The gunman arrested at #PhoenixComicon on Thursday has been identified as 31-year old Matthew Sterling, who was charged with attempted murder, resisting arrest, multiple counts of aggravated assault, carrying a weapon in a prohibited place, and wearing body armor during the commission of a felony. A judge set his bond at $1-million on Friday.
Police said that Sterling was armed with a shotgun & three handguns, all of which were fully loaded. He was also carrying a combat knife, pepper spray and throwing stars. Police also said he was wearing body armor at the time of arrest.
According to the probable cause statement, Sterling (who was also wearing black tactical pants, a red bandanna, black face paint, and a shotgun bandolier) had entered the Phoenix Convention Center where he managed to avoid both the venue’s security and one of of the peace-bonding stations for inspecting prop weapons. He then proceeded to the second floor.
Signs posted throughout the Phoenix Convention Center prohibit weapons at the event. In court documents, he told police that he believed the signs and laws prohibiting weapons at the venue did not apply to him.
Court documents also reveal that Sterling saw himself as real-life version of Marvel comic book vigilante Punisher & that he was planning to kill well-known #PowerRangers actor Jason David Frank. A calendar reminder that was found on Sterling’s cellphone for May 25th stated “Kill JDF”. He also told police that he would kill “bad police officers” if he needed to protect himself or his friends.
During the arraignment hearing, prosecutor Ed Leiter (of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office) said in reference to Sterling, “He exhibited a dramatic threat to the community beyond police officers, beyond Jason David Frank.” Leiter also said, “A number of other people were referenced as possible targets or people he wanted to kill.”
The full text of the probable cause statement (with added paragraph breaks, spelling corrections & sentence case for readability) is listed below:
On may 25, 2017 at approximately 1211 hours, Phoenix police received a call from the Hawthorne Police Department in California regarding an individual, later identified as Matthew Enrique Navarro Sterling, via his Arizona drivers license. Details of the call stated a witness was receiving Facebook messages from Matthew stating he was threatening to shoot police officers, taking pictures of them and Matthew had numerous weapons on his person including handguns, a shotgun, a knife, pepper spray and wearing body armor.
Matthew was sending these messages as he sat on the second floor of 100 north 3rd street, the Phoenix Convention Center, while he was attending the Phoenix Comicon event. Matthew was described as wearing black tactical pants, a red bandana with his face painted black with a shotgun bandolier across his chest. Matthew relayed to the witness he was on the second floor with loaded weapons and was not leaving until police arrived. He stated to the witness that he was going to be in a showdown with cops and he would kill them.
Responding officers located Matthew on the second floor reading a comicon brochure. Officers approached and immediately began to control Matthew’s hands due to the numerous weapons they saw he had on his person. Matthew resisted arrest by tensing his arms to avoid being taken into custody. During the struggle to control Matthew, he ripped off an officers Phoenix police patch affixed to his uniform and pushed his full body weight against the bench he was sitting on so he could not be moved. Officers eventually overcame his strength and he was taken into custody at 1222 hours.
Inspection of the firearms revealed they were all real and all fully loaded. Mathew was sitting on a twelve gauge shotgun, two 45 caliber handguns, one .454 caliber handgun, a combat knife, pepper spray and throwing stars. There are signs posted throughout the event that firearms are prohibited and there are numerous stations where attendees with real weapons or props have them secured with bright colored zip ties. Matthew avoided these stations and proceeds to the second floor.
Matthew was transported to 620 West Washington Street to be interviewed. During the interview, Matthew admitted to taking loaded firearms into the venue. Matthew believed that the law prohibiting bringing loaded weapons into the venue applied to other people, but not him. Matthew said if he was forced to kill police officers, he would to defend himself. Matthew stated he was the Punisher, a popular comic book character that punishes people that do wrong. Matthew believes that there are police officers that have kind faces in uniform but they can be bad officers. Matthew said he would use violence against them if it meant he needed to protect his friends.
Matthew was wearing body armor under his shirt. He stated he had this on to protect himself. Matthew explained that he calls bad police officers “Aphrodite officers” and he can differentiate these bad officers from good ones. When asked about the officers he encountered today, Matthew said he would shoot them if he deemed they were Aphrodite officers. Matthew went on to post that things would get bloody and he would kill cops with his firearms.
When asked about his array of weapons, Matthew explained they were for self defense in case officers gave him trouble and that he would shoot to kill. Matthew said he would use his shotgun to hold them back until they were able to produce sufficient identification because Aphrodite officers hide behind regular police patches.
Facebook messages listed one victim by name who was scheduled to be at the comicon event. Matthew stated in his message and interview with detectives that he had stabbed the victim fifteen years prior and was at the event to finish the job. I asked Matthew what he meant when he said finishing the job and he said he wanted to see the victim behind bars.
Matthew set a calendar reminder in his phone to alert him tc kill the victim at comicon on may 25th. The victim was scheduled at comicon all four days and mathew purchased a four day pass. Matthew stated he believed if the victim was deceased, the victims wife and child would be happy. Matthew was sub-sequently booked into jail for the listed charges.