After sudden death, uncle of so-called "Pukemon" seeks to clear his name
For years he has been known as "Pukemon," the nickname he received after reportedly vomiting on a police captain and his two young daughters. But his uncle Dave Clemmens says the story was blown out of proportion.
Dave Clemmens, uncle to Matthew Clemmens, known as Pukemon, with a picture of his nephew at his home in Marlton, NJ. Credit: Charles Mostoller/ Metro
Four years ago, a fracas at a Phillies game that involved vomiting drew international attention.
In June, the alleged puker, Matthew Clemmens died at 25 after contracting a severe blood infection.
For years he has been known as "Pukemon," the nickname he received after reportedly vomiting on a police captain and his two young daughters.
But his uncle, Dave Clemmens says the story was blown out of proportion.
“Everyone wants to believe in Superman and Batman and Robin -- and they want to believe in that scummy guy out there, that villain,” said David Clemmens, uncle and godfather to Matt. “So they basically railroaded a drunken kid.”
Matthew Clemmens was dubbed "Pukemon" after his mugshot went viral. Credit: PPD
Clemmens’ outlandish mugshot earned him the nickname “Pukemon” – a reference to the magical “Pokemon” animals of video game, cartoon and trading card fame.
But the story of his nephew was sensationalized and far from the truth, Dave Clemmens said.
"That incident wouldn’t have been an incident if the media didn’t catch it," he said.
'He was a good kid'
Clemmens, a Cherry Hill native, worked at a moving company and was looking to set up his own business prior to his death. He had been working out, paying his bills and saving for a house, and a year ago bought himself a Mercedes, Clemmens said.
“Things were going good,” Clemmens said.
But Matt fell ill in late May with swollen, aching legs and a rash. He was advised by staff at a walk-in, urgent care center to see another doctor, according to his Facebook account.
Two weeks later, he got his blood drawn – but a week later, with the test results inconclusive, had been told he had a skin infection and had cream prescribed, Clemmens said.
By the time tests detected the bacteria in Matt’s blood and hospitalized him, it was already too late to stop the streptococcal bacteria in his blood that had entered his heart and brain. Matt became brain dead and died June 10.
“I still cry every day about what happened to him,” Clemmens said. “He’s known as the child puker, but he babysat my daughter. He grew up with all these nieces and nephews.”
“He did goofy stuff, but he’d never do anything that’d hurt anybody. ... He was a good kid."
Clemmens, who was not at the April 14, 2010 Phillies game, insists Matt only threw up after he was hit by several police officers.
“He'd just turned 21. That was one of his first times out drinking,” Clemmens said. “He vomited when he got beat up. ... They had to twist that and say that [he puked intentionally] because if they didn’t, they’d get charged.”
According to Clemmens, Matt admitted that he got in an argument with other fans at the game, but said that after the fight turned physical, he began puking while he was down on the ground.
Michael Vangelo – the former Easton police captain, who was seated in front of Matt that fateful day, contradicted that version of events. He said only one other officer was at the game among the crowd that pinned Matt down after he began vomiting uncontrollably.
“There’s absolutely no mistaking that he did it intentionally,” Vangelo said. “It was the most disgusting thing that ever happened in my life. I remember it like it was yesterday.”
Vangelo said Matt got upset after his friends were thrown out and thought Vangelo was responsible.
“I hear him say on the cell phone, ‘I have to do what I gotta do.’ I turn around and he has two fingers down his throat to intentionally vomit. I told my kids to run, lifted my hands to deflect the vomit.”
After Vangelo and his 15 and 11-year-old daughters were struck, onlookers pinned Matt until security showed up, some striking him repeatedly and giving him the black eye he sports in his mugshot.
Matt was thrown in jail for a few days. In July, he pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to 30 to 90 days, serving about a month.
Clemmens said Matt only pleaded guilty to avoid a possible sentence of five years.
"When he pleaded guilty they promised him a release, and then turned around and gave him 90 days because the city was pressuring them," he said.
But the jail-time didn't faze Matt, Clemmens said.
"When he went to prison, I visited him. He goes, "These guys are all really nice in here ... They’re really like nice guys.' After he got out, he was like, 'They were really cool to me in there, they were watching my back,'" Clemmens said.
"I said 'What if you do the whole 90?' He was like, 'I’ll be ok, I’ll be alright.'"
In the end, becoming "internet-famous" for an attack that Phillies fans still joke about didn't impact Matt's life too much, Clemmens said.
"I don’t think that the stardom bothered him. But it bothered everybody else, it bothered his grandfather. He'd say, 'You’re gonna be known as something you’re really not,'" Clemmens recalled.
"You’ve got a silly, goofy, harmless, big kid. ... He’s a little slapstick, a little crazy, he says goofy things,” Clemmens said of Matt. “He worked for a living. He never did drugs, he wasn’t a crook. They made him up to be something he wasn’t."