," Janet said, "and that would have been it."

Though doctors were able to repair his stomach wound, Jerry's struggled in the shooting's aftermath. Jerry's family said he's had to be on high doses of painkillers, and his blood pressure rises quickly when he stands.

As it turned out, Jerry's body was rejecting both the bullet and materials the bullet lodged into his stomach from the truck's interior.

Janet is a retired registered nurse and used her medical experience to spot an infection in Jerry's thigh when she noticed his body had broken out. Surgery for the infection began later that day.

A driver for the last 43 years, Jerry is supposed to be retired, his daughter Christy told Land Line, "but that's only technically accurate; he won't get out of the truck."

"My Dad joined the Marines when he was 17. He was young enough my grandparents had to sign for him," Christy said. "He's a pretty amazing man. He did his duty, married my mom, and four kids later they just celebrated their 50th anniversary last month.

"If that person had seen my dad on the street and said, 'hey, I'm hungry,' my dad would have taken him and fed him. He's that way. He's a good man."

Looking back at Dec. 15, Jerry Matson Jr., also an owner-operator, mentioned Oakland's lack of truck parking and said drivers aren't able to park safely near a delivery and coast in easily the next morning.

"I've had people try to rob me outside truck stop parking lots, but I can ignore them, usually," Jerry Jr said. "Dad's 72. Someone probably feels it's easier to go after a person of his age."

Christy has set up a GoFundMe account for Jerry's medical expenses. Oakland Police have offered $7,500 in reward money for information in the case. Tipsters can call 510-238-3426 or 510-777-8572.

The Matsons say truck drivers should be able to legally carry guns for protection.

"They don't have any protection, and these people know it," Janet said.

Christy agreed.

"Truck drivers, bless their hearts," she said, "are sitting ducks out there now."

For his part, Jerry said truckers have always been forced to park in unsafe areas.

"Truck parking is an extreme issue right now," Jerry said. "No, I've always felt we were forced to park in bad areas of town. Areas that are rough on tires, and people will steal fuel."

Asked whether he'd be back behind the wheel of his rig, Jerry seemed unsure.

"I'm probably gonna hang up my spurs," he said. "I'm 72 now. I'll be at least 73 until I'm in any kind of shape. Who knows what will happen." LL