Dori: Parkland dad protecting preschool daughter during attempted carjacking gets shot in mouth

Jun 20, 2022, 2:23 PM | Updated: 2:28 pm

Adrenalin, parental instincts and lessons learned from his dad kicked into overdrive at the start of Matthew Phillips’s Father’s Day weekend when an attempted carjacker pulled a rifle on him and his 3-year-old daughter in Pierce County.

Hospitalized after the Friday morning ordeal in Parkland, Phillips described to The Dori Monson Show listeners how he continued to protect his daughter even after one of two suspects in the incident shot him in the mouth, leaving pieces of a bullet lodged in his tongue.

It started, he said, after loading his daughter into his vehicle on their way to daycare.

“I had just barely turned the corner when I was greeted by a man with a rifle,” Phillips told Dori. “He started yelling at me `I want the truck. I want the wallet. Give me everything.’

“He keeps saying `I’m homeless. Nobody’s going to help me,’” the Parkland dad continued. “I kept saying `my daughter’s in the car. This is not a good idea.’”

Despite the gun, Phillips knew he had a size advantage.

“I’m 5’ 11” and almost 300 pounds,” Phillips described. His attacker? “Very young. He looked like he may have been on drugs. . . He’s 5’5”, maybe 120 pounds.”

In the split seconds that the rifle-armed suspect reached over Phillips to grab his wallet, Phillips reacted.

“My dad was ex-military; my dad showed me some things,” he described. Able to overtake the suspect’s rifle, and drop it on the passenger seat, Phillips threw his pickup into reverse to escape. Moments later, the 20-year-old would-be carjacker pulled out a second weapon – a pistol – and fired three shots at Phillips. One bullet hit the truck’s window and then its dash before striking him in the mouth.

“They pulled the whole bullet out of my tongue,” the defensive dad described. “It left a chunk out of there, and I have missing teeth and a piece of my lip to go with it.

“Most of all, I had to make sure 3-year-old daughter was safe, that she was going to be okay and that he was not able to take off with the truck no matter what happened to me,” Phillips told Dori. The suspect “did run up to the vehicle to finish it off.”

With blood pouring from his mouth, Phillips emerged from his pickup to struggle with the suspect and pin him to the ground.

In what Dori compared to a horror movie scene that just won’t end, the attack took on another frightening twist.

“A 17-year-old girl came out of nowhere, got into passenger side and grabbed the rifle,” Phillips continued. “I’ve got him pinned to the ground and she’s yelling `get off of him.’”

That’s when Kevin – a neighbor he had never met before – managed to get the rifle away from the girl, the Parkland dad explained.

“The whole time, she had the pistol in her sweatshirt pocket. She was holding it and any time she could have shot me,” Phillips told Dori. “He (the would-be carjacker) was telling her to shoot me. That’s when police arrived. . . She pointed the gun at the police officer.”

Deputies managed to talk the girl into dropping the weapon before both suspects were arrested.

“I’m very thankful for the Pierce County Sheriff’s department,” said Phillips.

Now that the rush is over, Dori asked, what are you feeling?

“It hit me all at once,” Phillips answered. “I’m thankful that I’m here. The biggest thing is that my daughter’s okay. That’s the one thing I cared about. That’s all that mattered.”

And how did Phillips celebrate Father’s Day with his preschooler?

“We hung out and snuggled all day,” he said. “She didn’t leave my side.”

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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