“I feel Matt laid the foundation,” she said, “and now those that have eyes to see should follow through. They need to see him as an example, and they need to be there to help someone.”
Otis Williams is Lisa Yates’ brother and Matt’s uncle.
“Now it’s up to the community. Matt brought us together. Now we need to carry that on,” Williams said. “All of the accolades are good, but if no positive change comes out of it, it’s a waste.”
Continuing the community’s unity after Matt Yates’ death, offering help to others as he did, and directly tackling mental health issues are what his mother and uncle want too address.
‘If Matt had known ... "
Matt Yates, 41, was a deputy known for calming tense situations and redirecting young people headed in the wrong direction. Those were among the attributes that made him an invaluable member of the Clark County Sheriff’s office Special Operations Team.
Williams said his nephew likely approached the doorway of the mobile home with that in mind.
“If Matt had known the mother of the young man had already been shot in the incident, he would have approached things entirely differently,” the uncle said. “He expected to de-escalate a bad situation. But he didn’t know how bad. He was expecting to calm a young man down and talk with him, to tell him to stop before he got in more trouble.”
Instead, White greeted him with a gun.
Williams, 73, and Lisa Yates, 68, lamented the lack of support for young people with mental health issues.
“People with mental health issues need the right kind of person to talk with them before they get in trouble, " Williams said. “We are failing young people who need counseling and other mental health services.”
‘Matt is down’
The morning of July 24, Lisa Yates and her brother, Williams, shared a call to mark the birthday of their late mother on the anniversary of her death. They reminisced about the 5 foot, 3 inch, no-nonsense woman who raised them and their two siblings with strict expectations as to how they behaved.
She stressed helping others as she raised her family, reminding them that while they were not rich, they had all they needed and a responsibility to help others in need. She had passed away three years ago to the day.
A short time after their conversation, Williams’ phone rang again. His sister, sobbing and hardly able to speak, could barely get the words out: “Matt is down.”
Lisa Yates said her son had been ambushed, shot immediately as he entered the door of the mobile home. When officers finally reached him, CareFlight flew him to Miami Valley Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Act with positive intentions
Her son’s larger-than-life frame and personality was as defining of his character as his commitment to helping others, Lisa Yates said.
“He would come through my house, and I would warn him not to bump into things and break them,” the mother said.
Her son grew up with a father who also was a law enforcement officer, and Lisa Yates worked 33 years at the Juvenile Detention Center in Springfield. They taught him the consequences to his life, the lives of others and his community demanded he act with positive intentions.
“Anytime you’re with your friends and you think something isn’t right, don’t do what they do,” his mother warned him.
So when he became a deputy, and when Matt Yates encountered youths who needed mentoring, he made the effort to engage them. When he heard about youngsters taking positive actions in their community, he was also quick with praise.
Those qualities led to an outpouring of love and massive demonstration of community support following Matt Yates’ death that moved the family. Community members lined the streets as his casket was transported for burial. The church was filled to overflowing with those in attendance. Hundreds of law enforcement officers from across Ohio attended, along with Gov. Mike DeWine and numerous local leaders.
Tributes honored the deputy as kind, a warrior, a hero, someone who devoted his life to making his community better, a champion, someone who personified strength.
Williams, his uncle, said those feelings need to result in continued actions.
“Everyone in the community is on the same page, and we should not let the page be turned without seeing progress,” Williams said. “It’s not enough just to see the issues. It’s time to address those issues and build a better future. Springfield’s motto is Forward Together. I’d like to see that realized.”