Mathew Sterling, 29, goes before a judge for the first time since being arrested at Phoenix Comicon. Officials say he was carrying an arsenal and threatened to shoot police officers and actor Jason David Frank.
Maricopa County Superior Court
A man who was heavily armed when he was arrested at Phoenix Comicon on Thursday told police he was “The Punisher” and planned to kill bad police officers and a performer who was scheduled to be at the event, court records show.
Newly released records outline the arsenal Mathew Sterling had been carrying when he was arrested: two 45-caliber handguns, a .454-caliber handgun, and a 12-gauge shotgun, all fully loaded; a combat knife; pepper spray; and throwing stars.
A judge has set a cash bond of $1 million for Sterling’s release from jail.
The 29-year-old Mesa man is facing charges including attempted murder, three counts of aggravated assault, wearing body armor during the commission of a felony, resisting arrest, and carrying a weapon in a prohibited place, according to a Phoenix police statement.
Police say in court records he was targeting Jason David Frank, an actor and mixed martial artist who is best known for his role as the original green Power Ranger.
Police said Sterling “set a calendar reminder in his phone to alert him to kill the victim at Comicon on May 25th.”
Sterling’s face was painted black and he wore all black clothes, a red bandanna and a strap across his chest containing shotgun ammunition when he entered the Phoenix Convention Center.
Police said all real and prop weapons would be subject to inspection, but Sterling said he was able to bypass several of these stations and head up to the second floor, where police found him after noon.
Our favorite costumes from Saturday, May 27, Day 3 of the convention.
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Phoenix Comicon crowds on Saturday, May 27, 2017 at Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Ariz.
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Mary Graeber, 56, Cave Creek, dressed as Mary Poppins, always dreamed of meeting Dick Van Dyke. Saturday, she got her chance at Phoenix Comicon.
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Darth Vader — aka Alonzo Reyes, 7, of Gilbert — shows the power of the dark side to a Stormtrooper at Comicon at Phoenix Convention Center on May 26, 2017. Rob Schumacher/azcentral.com
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Our favorite costumes from the beginning of the convention.
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Azcentral’s Kellie Hwang updates the situation at Phoenix Comicon where security has been heightened a day after a man was arrested.
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Long lines formed at Comicon due to the props ban and added security after a man was arrested with real weapons at the convention Thursday. Tom Tingle/ azcentral.com
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Thousands brave the heat and long waits in line to enter the Phoenix Convention Center for Comicon 2017 Friday, May 26, 2017. Tom Tingle/azcentral.com
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Police said a 30-year-old man was arrested after making menacing social-media posts about officers and had weapons inside the Convention Center. Azcentral’s Kellie Hwang brings you the story from the scene. Patrick Breen/azcentral.com
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Police lead a man away from Phoenix Comicon at the Phoenix Convention Center on Thursday, May 25. Mathew Sterling, 29, is accused of threatening to harm police officers and a performer at the comic convention. (Courtesy of Monica Ivicevic)
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Phoenix police Sgt. Mercedes Fortune discusses the incident with an armed man who was arrested at Phoenix Comicon on May 25, 2017. Kellie Hwang/azcentral.com
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Phoenix Comicon opened at the Phoenix Convention Center in downtown Phoenix on May 25, 2017. A cosplay participant talks about his motivation for attending the annual event.
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Phoenix Comicon gets underway on May 25, 2017. The four-day entertainment and comic convention is taking place at the Phoenix Convention Center in downtown Phoenix.
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Phoenix Comicon 2017 will be bigger than ever in downtown Phoenix.
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Phoenix Comicon 2017 Cosplay Saturday
Time lapse of crowds at Phoenix Comicon Saturday
Meeting Dick Van Dyke
Darth Vader shows the power of the dark side at Comicon
Phoenix Comicon 2017 Cosplay Thursday-Friday
Cosplayers respond day after armed man was arrested at Phoenix Comicon
Long lines at Comicon due to props ban
Battling long lines and the heat at Comicon
Man with multiple guns arrested at Phoenix Comicon
Raw video: Man arrested in weapons case at Comicon
Comicon incident press conference
Eager cosplayers attend Phoenix Comicon Day 1
Phoenix Comicon gets underway
Phoenix Comicon 5/25-28
Records show police received a call from a woman in Hawthorne, Calif., who received multiple Facebook messages from Sterling stating he had weapons, was threatening to shoot police officers and had been taking pictures of them. Sgt. Mercedes Fortune, a Phoenix police spokeswoman, said he had posted those photos on social media.
The call set off a rapid chain of events for Phoenix officers. In a span of 11 minutes after the call, they located Sterling, overcame him and placed him in custody after he briefly tried to resist arrest, police said.
“He indicated that, in a text message, that he was going to have a showdown and kill God knows how many more cops,” said Maricopa County Deputy Attorney Ed Leiter at Sterling’s initial court appearance.
Records stated that Mathew told the woman he was “on the second floor with loaded weapons and was not leaving until police arrived.”
Officers who confronted Sterling immediately tried to control his hands because of the arsenal he carried, and police say he tensed his arms and resisted arrest. At one point, he ripped a patch from an officer’s uniform and “pushed his full body weight” against a bench he was sitting on, police say. Between him and the bench was the 12-gauge shotgun.
“He exhibited a dramatic threat to the community beyond police officers, beyond Jason David Frank,” Leiter said. “A number of other people were referenced as possible targets or people he wanted to kill.”
Leiter didn’t elaborate on who those other possible targets were, but requested that Sterling’s bond be set at $1 million based on the severity of the threats.
Later, in interviews with detectives, Sterling explained that he was the Punisher (a comic book character that punishes people who do wrong) and that he planned to kill bad officers, records show.
“Mathew explained that he calls bad police officers Aphrodite officers and he can differentiate these bad officers from good ones,” according to the records.
Leiter added that Sterling told police “numerous fantastical stories” during questioning.
Sterling had a four-day pass to the event and his intended target was scheduled to be there all four days. He claimed to have stabbed the performer 15 years earlier and went to Comicon “to finish the job,” police said.
Following the arrest, police said additional screening and security would be added for the event, which will decrease entry points to the venue and cause some delays.
Additionally, all weapons, including toy and prop weapons, have been banned.
Vendors selling prop weapons will be allowed to continue selling them as long as the props are sealed and they inform the buyers to leave them sealed until they leave the convention center.
Sterling is due back in court on June 2.
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