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'A hero’: Family remembers Chandler man shot and killed while checking his mail

Police said the suspect pretended to be a bystander and was later arrested. Police are still investigating the motive.

CHANDLER, Ariz. — Matthew Miller is being remembered as a hero by his family and neighbors.

On Monday, the 58-year-old died after he shielded his wife from gunfire.

The couple was getting their mail from their community mailbox when police said Channing Vanderbilt, 31, began shooting at them ‘unprovoked’ near Cooper Road and Hunt Highway in Chandler.

“He was just always cautious and wanted to make sure everybody was safe and well cared for,” said Carey Miller, Matthew’s ex-wife. “I think his whole life was in preparation to save somebody.”

She said when Matthew was a child, his 9-year-old brother died in a fire accident in front of him, and since then it was top of mind for him to care for others.

“As a hero, that’s what he’s going to be remembered for,” said Andrew Miller, Matthew’s son. “He was always putting people first and I think that’s the only way we can look at it now. Either way, he comes out a hero and that’s what we get to live with for the rest of our lives and that’s pretty awesome, that we got to have that as a father.”

Matthew was a goofy, family man, who loved sports, music and making people laugh, his son said.

The last text message Andrew got from his dad said, "be vigilant," something he believes is what helped his father save his stepmother's life during the shooting.

“He was always looking around and always aware and I’m sure he saw what was coming and pushed her down and said, ‘be safe’ and he took the bullets,” Carey Miller said.

Wednesday night, neighbors held a vigil for Matthew. They created a memorial to honor a "selfless life."

Matthew’s family believes he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. They don’t think he knew the suspect.

“I honestly don’t know what his motives could have been, but there’s obviously something wrong with him,” Andrew Miller said. “I think it’s a mental health issue and we need to get more resources out.”

Despite her pain, “I know in my heart, I have forgiven him,” Carey Miller said. “I feel sorry for [the suspect’s] mom, I feel sorry for the situation and whatever led him to this point.”

They are now staying focused on the memories Matthew left in their hearts. Like the time made them laugh after he goofily posed with eggs as goggles.

“He was always trying to do something funny, and he called everybody big guy, how is it going big guy, and he would always knuckle bump ya,” Carey Miller said.

The family has created a GoFundMe to pay for funeral expenses, you can donate here.

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