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Memories of alleged N.B. shooter range from unpleasant loner to happy co-worker

Last Updated Aug 14, 2018 at 4:40 pm EST

FREDERICTON – Friends and acquaintances of Matthew Raymond are offering varying memories of the accused murderer: A boy who retreated into video games, a pleasant supermarket co-worker, and an increasingly isolated loner in later years.

Childhood friends have clear recollections of a boy who often preferred to be by himself, playing video games rather than socializing with other children.

However, others recall a pleasant, middle-aged co-worker who smiled as he came to work at a Fredericton supermarket, cheerfully toting his bicycle helmet.

The 48-year-old man is accused of firing down upon four people from his apartment window with a long gun, killing two civilians as they loaded a car for a trip and two police officers who responded to the scene on Friday morning.

Beth Hoyt, a Fredericton woman who grew up with Raymond in the city’s south side, says the generally “happy and quiet boy” would come outside and play street hockey, baseball, bike riding or whatever else was going on in the neighbourhood.

Still, the 46-year-old woman also recalled clearly that Raymond’s mother was concerned that her son preferred to be back inside playing video games rather than in the fresh air.

“It’s just that his mother was always saying, ‘I wish he’d get out of the basement, stop playing (video) games and do more outside,'” she said in a telephone interview.

“He would come and play for awhile but then he would be right back by himself. She wanted more of the happy times for him.”

Hoyt had limited contact with Raymond after she graduated from Fredericton High School, but in adulthood, Hoyt said she briefly found Raymond to be a good employee.

She hired him to assemble bicycles in a retail store, and “there was never a problem during that.”

More recently, Hoyt would pass him at a coffee shop where he was sitting and talking to friends, and he would greet her in a friendly way.

Jim Whelan, Hoyt’s boyfriend, worked with Raymond at an Atlantic Superstore in Fredericton about eight years ago. He said he had generally found Raymond to be a pleasant co-worker who came into work smiling.

He said that Raymond had often mentioned he played video games, including Call of Duty, a video game franchise that includes shooting.

However, neither he nor Hoyt said they experienced discomfort around Raymond in the years they encountered him.

“I’m shocked. I don’t know what happened. You wonder what is going on,” said Whelan.

The issue of video game use often emerges when media cover violent deaths, say psychologists who caution against drawing links to criminal activity.

The American Psychological Association issued a public statement in 2015 saying the existing quantitative research didn’t show a clear link between excessive viewing of violent video games and criminal violence.

Chris Ferguson, an associate professor and co-chairman of the Department of Psychology at Stetson University, said some psychologists also dispute that there are any links between violent video games and aggression towards others.

“Long-term outcome studies of youth do not typically find that violent media consumption is a predictor of delinquency, conduct disorder or other antisocial outcomes. We just published a longitudinal study with kids as young as 8, that found no evidence for effects,” he wrote in an email.

Others say in more recent years there’s evidence of Raymond growing more reclusive and occasionally unpleasant.

“I’ve had issues with him, but that’s about all I want to say,” bicycle shop owner Greg Bradford said during a brief telephone interview Tuesday.

“It’s a touchy situation right now.”

He said on several occasions, he asked Raymond to leave the bike shop.

“We had arguments. I asked him to leave.”

Brendan Doyle, of the Read’s Newsstand in Fredericton, has said that Raymond had been a long-time patron of the cafe, coming in daily almost every day for eight years and staying for an hour or two on the patio in the evenings.

He was a talkative customer interested primarily in cycling and playing first-person shooter video games, said Doyle in a Facebook message to The Canadian Press.

“He was the kind of lonely person who would talk your ear off if you let him. While in the cafe Matt also looked at magazines about bikes and about guns,” he wrote.

“He expressed an interest in owning the various high-end bikes in the magazines but his interest in guns seemed to be related to his video games. Prior to Friday I would have doubted whether he’d ever held a firearm.”

In recent years, Doyle said, Raymond appeared to be having more difficult conversations with other patrons.

“His discussions with fellow customers and staff turned more political around the same time we had an influx of Syrian refugees into the city,” he wrote.

“He expressing a concern for their integration and the subsequent effect on Canadian culture which seemed uninformed and maybe a bit racist.”

He recalled seeing him one weekend in front of city hall with a sandwich board sign with anti Islamic comments.

“I spoke to him about his views to determine if he was making other customers feel uncomfortable. We spoke for half an hour and I determined he was ignorant and misinformed,” he wrote.

“He really just seemed to be parroting the talking points from some videos he’d seen (which he encouraged me to watch). I asked him to find a different coffee shop to patronize moving forward, which was in the summer of 2017, and that was the last time I interacted with him directly.”

Hoyt, who has a background in psychology at university, said many are left without clear answers.

“It’s devastating because you realize the lives were taken, the sadness in this area … I always want to know the why, while still grieving for the victims,” she said.

— Story by Michael Tutton in Halifax

Follow (at)mtuttoncporg on Twitter.