SALT LAKE CITY — Matthew and Tesha Cieslak had been together for almost 19 years.
“He had such a big personality," she said. "If he's in the room, you can't miss him like. He loves making people laugh.”
Matthew Cieslak was a veteran; the combat medic served one tour in Iraq and three in Afghanistan.
On his last tour, he was evacuated out of Afghanistan with a traumatic brain injury and PTSD. He was medically retired in 2017 and was living in Inkom, Idaho, coming down regularly to the VA in Salt Lake City for treatment.
“Family was big," said Tesha. "He would tell people that he loved them often, even friends. Some people thought he was weird, but it was very important for him to let everybody know that he loved them, and he truly meant it.”
Tesha was in Salt Lake City on that night Matthew carjacked a vehicle and led police officers on a nearly two-mile chase, ending in the shootout that killed him.
Tesha came down from Idaho with their two kids because Matthew was having bad migraines after physical therapy. She was in the hotel when her husband disappeared.
“This incident is so far out of character for my husband," she said. "I know without a shadow of a doubt that he had a PTSD moment, a trigger or something. And the reality that he was seeing was very different from what was actually happening.”
Tesha fought to not have the body camera footage released because she didn't want to see it herself, and she didn't want her kids, ages 13 and 14, watching it either. She's not angry at the officers who killed her husband though, she said.
“I know that the officers did what they had to," she said. "And I know my husband would feel the exact same way had he been in his right mind at the time.”
You can’t see the things Matthew saw and be okay, Tesha said.
“I actually got up at the funeral and said this: People need to understand that sometimes it is okay to be weak," she said. "It is okay to fall apart.”
The location where officers eventually stopped and killed Matthew was a quiet, industrial part of the city, on the west side of Salt Lake. Tesha guesses Matthew led officers there because he didn’t want others getting hurt.