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Suspect arrested at Phoenix Comicon identified, booked with attempted murder

(Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Photo)

PHOENIX — The identity of the armed man arrested Thursday inside the Phoenix Convention Center where Phoenix Comicon is being held was released by police early Friday.

Mathew Sterling, 31, was booked for one count of attempted murder, three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, wearing body armor during the commission of a felony, resisting arrest and carrying a weapon in a prohibited place.

Sterling was held on a $1 million cash bond.

Phoenix Police Sgt. Mercedes Fortune said a person who knew the suspect alerted police to the situation about noon. The informant told police Sterling had made claims about harming police and was posting photos of officers on social media from inside the event. Further investigation revealed he had also made threats towards a performer.

In an interview with police, Sterling said he was the Punisher, a popular comic book character who hurts people who do wrong.

Sterling also said he can differentiate between good police officers and bad ones.

Sterling was arrested by police after a short struggle. A Facebook post showed at least three officers were on the scene when he was arrested.

He also told police he was at the event to kill a person whom he had stabbed 15 years earlier. He had set a calendar reminder in his phone to kill the unidentified person.

Fortune said Sterling was carrying four guns — including a shotgun — knives and ammunition. Prop weapons carried into the event are supposed to be inspected and tagged, but the suspect’s weapons were not.

Police believe Sterling acted alone.

“This incident is an isolated incident,” Fortune said. “It is not part of a grander scheme.”

Fortune said no prop weapons would be allowed at Comicon because of the situation.

“Keep in mind, this is for everyone’s safety,” she said, adding that prop weapons should be left at home or in cars.

Fortune also said extra security would be put in place over the weekend and the number of entry and exit points would be cut down, which could lead to long lines.

“Expect some delays throughout the weekend,” she said.

Convention Director Matthew Solberg confirmed the changes, saying in a Facebook post that officials will be “implementing enhanced screening to ensure the safety of all our attendees.”

The screening, Solberg said, “includes three dedicated access points, no longer allowing costume props within our convention or the Convention Center and other methods as determined in conjunction with the Convention Center and Phoenix Police Department.”

Officials have also cut down on entry points for guests, limiting them to the West Building entrance at 2nd Street, between Washington and Monroe, Third Street at Washington and Third Street at Monroe.

In addition, costume props will no longer be allowed on-site and any props purchased will be wrapped by vendors and “must remain so while they’re on site.”

Solberg said these policies will start Friday.

Comicon began Thursday. It runs through Monday.

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