Disgruntled VA Pharmacist Threatened to ‘Hunt’ Bosses With His AR-15

Joshua Roberts/Reuters
Joshua Roberts/Reuters
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After a Washington State pharmacist was suspended from his job for a pair of drunk driving arrests, he vowed to go “hunting humans” at the Veterans Affairs facility where he worked, threatening to kill his supervisors and a VA investigator—as well as their families and pets—for supposedly tanking his career, court records say.

On Tuesday, Matthew Ruhmann Slater, 41, pleaded guilty to one count of making interstate threats, according to a plea agreement filed in Seattle federal court. In doing so, Slater admitted to a slew of disturbing allegations, including building an AR-15 from parts he ordered through the mail and terrifying his targets by posting pictures online of notorious Wisconsin cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer under the words “REVENGE,” along with photos of mass shooter Seung-Hui Cho, who gunned down 32 people at Virginia Tech University in 2007.

“I am soooooo incredibly mad at VA Seattle for the emotional trauma they put me through,” Slater messaged a coworker after he was placed on leave. “But I won’t shoot you or any of the normal staff. Don’t worry you are safe, it’s the higher up management who should be concerned and looking over their shoulder’s [sic]... AR-15 is not made for hunting deer, rather for hunting humans,” adding, “VA Seattle ruined my life and my federal career and if I have to go down I’ll certainly take a few of them down with me.”

The case has not been previously reported.

In court filings, Slater said he had been reeling from his father’s death from cancer in June 2019 and started drinking to self-medicate. That fall, Slater was busted for DUI twice in two days, ejecting from his car at 60 mph in one incident, adding to the chronic neck pain he already suffered from a lifelong TMJ disorder. A demotion at work for poor performance, then the suspension for the DUIs, were too much to bear for Slater, who court records say has also suffered from anxiety, OCD, and bulimia, and his “scary behavior” began in response to this combination of setbacks, according to a letter Slater’s mother sent to the judge in his case.

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Slater’s present troubles began on Sept. 29, 2019, with his first DUI incident. In the immediate aftermath, Slater allegedly shoved a cop, nearly pushing him into oncoming traffic, states a complaint filed in the case.

During the second incident, Slater rolled his car and was thrown from the vehicle, causing severe head injuries.

“Officers observed 26 empty beer cans in Slater’s car,” the complaint says. “His blood alcohol level was a staggering .227.”

In January 2020, Slater’s bosses placed him on administrative leave, pending dismissal.

At the end of April 2020, according to court filings, Slater posted pictures of an assault rifle on Facebook, writing, “That is a picture of an AR-15 by the way....... beautiful gun. Any VA employee should honor the second amendment, no? And for legal purposes, I am simply just making an observation..... not a threat.” He told a friend that he might eventually delete the post, but “want[ed] a few key people to see it first.”

On May 4, 2020, court filings say Slater complained to a friend on Facebook that “certain people at work had found out about his arrests, and told his supervisor,” which is what got him suspended.

“So you see why I had a picture of an AR-15 on my profile?” Slater wrote, following up the next day with, “Death to the deserving.”

Another post included the word “REVENGE,” in all caps, with pictures of a severed head and leg, a row of dead bodies, late killer Jeffrey Dahmer, and a mutilated deer. “I like to cut the deer’s hooves off with a butter knife when they are still alive just to watch them flinch,” Slater said underneath.

Yet another featured a photo of Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho pointing a gun at the camera.

When a friend expressed concern about the violent nature of Slater’s Facebook posts, Slater responded, according to his plea filing, “I have nothing to lose. I want coworkers to think I’m gonna shoot the place up. I don’t fucking care.” Later, Slater clarified, “I have an AR-15 which I bought two weeks ago after a long wait period. I was originally planning on shooting myself with it, but maybe I’ll take some of those douche bags [sic] in Seattle VA out with me. They totally deserve it. I don’t care anymore. I don’t give a fuck.”

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>A photo Slater posted to Facebook of Virginia Tech mass shooter Seung-Hui Cho.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington</div>

A photo Slater posted to Facebook of Virginia Tech mass shooter Seung-Hui Cho.

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington

It was during this period that Slater moved in with his mom, who lived in New Mexico. But he still seethed about having been wronged by the VA, his plea papers state.

On May 19, 2020, Slater posted on Facebook, “Sometimes in June an angel will gets [sic] it [sic] wings, It’s good and bad but always sad, both joy and pain this brings. Sometimes in June a family must say goodbye, and in this month [two named VA employees] will die.”

As for having been demoted before his suspension, Slater posted, “This new policy of keeping traumatized people at work by demoting them to clerical positions while they wait to be fired is eventually, statistically speaking going to lead to a *MASSIVE MASSACRE* in the federal workplace.”

