AD Main Menu

Trial begins in 2010 Dimond Center shooting

Laurel AndrewsAlaska Dispatch News

The grayish surveillance video, played in a downtown courtroom Thursday, was taken from inside a barber shop at the Dimond Center shopping mall on Feb. 27, 2010.

It begins with two men, Terence Clyde Gray and Edwing Matos, sitting down at a bench. They sit for several minutes. Gray stands up, walks away, and then returns. He pulls a gun from his waistband and shoots Matos twice from a distance of no more than 2 feet, once in the head, and another time in the torso. Witnesses scatter, and some flood into the barber shop as the attendant quickly shuts the sliding glass door.

On Thursday, as the video played during opening statements in Gray's murder trial, members of Matos' family cried in the front row of the courtroom gallery.

Jurors must decide what led to that moment in the mall, which left 29-year-old Matos dead. The prosecution says it was a cold-blooded killing after a dispute over the theft of a PlayStation. The defense says the shooting was motivated by self-defense.

Matos died within minutes, prosecutor Robert Henderson said Thursday. Gray, now 32, was arrested several weeks later after an Anchorage resident tipped off police.

"There's no other way to describe this: Terence Gray executed Ed Matos," Henderson said.

Matos' residence, where he lived with his wife and two children, had been burglarized several days before the event, Henderson said. Taken from the house was a PlayStation game console, costume jewelry and spare change.

"Not a lot," Henderson said, but "stuff that was still important."

Matos and his wife didn't call the police -- "why would they? What were the police going to do?" Henderson asked -- and instead, Matos began asking around about the stolen property.

With the help of his uncle, Dennis Johnson, Matos tracked down a Craigslist ad for a PlayStation. Johnson retrieved the PlayStation from Gray's downtown home and returned it to Matos. It turned out to be the stolen game console, Henderson said Thursday.

Matos then called Gray, Henderson said, and the two agreed to meet at Costco to discuss the incident.

Gray showed up in a disguise -- a fake "Afro" wig and moustache -- which caught the attention of the loss-prevention staff at the warehouse store, who began to follow him around. It was just before 6 p.m., and Costco was closing. The two agreed to meet up instead at the Dimond Center.

When he arrived at the mall, Gray "stalked" Matos, coming in a back entrance and then standing near a pull-tab kiosk in the mall, peering into the Bosco's comics shop where the two were to meet, Henderson said. They made contact and headed to a nearby bench to talk.

Witnesses said "the conversation was not heated, was not argumentative," Henderson told the jury. After the short conversation, Gray stood up, walked away, and then returned, shooting Matos twice.

"All of that was because Edwing wanted to recover property that was stolen from his house," Henderson said. "So for property, Edwing lost his life."

Uncle Dennis Johnson and his son Shelton McCarty were with Matos, and after the shooting McCarty pursued Gray with a gun in hand. An off-duty officer who had heard the gunshots initially saw McCarty running through the mall with a gun drawn and apprehended him, but witnesses told the officer they had grabbed the wrong person.

Defense attorney Brendan Kelley argued that the issue was deeper than stolen property.

"This is not a senseless killing over a PlayStation," Kelley said.

"Perception is reality. That's what this case is about," Kelley said. Gray believed that his life was in danger, and he acted in self-defense, Kelley said.

After his home was burglarized, Matos was "furious," Kelley told the jury. Kelley said that the day after the incident Matos had an armed confrontation with another man who he thought had committed the act.

For Gray, the incident began "simply enough." He had been given the PlayStation by some friends who owed him money, Kelley said, and didn't know where it had come from. But after Gray sold the PlayStation to Johnson, Matos showed up at his house with a gun, accusing Gray of robbing his home, Kelley said.

Gray was "terrified," Kelley said. Matos wanted to know who had given him the PlayStation, and Gray, not wanting to implicate his friends, told Matos that he had gotten it from his cousin. Matos didn't believe it and told Gray he had 24 hours to find the perpetrators.

When Gray called Matos the next day, he told Matos he needed more time. Matos wasn't satisfied, Kelley said, and told Gray to meet with him. Gray chose Costco, a public place, for his own safety, Kelley said.

"It sounded like a setup," Kelley said, so Gray donned a "ridiculous, stupid Halloween costume" so he could scope out whether Matos had come alone or had brought others with him.

Between Costco and when the two met up at the Dimond Center, Matos called Gray 17 times, a testament to his furious state, Kelley said. When they did meet, Matos appeared alone, Kelley said, and Gray decided to go ahead with the meeting.

The conversation didn't draw the attention of passersby, but "arguments don't need loud words," Kelley said. Matos was in a state of "calm fury," Kelley said, and pressed Gray about who had broken into his house. Matos told him he had brought others with him and said Gray was going to have to come with them, Kelley said.

Matos also allegedly made a phone call during which he said, "I'm gonna have to shoot" Gray.

When Gray stood up to leave, Johnson, who was lingering nearby, motioned at Gray to return to the bench, Kelley said. Gray's perception was that "he was surrounded." In that split second, he pulled out his gun and acted in "lawful self-defense," Kelley said.

"What Mr. Gray did was justified. It was the only thing he could do," Kelley said.

Matos was the youngest of four brothers. Two of his brothers also died in shootings, and the third was blinded by gunshots, the Anchorage Daily News reported in 2010. Matos' father Guillermo Matos told the Daily News his son's deaths were "like a curse."

Matos had been arrested in 1999 for selling cocaine to an undercover officer and again in 2002 while driving a stolen pickup truck. In both cases, he got jail time for several probation violations, the Daily News reported.

On Thursday, Dennis Johnson, who sat in the gallery, said that watching the video surveillance again was akin to reliving the experience. He said the defense was using "smoke and mirrors" and "false statements" to make their case.

"The facts will speak for themselves," Johnson said.


LAUREL ANDREWS
laurel@alaskadispatch.com