PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. – A national police database warned officers a former Canadian soldier being arrested for assaulting his estranged brother was “highly paranoid” and would “shoot police upon approach,” jurors at a coroner’s inquest heard Tuesday.
The Canadian Police Information Centre entry on Greg Matters, who was later shot and killed by the RCMP, said he had military training and was mentally unstable.
“Use extreme caution,” said the entry made by an unnamed member of the Prince George, B.C., detachment.
With that in mind, Corporals Kyle Sharpe and Jared Sweeney, each with about three years of experience on the force, went to arrest Matters at his home around 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012 — 14 hours after an early morning altercation between Greg and his brother, Trevor.
The incident was the latest in a long series of disputes between the estranged siblings.
“We were trying to arrest him so we could do it safely, and no one would get hurt,” Sharpe testified.
Matters refused to come to the detachment, so Sharpe arranged to meet him at his home to pick up a hand-written statement about the incident that morning.
It was a ruse, and they hoped to arrest him.
Both officers said Matters was polite but “suspicious” at his property, and the plan did not work. Matters retreated to the house, where Sweeney spotted a tire iron, hammers, an axe and other potential weapons.
“I felt that there was no way I could affect an arrest that day without seriously getting myself or Const. Sweeney hurt, as we were always at a disadvantage. We were all aware of Greg Matters’s past, his training, his threats that he had made,” Sharpe said.
They left the property. A little more than 24 hours later, the force’s emergency response team was dispatched to make the arrest, and Matters was shot twice in the back with an M16.
“Were you afraid?” Rodrick Mackenzie, the inquest counsel, asked.
“Yes,” Sharpe answered.
The inquest heard earlier Matters made several “alarming” statements to a police officer investigating the original incident, another in a lengthy history of threats from the former peacekeeper who served in Bosnia.
The inquest has heard he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder but was finally in treatment.
Const. Jason Dickinson testified earlier he overheard Greg Matters make threats during a phone call with another officer as they investigated the original incident.
“I will take matters into my own hands, and it won’t be pretty for a lot of people. The next person who trespasses on my property I will shoot dead. If you, the police, don’t deal with Trevor I will. The next person to point a gun at me I’ll shoot dead,” Dickinson read from a copy of his notes.
Cameron Ward, the lawyer for the Matters family, suggested they were empty threats.
“When you and Sweeney set foot on the property, he didn’t shoot you, obviously?” Ward asked Sharpe.
“You knew that Greg Matters, from all your detachment’s history with him, was full of bluster and threats but he never acted on them, didn’t you?
“He had never assaulted anyone with a weapon, according to your records and your knowledge of him gleaned from the file in CPIC, correct?” Ward asked.
“During my years here, in Prince George, no,” Sharpe said.
But Greg’s brother, Trevor, told police his brother had rammed his vehicle with his own truck, sending him into a ditch. Trevor Matters said his brother then punched him several times.
“He advised that Greg was an aggressive person and he had fears for his family’s safety, including his wife and children,” Dickinson testified. “And he said this incident was extreme, over and above anything that’s happened, and that scared him.”
Trevor Matters is expected to testify Wednesday.
Ward suggested officers “zeroed in” on Greg Matters because Dickinson knew Trevor, and because Greg had made complaints to the RCMP watchdog in Ottawa.
The inquest has heard Matters had several run-ins with police and was facing a charge for uttering threats to kill a local Crown counsel.
He had also been investigated for sending a threatening letter to the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP, threatening to cut the head off the commission chairman.
A behavioural report was prepared on Greg Matters after the incident with the public complaints commission, the coroner’s jury heard.
“We were aware that Greg suffered from PTSD,” Dickinson said.
Greg Matters was shot by a member of the emergency response team around 7:15 p.m. Sept. 10.
An Independent Investigations Office report cleared officers of any criminal wrongdoing. The coroner’s jury cannot find blame but can make recommendations to prevent similar deaths in future.