Mathew Sterling, 31, 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 woman whose phone calls to police in California prompted Thursday’s arrest of a heavily armed man at Phoenix Comicon is encouraging people not to ignore warning signs of dangerous and threatening behavior.
In a public Facebook post, Rayko Dig of Los Angeles said she gave authorities working on the case 40 screen shots of messages she says were sent by 31-year-old Mathew Sterling of Mesa on Thursday as he sat on the second floor of the Phoenix Convention Center.
In a Thursday statement, the Phoenix Police Department said Sterling’s messages to the woman indicated he was armed and wanting to harm police officers.
“He indicated 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.
Sterling had also been taking photos of officers working at the event, police said.
Police say that Sterling was also targeting Jason David Frank, an actor and mixed martial artist who is best known for his role as the original green Power Ranger and who was appearing at the convention on Thursday.
Police said Sterling “set a calendar reminder in his phone to alert him to kill the victim at Comicon on May 25th.”
Sterling was arrested at the Convention Center and was found to be in possession of two .45-caliber handguns, a .454-caliber handgun, and a 12-gauge shotgun, all fully loaded; a combat knife; pepper spray; and throwing stars.
His arrest forced an immediate ban on props that appear to be weapons and caused long lines to get in the event on Friday, as stricter security screening measures were put in place.
Dig, on her Facebook post, urged others to be vigilant.
“This isn’t the fantasy world nor the world we once lived in my friends,” Dig wrote. “I’m not encouraging us all to live in paranoia. But please don’t ignore the signs.”
Only 11 minutes passed between the time Dig contacted authorities in Hawthorne, California, to the time Sterling was arrested at the Convention Center after briefly resisting arrest, court records said.
Court records indicated that Sterling was mentally disturbed, with Leiter adding that the incident put everyone at Comicon in danger.
“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.”
Dig, who did not explain how she came to know Sterling, encouraged her Facebook followers to be diligent and look out for themselves, their loved ones and even strangers.
“I am still just a chosen messenger not a hero who may have stopped another Manchester (Thursday),” she wrote, emphasizing the importance of taking threatening messages and posts seriously.
Dig did not respond to a message from The Arizona Republic seeking additional comment.
Sterling faces charges of 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.
His bond was set at $1 million at the request of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
His next court date is June 2.
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