When Canadian border agents searched a rental vehicle driven by a then-unknown Patrik Mathews in the summer of 2019, they made a disturbing discovery: homemade posters warning of "White Genocide" and a detailed list of mass shootings.
It was June 1, 2019 — more than two months before the Free Press exposed Mathews as an active member of the Canadian military moonlighting as a recruiter for a violent neo-Nazi paramilitary group — and the pressure was on.
At first, Mathews told the Canada Border Services Agency officials at the port-of-entry near Tolstoi that he was returning from Lake Bronson, Minn., where he’d been visiting family.
But when pressed, Mathews buckled and changed his story, saying he was coming back from visiting his friend, "Jason," from Duluth, whom he’d met online.
The posters in his backpack, which he admitted to making, warned that Canada was on the path to becoming a white-minority country. And the list of mass shootings in his journal charted every attack in the U.S. from 1988 to 2018, including apparent motivation.
"The list also noted whether the shooter in each mass shooting had ever made mention of joining ‘The Base,’" reads newly unsealed RCMP search warrant documents, which were obtained by CBC News following a court challenge.
The unsealed documents are a request for a search warrant the RCMP submitted to a judge on Aug. 19, 2019, just hours after the Free Press publicly identified Mathews as the man behind a neo-Nazi recruitment drive in Winnipeg.
Mathews is currently staring down the possibility of decades behind bars in U.S. federal prison after pleading guilty to multiple firearms charges in a Maryland courtroom last month. He is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 28.
After being interviewed by CBSA agents on June 1, 2019, Mathews was allowed to return home — but it wasn’t the last he would hear about his close call at the border. Two weeks later, on June 14, he was called into a meeting with the RCMP’s national security unit in Winnipeg.
Mathews told the officers the list in his notebook charting mass shootings was "old research." He admitted to being interested in "prepping," but said he was not supportive of politically motivated violence.
The RCMP ultimately cut Mathews loose, but not before contacting the Canadian Armed Forces to confirm Mathews was a combat engineer active in the military reserves.
The search warrant documents indicate that after the Free Press exposed Mathews as a neo-Nazi recruiter, the RCMP interviewed multiple people who knew him. The picture painted by acquaintances is of a socially isolated man prone to hateful and violent outbursts.
"Mathews speaks passionately but can get angry… Mathews has very right-wing ideas, jokes about dealing with certain types of people with violence. Mathews comments on how (homophobic slur) should be thrown off the roof like in the Middle East," court records read.
"Mathews is described as a loner, with few friends, is online, reclusive, usually stays at home with his cats."
Another acquaintance described scenarios where Mathews would be in public with friends and would begin ranting about "Black people or (homophobic slur) and others would try to stop him." He made comments, the acquaintance added, like, "Quick pipe bomb would fix that."
Multiple people who spoke to the RCMP indicated Mathews’ behaviour in the weeks leading up to their interviews had become increasingly concerning, with one person saying he’d talked about getting "body armour."
Mathews was legally permitted to possess restricted and non-restricted firearms, and had one handgun, five rifles and one shotgun at his Beausejour home. The search warrant was requested by the RCMP so they could remove the firearms from his possession as a matter of public safety.
The records also show police were concerned by reports that Mathews had recently given up his four cats, which was interpreted as a possible sign he was getting his "affairs in order" prior to committing an attack.
"In conjunction with Mathews' association with a neo-Nazi/White Supremacist hate group, I believe that Mathews is an adherent to this violent ideology. I further believe that the posting of posters and like-minded comments is an expression of intention," court records read.
"Although I cannot predict the future, I believe that Patrik Jordan Mathews’ actions are unbefitting an individual that owns firearms… (and poses) a substantial risk to public safety."
The RCMP raided Mathews’ Beausejour home on the night of Aug. 19, 2019. His firearms were seized and he was briefly taken into custody, but then released without charge.
Mathews was reported missing on Aug. 28, 2019, and a week later, his truck was found abandoned near the U.S.-Canada border. He illegally crossed into the U.S., where he met up with fellow members of The Base’s neo-Nazi network.
He was arrested in on Jan. 16, 2020, as part of a nationwide crackdown on The Base by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, and accused of planning a terror attack in Richmond, Va. He pleaded guilty to multiple firearms charges last month.
When requesting a court order sealing the search warrant documents in August 2019, the RCMP indicated it believed other members of The Base could still be active in Canada.
"This is an ongoing investigation which will be compromised should the existence of this order be revealed. This investigation has associated National Security concerns and I believe that there are other as yet to be identified individuals and also associated cells," the court records read.
"These individuals may have criminal liability in this investigation, as well as public safety concerns not only in Manitoba but possible in other locations in Canada and also the United States."
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.