JEFFERSON — A psychologist has found that a 23-year-old Fort Atkinson man accused of forcing his way into Luther Elementary School and threatening to release his dog and harm students and staff was unable to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law during the incident.
Colton Mather has pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect to four felony counts of making a terrorist threat and misdemeanor charges of intentionally giving a false alarm, disorderly conduct and obstructing an officer.
The Jefferson County charges against Mather resulted from an incident on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, in which Mather, carrying no weapon but accompanied by a German Shepherd-style dog, reportedly forced his way into Luther Elementary School in Fort Atkinson, located along Park Street on the city’s near-south side.
He subsequently threatened to release the dog if staff did not back away, and then proceeded to set off a fire alarm and threaten to harm those present in the building.
At the time of the lockdown, there were more than 360 people in the building, including students and staff.
Reports indicate that due to the immediate lockdown procedure, it appeared that no students had any direct contact with Mather. However, many allegedly heard his verbal threats and several students and staff were observed to be upset and crying upon being released from the lockdown.
Under state law, defendants can utilize the so-called “insanity defense” if, at the time of the alleged crime or wrongful conduct as a result of a mental disease or defect, the defendant lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness or conform his or her conduct to the requirements of the law.
A report was completed by Dr. Jim Freiburger to determine whether Mather knew his conduct was right or wrong, and whether he had the ability to control his conduct that led to the criminal incident.
The doctor’s report opines that Mather’s “insanity” plea is appropriate in this case.
Mather’s attorney, Joseph Fischer, and Assistant Jefferson County District Attorney Monica Hall informed Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Ben Brantmeier on Tuesday that they were nearing a point of agreement on other parts of the plea.
Taking into consideration the anticipated “insanity” plea, the other step in the process is for Mather to enter a plea in relation to the actual criminal acts. To move forward to the sentencing, he likely is to enter pleas of guilty or no contest.
A plea hearing and anticipated sentence is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 26. The judge is expected to determine at that time whether Mather should be committed on an inpatient or outpatient basis.
Currently, Mather remains in custody on a probation hold.
At the time of the incident at Luther Elementary, he was serving an 18-month probation sentence on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting an officer. He had been sentenced on those charges Sept. 4.
Mather is facing a maximum commitment of 16 years and three months if convicted of all the charges combined.
According to the criminal complaint, two employees of the School District of Fort Atkinson told investigators that a man, later identified as Mather, rang the bell at the door to the Administrative Offices around 2:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 1. He pushed the buzzer multiple times and stated that he was there to pick up a child from school.
One of the employees told him to go to the other door. Mather allegedly replied, “Are you scared to let me in?”
The complaint states that one of the women approached the door to speak with Mather. He squared his body toward her and walked past her into the building.
Both district employees reported that Mather looked “out of it” or appeared to be on some kind of drug or had mental health issues. Also, one of the women told police that she believed Mather was going to enter the building no matter what and she was afraid of him.
At the time of the incident, the district’s business services manager was meeting with the building and grounds director when one of his assistants came into the office and said a weird guy had entered the school with a dog. Both responded and saw Mather walking into a side office room. He allegedly threatened to release the dog if they did not leave.
From that point, the two school officials backed out of the office, called 911 and initiated the lockdown protocols within the building. Classroom and office doors were closed and locked, lights were shut off and students and staff sought shelter.
Teachers in multiple classrooms reported hearing Mather whistle what they described as a “creepy song,” with one identifying it as a song from the movie “Kill Bill.”
Other faculty members and students heard him say “Come out, come out wherever you are. I know you’re hiding. I always know where you are hiding,” as well as yelling sexual remarks and something about God.
At 2:43 p.m., Fort Atkinson police received multiple 911 calls reporting that a man and his dog had entered Luther Elementary School. He was taken into custody by Fort Atkinson police within four minutes of receiving the 911 calls.
According to the complaint, Mather told police his name was Gabriel. However, the officers recognized him from prior police contacts.
Mather said he was there to repent his sins and wanted to have contact with his old superintendent, whom he claimed was a robot. Continuing to resist arrest, he would not get into the squad car, claiming his legs were numb and would not move.
When asked about being on any medication, he told police he believed the pills were placebos because they did not help. Officers said they thought Mather might have been under the influence of a stimulant because his pupils were dilated.
The dog was taken by another officer out to a squad car without incident.