“They didn’t call themselves friends, they called themselves brothers. They protected each other. They looked out for each other. They did everything together from that age all the way through high school,” Arnold recalled.
Yates, 41, was killed in the line of duty on Sunday following a shooting at a mobile home park in Harmony Twp. outside Springfield.
Yates was remembered as the level-headed one of the group who was always laughing. Those traits followed him as he became a deputy, got married and raised three children. As Yates grew up, he always checked on his childhood friends, family and neighbors.
“Matt was the brother that was like ‘okay, let’s think this through first before we do that,” Arnold warmly recalled, noting that is how Yates always was even years into adulthood.
When tragedy struck in 2005, it had a lasting impact on Yates who would later go on to serve 15 years as a Clark County Sheriff’s deputy, said Arnold.
Yates’ best friend Titus Arnold was killed at the age of 23 as he was leaving his job at a home for at-risk youth. As the news came, the rest of the friend group rallied together to help each other through that loss. Not only did they look after each other, but they provided crucial support to Arnold, who remembers being lost following her son’s senseless killing.
“I know Titus’ death played a big part in Matt’s life and it affected Matt a lot,” said Arnold, who was told by Yates’ fellow deputies that he used to talk about Titus a lot.
Titus, who worked with the juvenile court system, was about to head home to his daughter when two men randomly targeted him. They pulled a gun and shot and killed Titus. It was the culmination of a four-day crime spree committed by the two men that included three shootings.
“If it had not been for the ‘Fab 9,’ I would not have survived Titus’ murder. They were there for me from the beginning. They are still there for me now, though five of them are now angels,” Victoria Arnold said, referring to Titus’ friends as her sons.
Three of the “Fab 9″ have died from random causes, including health related, and all died too soon, Arnold said.
Yates joined the sheriff’s office, choosing to follow in his father Eugene’s footsteps, who had been a longtime deputy before retiring from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. In addition to that, Yates joined his friends in choosing career and life paths that allowed them to help others, Arnold said.
Yates death continues to hit those that knew him well. He leaves behind a wife, Tracy, two sons, Anthony and Andrew Reed, and a daughter A’Kaylehana Yates.
“Matt loved (Tracy) with all his heart. That baby girl (his daughter) was the apple of his eye. His sons, Matt never called them his stepsons, those were his sons. Matt loved hard. He was proud of his family and what he accomplished as a deputy,” Arnold said.
Yates’ death brought Arnold back to the day when her son Titus was killed. Arnold and Yates had supported each other emotionally during that time and continued to keep in touch throughout the years. She had loved Yates like a son and had even talked to him the Friday before his death.
In the years following her son Titus’ death, Arnold decided to become a victim’s advocate for the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office. She left her job at Central State to take on that role in 2019.
The days following Yates’ death has served as a reminder of how important that work truly is for her.