Prosecutors say Slater again attempted to cover himself, adding, “And for legal reasons, ‘should be looking over their shoulder’ is not a direct threat. ....Merely a fantasy and not anything legally real…But I was raised as a hunter and love guns. I recently purchased and AR-15 which has a 30 round magazine clip and is semiautomatic (different than my existing, single bolt loading hunting rifles). AR-15 is not made for hunting deer, rather for hunting humans.” After telling his friend on Facebook that he “can’t say it’s real or I think your [sic] gonna call the FBI,” Slater messaged, “Just wait. CNN front page. I have nothing to live for anymore. It's gonna be a blood bath [sic]!!!!!!!”

Two days later, Slater got a visit from the local police.

Someone who had seen Slater’s posts became worried and called the cops, according to a related court filing. His mother told the officers that Slater suffered from mental health issues, hadn’t been taking his medication, and had purchased a rifle. She believed Slater was a suicide risk, but cops didn’t find any guns in the house. Slater wouldn’t say anything without an attorney, and the officers left.

The following day, Slater wrote on Facebook, “hi police if you’re out there and monitoring my Facebook. Good luck finding my newly purchased AR-15. You can get a warrant and knock down doors in Albuquerque or Kent but you’ll never find it is my special hiding place.”

After being involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital for seven days, Slater was arrested June 4, 2020, on state charges and extradited from New Mexico to Washington. The state case was dropped in favor of the federal case, court records say.

Slater spent the better part of a year in jail, and on March 9, 2021, he pleaded guilty to making threats against a federal official. The impact of Slater’s behavior on his intended targets was “profound,” according to one of the filings, which says Slater’s recent incarceration had been, for them, “a reprieve from worrying.” The fearful targets took leave from work and obtained protection orders against Slater, filings say.

On June 15, 2021, Judge Ricardo S. Martinez sentenced Slater, who had no previous criminal history, to time served and three years of supervised release. But a mere 48 hours later, Slater was already in violation of his release conditions, according to prosecutors.

“Two days after being sentenced by Judge Martinez, on June 17, 2021, Slater began posting disturbing photographs on his Facebook profile,” Slater’s plea agreement states. “These posts included a drawing of Victim 3 tied and laying [sic] on the train tracks and tombstones with Victims 1 through 3 written on [them].”

In response, the judge ordered monitoring software to be installed on Slater’s electronic devices. In late July, Slater was rearrested for a flurry of text messages he sent to his mother during a 29-hour period of intoxication, the filing says.

“I want all federal agents or probation officers watching this message,” one text read. “You completely ruined my life… Yes. I am referring to you [Victim 1], [Victim 2], and [Victim 3]...I am going to kill you and your family (and if I didn’t already know they existed I will run an internet search and make sure they are dead too).”

“REVENGE . . . . I am going to mutilate all of their pets and put them in a jar of formaldehyde and send it to [Victim 2]’s son on [sic] 10th grade in junior high,” said another.

“I am going to massacre [Victim 2], [Victim 1], and [Victim 3],” read a third. “An AR-15 isn’t for hunting animals. It’s for hunting humans.”

Last August, Slater—who had spent just a month or so as a free man—was indicted by a federal grand jury over the text messages. He was ordered detained pending trial, and spent the next 16 months in federal detention. Now that Slater has pleaded guilty, prosecutors are asking for a sentence of 18 months in prison.

In a letter to the court, one of Slater’s targets wrote, “What I want is for Matthew to get help. I am doubtful that spending more time in jail will help him to move on with his life.”

Family friends and colleagues described Slater in their own notes to the judge as “polite” and “gracious,” if a bit “quirky.”

“I’m not quite sure how to describe it but it often seemed like his brain just worked a little bit differently from most,” wrote one. “This would be most noticeable in social situations. He’d often just come out with things, the meaning or background of which was a mystery and would often take us a while to decipher. Nothing inappropriate, but just kind of often off the wall.”

A former coworker’s letter described the pharmacy supervisor at the Seattle VA as “unkind, mean-spirited, and retaliatory,” and as someone who “constantly terrorizes and bullies the pharmacy staff.”

In a plea for leniency, Slater’s defense attorney said his actions were largely a cry for help, stating, “It is noteworthy that people who knew Mr. Slater well thought his Facebook account had been hacked when they saw the threatening posts… The posts were…enormously out of character for him, even as depressed as he was. Many people who saw the posts were concerned, not for the safety of others but for the safety of Mr. Slater himself, given his mental health issues and all he had been through.”

Slater is now detained as he waits to be sentenced on April 1. His life will look very different upon his eventual release, according to his lawyer, Jennifer E. Horwitz.

“He will no longer work as a pharmacist, since a licensing attorney has advised he is likely to lose his license,” she stated in the filing. “Rather, he will find work where he can, likely for minimum wage.”

Horwitz did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Wednesday.

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