It started with two emails and a voice mail last Thursday.
In the voice mail, Greg Matters, the man who died Monday night after a 30-hour police standoff at a Pineview home, left a short, lucid message, politely asking if someone would be getting back to him about the two emails he had sent earlier in the day.
The emails couldn’t have been more different from each other. The first was long and difficult to read, crammed with incomplete sentences and thoughts, and frequent uses of capitalized words and phrases. After a short introduction, Greg quickly went into an emotional tirade, complaining about law enforcement and court officials for their intrusion into his life and his home. Along with the angry outbursts about being betrayed and violated, he explained his challenges with post-traumatic stress disorder after a 15-year career in the military and his ongoing efforts to get help.
The second email was brief. He wanted a reporter to look into his situation and tell his story.
In my first reply, I turned him down, explaining that I didn’t think there was anything in his statement to justify a story. But a couple hours later, I reconsidered. There was something about his emails that stuck with me, so I sent him another note, saying I would pass his information along to a reporter.
He sent me another long and detailed email, responding to my first, negative answer, adding further information about his situation and his concerns, hoping I could be convinced. When he saw my second email, he quickly fired off a short note, thanking me profusely and saying he would sleep better knowing someone was interested in his story.
The reporter, Peter James, reached out to him on Monday by email but was unable to make contact, not knowing he was already in a home surrounded by local police. In my discussion with Peter about Greg, we agreed this could be a challenging story but there was something about Greg that warranted a closer look.
Late Monday morning, Greg sent me a short note, thanking me for listening and saying he was feeling much better, thanks to a doctor he was seeing. He ended the message saying he thought it would be more productive if he would “vent his thoughts” through his doctor, rather than the newspaper, but added that he might contact me again in the future if he changed his mind.
About two hours later, he sent Peter a longer and completely different email. He seemed panicked and described an earlier confrontation with his brother. He mentioned how the police were outside of his home at that very moment. He asked for help and said he was waiting for a call from his lawyer.
Still hoping to connect with Greg, Peter looked at the Monday email from Greg first thing Tuesday morning and then left another message.
We didn’t make the connection between Tuesday’s front page news about the Monday night shooting in Pineview and our email conversations with Greg until about 3 p.m. Tuesday, when Greg’s name was released by other media outlets.