FBI works to lock up Michigan man believed to be mass shooting threat despite no serious crimes

Officials look for warning signs to stop mass shootings

DETROIT – Mass shootings are a growing national crisis, with more than 300 happening in the United States so far this year.

There were 11 lives lost at a Pittsburgh synagogue and 12 people killed last week at a California county bar.

The Local 4 Defenders took a look at mass shootings, school safety and warning signs. Agents said one Metro Detroit case has many red flags.

A 25-year-old man from Southeast Michigan is an example of a serious problem in the country. Mathew is the type of person law enforcement officials are worried about, even though he hasn't committed a serious crime.

Local 4 isn't identifying Mathew or showing his face because he isn't charged with making threats. But there were concerns expressed at his detention hearing in federal court.

"Your honor, the defendant is charged in a one-county complaint with making false statements," said Hank Moon, the assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Mathew's case presents a legal and societal conundrum. People almost never face federal charges for lying on a credit card application, but it was the only way law enforcement officials could get Mathew off the streets, which they wanted to do immediately.

"The defendant used those two credit cards to purchase firearms," Moon said. "An assault rifle, several handguns, a binary trigger, your honor, which is used only to ensure than an assault rifle will fire quicker than (designed by the) manufacturer, and several 40-round, high-capacity magazines. When he purchased that firearm, the defendant asked the gun store how he can convert his AR-15 to a fully automatic rifle."

Mathew was buying guns legally but scaring people around him. A gun dealer called authorities, as did a neighbor, saying they thought Mathew could be the next mass shooter.

FBI agents kicked in his door and confiscated his guns, phone and computer.

"On the defendant's electronic devices, your honor, the top three pictures are all the Virginia Tech shooter," Moon said. "On the bottom left, you have Eric Harris, the Columbine shooter."

There were also social media posts.

"The defendant starts posting about his dissatisfaction with the community around him, about how people have completely destroyed his soul and annihilated his conscious," Moon said. "He talks about being angry and (expletive) hating the world. The defendant says that (Oklahoma City bomber) Timothy McVay makes a lot of sense, that the Virginia Tech shooter had a 'way with words.' He describes the Las Vegas shooter as a 'hero' and a 'badass.'

"He talks about African-Americans who took jobs that he thought were his. (He posted) about specifically bringing guns to a workplace, saying he always has two on him and that 'I'm not getting that close to black people without some protection.'

"He actually mentions that he has a '(expletive) list' and that black people are at the top of that list. He then says, 'I want some (expletive) revenge.' What is revenge? Well, your honor, the defendant went to his workplace, too out a knife and started slashing at least one tire I think before the knife broke."

When police checked Mathew's Google searches, they decided to take him into custody.

"He searched 'Pulse Night Club,' the attack location in Orlando," Moon said. "Then immediately searched Ann Arbor night clubs, night clubs in the local area. The defendant searched Columbine High School and then immediately searched, 'Howell Michigan High School.'

"(He searched), 'How long do police take to respond to an active shooter?' 'Police response to Columbine.' He searched, 'Can social rejection lead you to kill somebody?' I mean, when we talk about red flags, your honor, these are literally staring us in the face."

Mathew was locked up pending a trial for lying on his credit card applications. He is being evaluated by a medical professional.

"His determination was that the defendant was mentally ill, and he diagnosed the defendant with acute homicidality," Moon said. "The defendant repeatedly brought the conversation with his mental health provider back to guns and getting his guns back. He mentioned moving out of state at one point. He told the mental health provider that he would have to become a criminal and obtain guns illegally if he couldn't get his back legally. The next day, a psychiatrist examined the defendant and determined he is mentally ill. He diagnosed the defendant with depressive disorder."

Three weeks ago, Mathew returned to court. There was plenty of concern among officials because after five months of jail, it was time to let him out.

Mathew pleaded guilty to wire fraud and was sentenced to probation, not prison. The Local 4 Defenders found him at his father's house, where he was alone because his father works a lot of hours.

There were no police cars or FBI agents watching the house.

Mathew is free to come and go as he pleases, but he has to report in to a probation officer on a regular basis. As a convicted felon, he is no longer allowed to own weapons, and while he's allowed to go online, his communication will be monitored by law enforcement agencies for the next five years.

About the Authors:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.