UPDATED: Tuesday, July 14 at 12:25 p.m.

A neighbor said the mother of a 24-year-old man, killed Sunday in a shootout with River Forest police, had returned to River Forest from her home in Wisconsin to try to give her son support after a romantic breakup.

The neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said Matthew Watson lived alone in the family home at 116 Lathrop Ave. Susan Watson, 59, had invited her son to visit the Wisconsin home she shared with William Carlson, 60. Friends had reported Matthew was sending “bizarre texts about conspiracy theories 24-7,” the friend said. The three had returned to Illinois last weekend. 

Early Sunday morning, police say, Matthew Watson shot Carlson and his mother with a 12-gauge shotgun. 

“I heard two thuds that sounded like a bird hitting a window,” said a neighbor, Mary Win Connor of Forest Park. “Now I know those were the shotgun blasts inside the house.”

Police responded to a call from a woman who told 911 dispatchers she was having difficulty breathing. When they arrived, Watson exited the house with a shotgun and fired at officers from the driveway, other neighbors reported. Officers returned fire and Watson was killed. A 15-year veteran sergeant was injured after being shot in his bullet-proof vest. A five-year veteran officer was also injured. 

River Forest Deputy Chief James O’Shea characterized the incident as “an ambush.” 

Police found Carlson’s body in the back of the home. The Cook County Medical Examiner determined he was shot in the chest at close range. Susan Watson suffered other, unspecified wounds as well as being shot. She was transported to Loyola University Medical Center where her condition was critical, O’Shea said Sunday. There was no update on Susan Watson’s condition as of Monday.

“This was such a shock because this was a really good kid,” said the neighbor. “[Matt] never caused trouble.”

Matthew Watson worked as a private detective investigating insurance fraud. He attended St. Luke Parish School and graduated from Oak Park and River Forest High School in 2009. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a degree in criminal justice. 

Mary Maloney of Oak Park remembered Matthew as a fun teenager who rode in the carpool to OPRF lacrosse games and practices with her son. She described Susan Watson as a “loving mom,” who framed photos of the lacrosse players to be sold at booster club auctions, she said.

“My son has been shaken to his core,” Maloney said. “When I heard that 911 call, it was just so incredibly sad to me,” she added.

The neighbor and Maloney’s children said Matthew had allegedly posted ominous messages on social media. This was not confirmed by River Forest police by Tuesday’s press time. O’Shea said River Forest police would have no further statements until the investigation was complete.

“The message to everybody is to know your neighbor and reach out,” Maloney said. “When people post those kinds of messages, they are asking for help,” she added.

Matthew Watson is survived by his father, William H. Watson, of Oak Park. The Watsons divorced in 2013. Attempts to reach William Watson were unsuccessful. 

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...

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