Phoenix AZ May 30 2017 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.
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.
Somehow, he was able to pass through security and make it to the main event floor still heavily armed.
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.