Reaper from Overwatch costume at Phoenix Comicon 2016. Prop weapons like this won't be allowed at Phoenix Comicon 2017. [File photo by Nerdvana contributor Christen Bejar]

Heavily armed, armored man arrested at Phoenix Comicon, leading to enhanced security and prop weapons ban

Events, Featured, Top story

Reaper from Overwatch costume at Phoenix Comicon 2016. Prop weapons like this won't be allowed at Phoenix Comicon 2017. [File photo by Nerdvana contributor Christen Bejar]
A Reaper from Overwatch costume at Phoenix Comicon 2016. Prop weapons like this won’t be allowed at Phoenix Comicon 2017. (File photo by Nerdvana contributor Christen Bejar)
A man with three handguns, a shotgun, ammunition and knives was arrested Thursday at Phoenix Comicon, leading to major changes for the packed pop culture convention that runs through the weekend.

According to a report from ABC15, the 29-31-year-old (reports differ) male Valley resident in body armor arrested at the Phoenix Convention Center was suspected of posting pictures of Phoenix police officers online and stating that he planned to kill officers. A tip from a woman who knew the man led to his arrest, ABC15 staff reported.

Police told the media that the man struggled with officers. No injuries were reported.

As a result of the threat, Phoenix police announced new security measures, including enhanced screening and tightened access to the convention center. Also, no weapons, including costume props, will be allowed on the premises.

According to Phoenix Comicon director Matthew Solberg, prop weapons purchased at the convention will be wrapped up by the vendors and must remain wrapped until they are out of the venue.

Solberg issued the following statement Thursday evening:

In light of recent events, Phoenix Comicon, in cooperation with the Phoenix Convention Center and the Phoenix Police Department, will be implementing enhanced screening to ensure the safety of all our attendees. This screening 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. We anticipate some delays as you are entering the building and we encourage you to carry as little as possible to make the process easier. 

These new policies will take effect starting tomorrow, Friday, May 26th.

The three access points for entrance into the Convention Center with those who have a valid badge:

West Building entrance at 2nd Street, between Washington and Monroe.  
Third Street at Washington
Third Street at Monroe

For those who need to collect their badge from registration you will ONLY be able to use the access point at Third Street at Monroe.
Con on Third will no longer be open to the public, and will require a valid badge to enter.

Costume props will no longer be allowed on-site. All costume props should be left at home, in your car, or in your hotel room. This includes costume props for staff, crew, costuming groups, panelists, and participants in the masquerade ball. Any panels or activities impacted by this change will be updated on the website soon.

All costume props are no longer allowed, including foam and cardboard props, shields and sabers. Purchased props will be wrapped by the vendors and must remain so while they are on-site. We encourage you to take your purchases to your car or hotel as soon as possible after purchase. 
We understand these are last minute changes as a result of recent events. 

We appreciate your patience as we continue to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all our patrons and we look forward to a great event.

Matthew Solberg
Convention Director

Mathew Sterling

Suspect and charges identified in Phoenix Comicon weapons incident

UPDATE: Mathew Sterling, age 29-31 (reports vary) was identified Friday morning as the suspect, according to KTAR. Charges he faces include attempted murder, 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.

Authorities do not believe anyone else was involved in the incident.

In addition to threatening police officers, a reported target was Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ Jason David Frank.

According to 12 News KPNX, Sterling appeared in court Friday and is being held on a bond of $1 million. The television station also cited court documents in reporting the tip to police came from a witness in California reading Sterling’s Facebook messages. There are a whole lot of other outlandish details:

Court documents show Sterling admitted to carrying the weapons into the venue and told police he was the Punisher — a popular Marvel comic book character. Sterling said if he deemed the officers to be what he called “Aphrodite officers” or “bad” officers, he would shoot them. He said these types of officers can hide behind kind faces and police badges.

Court paperwork said that in the interview with police and in prior Facebook messages, Sterling said he was at Phoenix Comicon to finish a “job.” He said he had stabbed a person — scheduled to perform for four days at the event — 15 years ago. He set a calendar reminder in his phone to remind him to kill the person at Comicon on May 25, court records said.

According to court documents, Sterling purchased a four-day pass to the event and told police he believed with the person dead, the person’s wife and child would be happy.

Update on Phoenix Comicon security

Friday also brought a new round of updates from Solberg clarifying many of the restrictions and new security measures:

There are many outstanding questions from our announcement yesterday. We now have UPDATES, including the prohibited item list as determined and approved by the Phoenix Convention Center and Phoenix Police Department:

Please arrive with plenty of time. Our enhanced security procedures include magnetic wand and backpack checks. There will be lines and we appreciate your patience and understanding. 

The three access points for entrance into the Convention Center with those who have a valid badge:

West Building entrance at 2nd Street, between Washington and Monroe.
Third Street at Washington
Third Street at Monroe

For those who need to collect their badge from registration you will ONLY be able to use the access point at Third Street at Monroe.
Con on Third will no longer be open to the public, and will require a valid badge to enter.

You may request a refund by emailing refund@phoenixcomicon.com. As all staff and crew are onsite running the convention we will not beginning responding until after Phoenix Comicon and anticipate it may take thirty days or longer to fully process all refund requests. Please be patience and thank you for your understanding. 

The following is the prohibited item list at the Phoenix Convention Center during Phoenix Comicon as determined by the Convention Center and Police Department that has been drafted and approved this morning. This language is direct from them, and we hope will answer many of the questions and concerns that came up in the past eighteen hours.

“In an effort to ensure the safety and wellbeing off all our guests, the following items are prohibited at the Phoenix Convention Center during Phoenix Comicon 2017:

Alcoholic Beverages
Illegal drugs
Weapons of all types including Simulated Weapons.

Examples of prohibited weapons and simulated (Prop weapons) weapons include:

Edged weapons (swords, knifes, throwing stars etc.)
Impact weapons (clubs, bats, staffs, nunchaku, shields, 
hammers and martial arts weapons) 
Firearms
Archery weapons (cross bows and bolts, bows and arrows of all 
types)
Weapons from fictional sources (Light sabers, plasma weapons, 
laser, phasers etc.)

We thank you for your understanding. Have a great time at Comicon.”

Wands, sonic screwdrivers, plushies, masks, fairy wings, empty holsters, signs attached to costumes, fur suits, cardboard made costumes and non-weapon props, dishware associated with costumes, empty quivers, hats and helmets, Power Ranger Morphers, and umbrellas, by example, are allowed.

Ghostbuster proton packs are allowed however the Neutrino wand will need to be disconnected or permanently attached to the pack.

Any items not specifically listed here are subject to security discretion and may or may not be allowed. 

We understand these are last minute changes as a result of recent events. 

We appreciate your patience as we continue to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all our patrons and we look forward to a great event.

Matthew Solberg
Convention Director

More Phoenix Comicon news

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