A former Canadian soldier who was shot and killed by RCMP on his British Columbia farm made several “alarming” statements to a police officer investigating an incident between him and his brother, a coroner’s inquest heard Tuesday.
The investigation was part of a lengthy history of threats and confrontations involving Greg Matters, who struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, police officers told the inquest.
Constables Jason Dickinson and Nathan Poyzer were dispatched to a rural road just after 3 a.m. on Sept. 9, 2012, to respond to an accident involving Matters and his estranged brother, Trevor.
Dickinson testified that he went to find Trevor — the father of a boy on his football team, he would discover — while Poyzer called Greg Matters.
He located Trevor Matters at a neighbour’s home, where Trevor told him that he had gone to check on his mother and, not finding her at home, turned around and left. He said Greg gave chase and rammed his vehicle three times with his truck, sending him spinning 360-degrees and leaving his vehicle nose-down into the ditch.
“He advised that he was scared, as to what just happened,” Dickinson testified.
Trevor said Greg punched him several times in the face and told him he had no business being at the house that Greg shared with his mother. The coroner’s jury has heard the brothers both had peace bonds against one another.
The officer noted bruising and swelling on Trevor’s face, a bloody nose and lips.
“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.”
Greg Matters had returned to his family farm near Prince George, B.C., in 2009, after being honourably discharged from the Canadian Forces. His 15-year military career included the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, and the inquest has heard that he was being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder when he was shot.
“Trevor advised that as an outcome to this he only wanted to see that Greg received the help that he needed,” Dickinson said.
Dickinson returned to the scene and overheard Poyzer speaking to Greg Matters on an RCMP cellphone. As Poyzer testified on Monday, Dickinson wrote down several “alarming” comments in his notebook, a copy of which he read.
“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 said.
Cameron Ward, the lawyer for the Matters family, suggested the officers “zeroed in” on Greg Matters because Dickinson knew Trevor, and they knew Greg had made previous complaints about RCMP officers.
“You knew, in September 2012, who Greg Matters was, didn’t you?” Ward asked Poyzer.
“I knew of Greg Matters,” he answered, adding that he didn’t recognize the name at first but realized Greg had been involved in a previous investigation.
Asked by a juror about Greg Matters’s demeanour in that cellphone conversation around 5:30 a.m., Poyzer said he was concerned.
“Was I fearful that it could escalate and start up again? Yes, definitely.”
Investigating the accident was not the first time Dickinson had personally dealt with Greg Matters, he told the jurors.
Almost two years before the crash, Dickinson was asked to go to Matters’s home on behalf of the Ottawa Police Service, which had received a complaint from the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP.
Greg Matters had sent letters of complaint to the commission in which he threatened to kill members of the commission. He had also been involved in investigating threats Greg made toward a local Crown counsel.
In 2009, shortly after his arrival in Prince George, Dickinson said he investigated a fight between Greg and Trevor in which Greg hit Trevor over the head with a flashlight.
A behavioural science report was prepared on Greg after the incident with the public complaints commission, the coroner’s jury heard.
“We were aware that Greg suffered from PTSD,” Dickinson said.
Around 7:15 p.m. on Sept. 10, about 40 hours after the early morning accident, a member of an RCMP emergency response team shot Greg Matters twice in the back with an M16 rifle.
An Independent Investigations Office report cleared officers of any criminal wrongdoing. Investigators found Greg had a hatchet, and a Taser failed to stop him as he neared police officers.
The Matters family said Greg had made threats in the past, as he struggled with PTSD, but he didn’t commit violent acts.