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Hope for a Lesson From Extreme Death

Frederick Man Pushed the Limits With Dangerous Motorcycle Stunts

By Fredrick Kunkle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 19, 2004; Page C01

Shaun P. Matlock pulled on a helmet, climbed aboard a Yamaha sport bike a few miles west of Frederick and opened the throttle, roaring at high speed past hills and farms along a forlorn stretch of highway, toward West Virginia.

He wore only a T-shirt and shoes. He also wore two logos: The stickers, slapped on his helmet and his bike, bore the words "Holding It Big," the slogan of an upstart company in Baltimore that promotes extreme sports events and videos.

"I think he was killed by a video camera," Ray Matlock, 58, says of his son. ". . . It's the thrill of being on the Web." (Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)

What Matlock thought lay at the end of that stretch of highway is unclear. Street cred? Fame? Money?

As the sports promoter filmed Matlock from a chase car and several friends watched last Sunday evening, Matlock and another rider, who also was partially clad, sped off. Matlock pulled up the bike's nose to perform a wheelie at high speed and lost control, careering off the highway into the rear of a parked tow truck, according to police and witness accounts.

Police arrived quickly. Minutes before, they had received reports of motorcyclists stunting for a movie camera. Matlock, 21, died on the spot.

Hundreds of friends have turned out for vigils at his favorite hangout, at the site of the accident and at a funeral home in Frederick. He was buried Friday.

Matlock's family blames his death in part on the American anything-for-fame mentality and a culture glutted with reality TV shows and over-the-top stunts glamorized by "Jackass: The Movie" and the discontinued MTV series that preceded it. They also want the message of their son's death to spread to the small but fast-growing world of bikers who illegally perform death-defying stunts on highways and fill the Internet with proof of their fearlessness.

And they want answers from Ben Meacham, 22, the entrepreneur who filmed the stunt for his company, Holding It Big Entertainment, according to Maryland State Police and a witness. Not long before the accident, Meacham took out a newspaper ad promoting his plans to film stunt riders in the Washington area for a movie, saying "a good documentary will change the perspective on reality."

"I think he was killed by a video camera," Ray Matlock, 58, said of his son. "It's the thrill of publicity. It's the thrill of being on the Web."

The circumstances surrounding the crash are still under investigation by police and the Frederick County state's attorney.

State police recovered a videotape from Meacham, Cpl. Jay Robinson said. "He was definitely videotaping what the gentlemen were doing on the bikes," Robinson said. He also said Meacham told them he erased that portion of the video.

"There's really no law against filming. The problem might be erasing it, because then you might be destroying evidence," Robinson said. He said a decision on whether to charge Meacham is up to State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle.

"The whole situation is under investigation to see if there was any criminal wrongdoing or traffic offenses committed by anybody involved," Rolle said.

Efforts to reach Meacham through the telephone number and e-mail address listed on his Web site were unsuccessful. One of his business addresses belongs to Triangle Motors, a Frederick auto dealership owned by his father, Tom. But a request for an interview through his father also was unanswered. "I'm not sure what I can tell you," Tom Meacham said. "You really ought to talk to him."

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