Shuswap man pleads not guilty due to mental illness in Salmon Arm church shooting | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Shuswap man pleads not guilty due to mental illness in Salmon Arm church shooting

Police officers outside the church, April 2019.
July 21, 2020 - 12:44 PM

A man who entered the Church of Christ in Salmon Arm during a morning service and shot and killed a 78-year-old church elder before being wrestled to the ground pleaded not guilty to a first-degree murder charge by order of mental illness at the Salmon Arm courthouse today.

Matrix Savage Gathergood appeared by video in the Salmon Arm Supreme courtroom today, July 21, on the first day of the trial. Gathergood was wearing a toque and sporting a long ginger beard. Gathergood pleaded not guilty to one charge of first-degree murder and one charge of aggravated assault by order of mental illness.

Gathergood's lawyer Jonathan Avis told the court his client was not criminally responsible on account of his mental illness.

Crown prosecutor Alison Buchanan agreed.

"All of the evidence supports... that at the time of the offence Mr. Gathergood was suffering from a mental disorder," Buchanan said.

On April 14, 2019, the then 25-year-old walked into the Church of Christ in Salmon Arm and shot two parishioners. Gordon Parmenter, 78, died at the scene and another man was injured in the shooting. Gathergood was tackled to the ground by church members and arrested by police.

Avis told the court Gathergood had not intended to shoot the other churchgoer and didn't understand how this happened.

The court heard how Gathergood believed Parmenter was a threat to him and his life was in immediate danger.

It's unclear when Palmenter and Gathergood met, however, Kolchak said people had told him Gathergood looked at Parmenter "like a father-figure."

Psychiatrist Andrew Kolchak testified that he believed Gathergood was not criminally responsible for his actions on account of a mental disorder that was active at the time of the shooting. The psychiatrist has diagnosed Gathergood with schizophrenia and said he suffered from psychosis.

"(He believed) if he didn't kill (Parmenter) he would have been killed himself," Kolchak said.

The psychiatrist told the court Gathergood believed Parmenter was part of a new world order who was threatening him.

Kolchak said Gathergood also believed there was a microphone inside him and stopped using cannabis because he believed someone was tampering with it.

The Crown prosecutor said Gathergood's actions were an extreme response and questioned why, if he believed someone was a threat to him, he didn't go to the police?

Kolchak told the court Gathergood thought the police were "in on it" and were monitoring him.

The psychiatrist told the court Gathergood understood the ramifications of his actions but truly believed he would be killed if he didn't kill Parmenter first.

His ability to understand moral wrongfulness was affected by his schizophrenia and ongoing delusions Kolchak told the court.

The court heard how there had been a significant decline in Gathergood's mental health between fall 2018 and spring 2019 and his mental state had been reported.

Justice Sheri Ann Donegan is due to make her decision on the case tomorrow, July 22.

— This story was updated at 4:06 p.m. Tuesday, July 21, 2020 to include submissions from Crown and defence council.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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