FRIDAY, MAY 26, 2017 AT 4:50 P.M.
More details are emerging regarding Matthew Sterling, the Valley resident arrested at Phoenix Comicon on Thursday, May 25, with a cache of weapons.
And the information is both surreal and disturbing, to say the least.
According to court documents, the 31-year-old Mesa resident told Phoenix Police detectives that he was a real-life version of famed Marvel Comics vigilante The Punisher. He also stated that he would kill “bad police officers” if need be to protect himself or his friends.
Both revelations were included in court documents, specifically a lengthy probable cause statement written by detectives who interviewed Sterling after his arrest. The statement also detailed how he slipped past security and was apprehended by police.
New Times has also learned that Sterling allegedly wanted to kill Mighty Morphin Power Rangers actor Jason David Frank (a special guest at this year’s Phoenix Comicon) and claimed he had a vendetta against the star.
Phoenix P.D. arrested Sterling at the Phoenix Convention Center. He was in possession of three handguns, a shotgun, a combat knife, pepper spray, and throwing stars.
According to the probable cause statement, Sterling (who was wearing black tactical pants, a red bandanna, black face paint, and a shotgun bandolier) entered the convention center and avoided the venue’s security, as well as one of of the peace-bonding stations for inspecting prop weapons. He then proceeded to the second floor.
Sterling was reportedly in contact with a female acquaintance from Hawthorne, California, via text message and Facebook.
After learning of Sterling’s alleged intent to have a “showdown” with cops and seeing that Sterling had posted on Facebook photos of officers at Comicon, she alerted law enforcement of the situation.
Police located Sterling sitting on a bench while reading Comicon’s programming guide. A struggle ensued as cops “immediately began to control [his] hands due to the numerous weapons they saw he had on his person.”
Sterling reportedly resisted, tore off one officer’s Phoenix P.D. patch, and “pushed his full body weight against the bench he was sitting on so he could not be moved.”
A number of officers eventually subdued Sterling, who was taken to police headquarters to be interviewed by detectives.
According to prosecutor Ed Leiter of the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, who was present at Sterling's initial court appearance on Friday, the 31-year-old suspect allegedly fessed up about his plans.
Sterling offered “numerous fantastical stories” to detectives, Leiter says, including tales of “bad police officers” and an alleged history with Frank.
Sterling allegedly told detectives that he believes there are certain cops — he calls them “Aphrodite officers” — who have “kind faces in uniform” but are ultimately bad. Apparently, he also would’ve shot the cops that arrested him if he determined they were “Aphrodite officers.”
In regards to Frank, Sterling claimed to have stabbed the actor 15 years prior and said he was at Phoenix Comicon to “finish the job.” While he later explained that “finishing the job” meant seeing Frank “behind bars,” Sterling also told detectives that the actor’s wife and child “would be happy” if the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers star were deceased.
Prosecutors from the country attorney also noted during Sterling’s court appearance that his phone contained a reminder for Thursday to “Kill JDF” at Comicon.
Here’s the complete text of the probably cause statement (with paragraph breaks added for readability):
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 MATHEW ENRIQUE NAVARRO STERLING, VIA HIS ARIZONA DRIVERS LICENSE. DETAILS OF THE CALL STATED A WITNESS WAS RECEIVING FACEBOOK MESSAGES FROM MATHEW STATING HE WAS THREATENING TO SHOOT POLICE OFFICERS, TAKING PICTURES OF THEM AND MATHEW HAD NUMEROUS WEAPONS ON HIS PERSON INCLUDING HANDGUNS, A SHOTGUN, A KNIFE, PEPPER SPRAY AND WEARING BODY ARMOR.
MATHEW 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. MATHEW WAS DESCRIBED AS WEARING BLACK TACTICAL PANTS, A RED BANDANA WITH HIS FACE PAINTED BLACK WITH A SHOTGUN BANDOLIER ACROSS HIS CHEST. MATHEW 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 MATHEW ON THE SECOND FLOOR READING A COMICON BROCHURE. OFFICERS APPROACHED AND IMMEDIATELY BEGAN TO CONTROL MATHEWS HANDS DUE TO THE NUMEROUS WEAPONS THEY SAW HE HAD ON HIS PERSON. MATHEW RESISTED ARREST BY TENSING HIS ARMS TO AVOID BEING TAKEN INTO CUSTODY. DURING THE STRUGGLE TO CONTROL MATHEW, 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. MATHEW AVOIDED THESE STATIONS AND PROCEEDS TO THE SECOND FLOOR.
MATHEW WAS TRANSPORTED TO 620 WEST WASHINGTON STREET TO BE INTERVIEWED. DURING THE INTERVIEW, MATHEW ADMITTED TO TAKING LOADED FIREARMS INTO THE VENUE. MATHEW BELIEVED THAT THE LAW PROHIBITING BRINGING LOADED WEAPONS INTO THE VENUE APPLIED TO OTHER PEOPLE, BUT NOT HIM. MATHEW SAID IF HE WAS FORCED TO KILL POLICE OFFICERS, HE WOULD TO DEFEND HIMSELF. MATHEW STATED HE WAS THE PUNISHER, A POPULAR COMIC BOOK CHARACTER THAT PUNISHES PEOPLE THAT DO WRONG. MATHEW BELIEVES THAT THERE ARE POLICE OFFICERS THAT HAVE KIND FACES IN UNIFORM BUT THEY CAN BE BAD OFFICERS. MATHEW SAID HE WOULD USE VIOLENCE AGAINST THEM IF IT MEANT HE NEEDED TO PROTECT HIS FRIENDS.
MATHEW WAS WEARING BODY ARMOR UNDER HIS SHIRT. HE STATED HE HAD THIS ON TO PROTECT HIMSELF. MATHEW 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, MATHEW SAID HE WOULD SHOOT THEM IF HE DEEMED THEY WERE APHRODITE OFFICERS. MATHEW WENT ON TO POST THAT THINGS WOULD GET BLOODY AND HE WOULD KILL COPS WITH HIS FIREARMS.
WHEN ASKED ABOUT HIS ARRAY OF WEAPONS, MATHEW EXPLAINED THEY WERE FOR SELF DEFENSE IN CASE OFFICERS GAVE HIM TROUBLE AND THAT HE WOULD SHOOT TO KILL. MATHEW 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. MATHEW 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 MATHEW 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. MATHEW STATED HE BELIEVED IF THE VICTIM WAS DECEASED, THE VICTIMS WIFE AND CHILD WOULD BE HAPPY. MATHEW WAS SUB-SEQUENTLY BOOKED INTO JAIL FOR THE LISTED CHARGES.
Sterling 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. He's due back in court on the matter on June 2.