PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. – The brother of a former Canadian soldier shot by Mounties says he had no idea how troubled Greg Matters was until he attended this week’s coroner’s inquest.
A confrontation between Greg and his brother, Trevor Matters more than a year ago set off a series of events that led to the deadly standoff in Prince George, B.C.
In emotional testimony Friday, Trevor Matters told the coroner’s jury that while he knew his brother was “different” after returning from a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia in 2001, he didn’t realize the scope of his issues until he sat in the inquiry room.
“Now that I’ve been in this courtroom for the last four days I have such a better understanding of maybe what Greg was going through,” he said of his brother, who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after he came back to Canada.
“I had no idea,” Trevor Matters said. “I knew there were problems of course but I didn’t know personally.”
“This inquiry — it’s so much to take in,” he told the jury.
Matters gave his recollection of the final dispute between the two men on a rural road near his brother’s home in the early morning hours of Sept. 9, 2012.
It was a confrontation that later saw an RCMP emergency response team dispatched to the property where Greg Matters lived with their mother.
Police had planned to arrest the former peacekeeper on a charge of assaulting his brother.
Matters was “raging” when Trevor went to the home around 3 a.m., the inquest heard.
The jury has already heard that the ex-soldier chased Trevor Matters’ vehicle with his truck and ran his vehicle off the road.
“The last time I saw Greg his eyes were like this,” Matters testified, raising his hands to his eyes to indicate rage.
Matters said he was worried about Greg going to the home where he, his wife and four children lived.
He gave a statement to a police officer who was also the coach of his son’s football team.
The officer, Const. Jason Dickinson, called Trevor Matters on his cellphone to find him that night, though both men testified they did not know each other well beyond coach and parent.
Dickinson had earlier dealt with another altercation between the brothers and Matters said he cautioned the officer at that time that “you guys have got to work this thing out.”
That didn’t happen.
Matters said he went to the police detachment the afternoon of the dispute and was informed that police were “having problems” with his brother.
He gave police the layout of the property and the roads going in and out, and while he wasn’t told as much, he guessed that his brother was “getting in a lock-down mode.”
Dickinson later came to his door.
“They told me Greg was shot,” he told the jury.
Matters’ former girlfriend testified earlier Friday about how her boyfriend came home from a peacekeeping tour in Bosnia a different person.
Sonya Booker dated Matters for five years while he was based at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick.
“Greg was an amazing man,” Booker said through tears when asked what he was like before he was deployed to the Balkan country in 2001.
“Greg had a huge heart. He really cared about people and, even a stranger on the street, to his family, to his friends, to the people in the military, if he could help somebody he went out of his way to do that.”
But she said that after Matters returned from a six-month tour of duty in Bosnia, he was injured physically and emotionally changed.
“The Greg that I knew before Bosnia, to the one I knew after Bosnia, was different,” Booker testified.
The injury impacted his work in the military but also his private life. He was a very active person but could no longer do the things he enjoyed.
“Our relationship was impacted. After he returned from Bosnia he withdrew intimately from our relationship, and withdrew from his friends,” she testified.
The inquest has heard that Matters was in treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, that his psychiatrist linked both to his time in Bosnia and to two assaults he suffered at the hands of his military comrades.
An investigation by the Independent Investigations Office in B.C. cleared the RCMP officers involved of criminal wrongdoing. The coroner’s jury cannot find fault, but can make recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths in the future.