Matthew Gerald was the laid-back, funny “guy next door everyone wanted to be friends with.” Friends said he was “full of life” and always “in a good mood and good spirits.”
He was a rookie officer at the Baton Rouge Police Department, and only a few weeks into the job, he was shot dead by a lone gunman.
The ex-marine and former Black Hawk crew chief was one of three officers killed in a shooting that left three others injured. The shooter was determined to have traveled from Missouri to Louisiana with the goal of murdering police officers.
Gerald left behind two daughters—9-year-old Dawclyn and 3-year-old Fynleigh—and his wife Dechia.
Grief-stricken images of the family in the aftermath shook the community to the core.
Dechia felt that in some ways, a big part of her life had been cut short. Just days before Matthew was killed, the two of them had talked about having another child, but were worried about bringing another life into a world with such hatred.
The funeral for Matthew was to be held five days later.
On that day, Dechia remembers fussing in her closet, trying to find clothes to wear to her husband’s funeral.
Then Dawclyn said the strangest thing.
“She said, ‘Mommy, I don’t know why you’re complaining.’ She said, ‘Because you’re pregnant,’ and I said, ‘Girl hush, don’t say that kind of stuff’,” Dechia told WAFB.
Dechia thought her eldest daughter was just spouting nonsense and thought nothing more of it.
But then a few days later, her youngest daughter said the same thing.
“However, this time, she told me that Jesus told her that there was a baby boy in my tummy.”
Dechia said she had no clue what was going on.
But after a few days, she got an inkling that maybe there was something to what her daughters said.
So she bought a home pregnancy test, and got the family together as she waited for the results.
“Within a second of that being done, the test read positive,” she said.
“I wanted to cry, but at the same time, it’s kind of exciting—but then the flood of knowing all of the firsts that he [Matthew] would miss with that one.”
The news was a blessing, Dechia said, so she knew she had to share it with her family and in-laws, and her late husband’s fellow officers.
But it was also overwhelming.
“I mean obviously he left us a very special gift behind, but at the same time, all those days that I get overwhelmed, I ask how am I going to do this by myself without him,” she said.
But the more she thought about it, the more she felt there was a higher power watching over them. During the ultrasound, she felt like Matthew was with her.
“There’s no better gift that a husband could leave behind than a baby, a gift from God. There’s no better gift than that,” Dechia said.
“It’ll have the blue eyes. I’m sure the blonde hair, although I’ve been praying for the red hair, however I don’t know if that’ll happen.”
A few weeks later, Dechia got the news it would be a baby boy. In March, Falyn Matthew Gerald was born.
Dechia had been wearing her husband’s wedding ring on a necklace ever since she lost him the summer before, and when she held Falyn for the first time, he held tightly on to the ring.
“It was very overwhelming… very emotional. Every emotion you could imagine comes at one time, all at once, but it’s very exciting,” Dechia added. She says she’s found the strength, because she knows she’s not in this alone.
“I can just feel his presence. I don’t have to worry about the anxiety or worry where’s he’s at or what he’s doing because at this moment, he’s here with us,” Dechia explained.