Judge rules Salmon Arm man involved in fatal church shooting not criminally responsible | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Judge rules Salmon Arm man involved in fatal church shooting not criminally responsible

July 22, 2020 - 4:48 PM

A B.C. Supreme Court Justice has found a Shuswap man charged with first-degree murder in the shooting of a 78-year-old church parishioner not criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder.

Supreme Court Justice Sheri Ann Donegan said Matrix Savage Gathergood was suffering from a serious mental disorder and schizophrenia when he killed Gordon Parmenter at the Salmon Arm Church of Christ on April 14, 2019.

Justice Donegan read out the judgement today, July 22, following a short one-day trial held July 21 at the Salmon Arm courthouse.

Following the judgement, Justice Donegan addressed Parmenter's family.

"I can't begin to know the suffering you have experienced as a result of what happened on that awful day," Justice Donegan said. "I can appreciate this court process and my reasons today, have been difficult and probably seem rather sterile and impersonal to you. I was tasked with making a legal decision today which I have done, but I hope you know that in doing so I am very aware of the tragedy of your loss... and the grief you must all be experiencing. I just want to say how sorry I am that you're all going through this."

On April 14, 2019, Gathergood, who was 25 years old at the time, walked into the Salmon Arm Church of Christ during the Sunday morning service and shot Parmenter twice in the back of the head. He then left the church but returned several minutes later and fired more shots. One bullet hit another parishioner in the leg. He was wrestled to the ground and held until police arrived and arrested him.

Gathergood appeared in the courtroom by video from the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in the Lower Mainland, only speaking to confirm he could hear the judge. He had previously pleaded not guilty to one charge of first-degree murder and one charge of aggravated assault by order of mental illness.

"The sole issue in this trial is whether Mr. Gathergood is not criminally responsible for the offences because at the time he committed the acts he was suffering from a mental disorder that rendered him incapable of knowing that his acts were wrong," the Justice said.

The court heard how Gathergood and Parmenter had known each other for years and that Gathergood had thought of the 78-year-old as a "father figure." At the time Gathergood fatally shot Parmenter, the church parishioner, along with members of Gathergood's family, had been trying to get him further help for his mental health.

The court heard how Gathergood thought Parmenter was trying to kill him and he believed had to kill Parmenter first to "ensure his own survival."

A psychiatric report read out by the Justice said Gathergood had become paranoid and believed a microphone had been planted inside him by the RCMP and it was recording everything. He believed in a secret society that controlled everything and that people were being killed by them. Prior to the events, he had told a psychiatrist he was not paranoid, "just aware."

The court heard Gathergood had received some psychiatric help and had several appointments with caseworkers and psychiatrists throughout 2018. Gathergood's brother and Parmenter had been paramount in trying to get Gathergood help as his mental health declined rapidly in 2018.

In December 2018 Gathergood had an episode and ended up going to the hospital. He had declined an offer to be hospitalized and a psychiatrist had said he was not certifiable under the Mental Health Act to force him and made a follow-up appointment.

Gathergood's brother had called a psychiatrist just two weeks before the shooting concerned for his brother's health. Earlier on, the brother confiscated Gathergood's weapons and kept them at his house under lock and key.

The Justice said Gathergood was paranoid people wanted to kill him and had arrived at a friend's house asking for help filling out a passport application as he needed to leave the country.

The court heard how Gathergood knew his actions were legally wrong but did not understand they were morally wrong.

"Unfortunately Mr. Gathergood continues to have no insight into his actions at the time of the offence," Donegan said. "(He) does not recognize he has a mental disorder and his actions were a result of paranoid delusions."

Gathergood will remain confined to a psychiatric hospital and his file passed to the B.C. Review Board.

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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