Chattanooga police shooting suspect has history of armed robberies

Chattanooga police shooting suspect has history of armed robberies

April 5th, 2011 by Kate Harrison Belz in News

A car drives by a small group of flowers placed in front of U.S. Money Shops in Brainerd where police Sgt. James Timothy Chapin was killed Saturday after responding to an armed robbery. Staff Photo by Jenna Walker/Chattanooga Times Free Press

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The man in custody for the slaying of a Chattanooga police officer on Saturday has an extensive history of armed robberies, according to Colorado court records.

Police say Jesse Mathews, 25, shot and killed Sgt. Tim Chapin, 51, after attempting to rob the U.S. Money Shops store in Brainerd.

Erlanger hospital, where Mathews is receiving treatment for bullet wounds suffered in Saturday's gun battle, would not release Mathews' condition on Monday afternoon.

FACEBOOK photo - In a self-portrait from his Facebook page, Jesse R. Mathews, 25, displays his tattoos. Mathews was convicted of robbery in 2003 in El Paso County, Colo., and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He had a parole hearing scheduled in March, according to Colorado Department of Corrections records. He is listed in state records as a fugitive inmate and authorities say he is wanted on three robbery warrants. Mathews is the primary suspect in the 040211 shooting of 51-year-old Chattanooga Police Department Sgt. Tim Chapin.

In a Facebook profile picture, Mathews' bare chest is covered in tattoos depicting handguns, brass knuckles and cartridges. One arm shows a tattoo of an exposed bicep muscle dripping blood. Along his collarbone reads "Tools of the Trade."

Mathews' actual tools could have included 16 guns, according to an affidavit of arrest issued by the Colorado Springs Police Department in February.

Mathews is wanted by Colorado Springs, Colo., police in connection with three armed robberies earlier this year involving a fast-food restaurant, a pawnshop and a pharmacy.

In the affidavit, police said Mathews had made threats to return and kill his robbery victims if he was caught.

Mathews, serving the eighth year of a 20-year sentence for aggravated robbery, had been released from a minimum security prison in 2010 to ComCor, a halfway house for offenders in Colorado Springs. He was put on escape status after failing to sign back into the house on Feb. 12.

Mathews' record stretches back to 2002, when court documents show he was charged with committing 31 offenses - including 10 counts of aggravated robbery - during the course of a 10-day crime spree in Colorado Springs.

Mathews, 17 at the time, pleaded guilty to one of the robberies in 2003. The other charges were dismissed.

After Mathews escaped from ComCor, Colorado Springs police believe Mathews robbed a Walgreens on Feb. 13 before journeying east. A friend told police Mathews had family in Florida and North Carolina.

Police spokeswoman Rebecca Royval said she believes Mathews' parents were in Chattanooga, though investigators did not release any additional information related to the investigation Monday.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is heading up the probe into Chapin's slaying, spokeswoman Kristin Helm said.

Royval said the days following the incident have left the department shaken.

"It's been very difficult for all the officers," said Royval. "But we still have to do our job."

Royval said chaplains have been available for officers.

Chapin was a 26-year department veteran with a wife and two children. His funeral is slated for 1 p.m. Thursday at Abba's House in Hixson. Two visitations are scheduled for Wednesday at the church from noon to 3 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m.

Contact staff writer Kate Harrison at kharrison@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.