Before smuggling four guns, throwing stars, pepper spray, and a knife into Phoenix Comicon on Thursday, Mathew Sterling set a reminder in his phone to kill the actor who played the Green Power Ranger in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series, police say.
Sterling, 29, was arrested at the Comicon event on Thursday after he allegedly messaged a popular singer on Facebook, telling her he was heavily armed and planned on shooting police officers at the convention. Police found him inside the convention dressed as the comic book character The Punisher in all black clothes, black facepaint, body armor, and a belt with ammunition for his multiple guns strapped across his chest.
He had allegedly come to kill police as well as fictional law enforcement. Sterling told police he was there to settle a fifteen-year score with Jason David Frank, an actor famous for playing the Green Power Ranger.
Shortly after noon on May 25, police in Hawthorne, California received a call from a Rayko Takahashi, a Los Angeles-based musician and composer. Sterling was sending Takahashi disturbing messages about violence at the convention she told police.
Takahashi had met Sterling in 2014 at one of her concerts. A photograph she posted on her Facebook page shows her with Sterling and a group of cosplayers.
After meeting her in 2014, Sterling “messaged me almost everyday but it was NOTHING like the ones from this Thursday,” Takahashi wrote in a Saturday Facebook post. His old messages were about his health goals, and Takahashi said she enjoyed hearing from him, until he began making threats against a famous cosplayer, Takahashi said.
“But on the 4th of July weekend 2015 everything changed. My band and I were performing at AX and my phone started blowing up by his psychotic/delusional messages that I didn't find out until I was done for the night,” she wrote. “I then contacted the famous cosplayer who he mentioned in the most horrible light which made me afraid for her life.”
Takahashi stopped communicating with Sterling after the incident. But on Thursday, his disturbing messages resumed. He allegedly told Takahashi that he was heavily armed and planned to shoot police officers.
“Mathew was sending these messages as he sat on the second floor of … the Phoenix Convention Center, while he was attending the Phoenix Comicon event,” a probable cause statement in his arrest reads. “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 the cops and he would kill them.”
But when police stormed the convention center 11 minutes after Takahashi’s call, they caught the would-be killer off guard.
“Responding officers located Mathew on the second floor reading a Comicon brochure.”
After a struggle, police were able to pin Sterling to the ground and arrest him. Police found a 12-gauge shotgun, three handguns, a combat knife, pepper spray and throwing stars on his person. All his guns were fully loaded and he was wearing body army, police say. During police interviews, he expressed an interest in killing an untold number of people.
“Mathew stated that 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,” police said in a probable cause statement. “Mathew explained that he calls bad police officers Aphrodite officers and he can differentiate these bad officers from good ones.”
Sterling explained that he was prepared to kill “Aphrodite” officers, as well as Jason David Frank, the Power Rangers actor, who was scheduled to attend all four days of the Comicon.
“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,” the probable cause statement reads. “I asked Mathew what he meant when he said finish the job and he said he wanted to see the victim behind bars. Mathew set a calendar reminder in his phone to alert him to kill the victim at Comicon on May 25th.”
The Daily Beast could find no record of Frank ever being stabbed, much less fifteen years ago when Sterling would have been 14.
But Sterling’s social media suggests an enduring interest in Frank and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. On Facebook, he is a member of a Power Rangers cosplay group. On YouTube, he has liked videos on the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, as well as a video titled “My Morphin Life,” which shows a day in Frank’s life. Sterling’s screen name is listed as a donor for an indie film by a former Power Rangers director.
Sterling also boasted on social media of his access to weapons.
“I own a variety of blades.. Sadly, most of mine are in storage. My apologies,” he wrote on Tumblr beneath a 2016 picture of him holding a sword. On Instagram, he photographed himself at a different Phoenix, Arizona comic convention in 2016. He was wearing an Avengers shirt, and raved about the “amazing” weekend he’d spent at the convention.
Shortly over one year later, at Thursday’s convention, he was arrested for 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.
Police and Takahashi said they might have prevented a tragedy.
“I was able to prevent what could have been another Manchester yesterday,” Takahashi wrote.