Who is Matthew Fowler? Shooting suspect was a new father, but had criminal ties

When Matthew Fowler faces a judge to answer for at least two shootings in Conception Bay South, it won’t be his first time in a courtroom.

CBC News has learned that the 31-year-old is currently facing three drug trafficking charges in the county court in Clarenville. He is accused of selling hydromorphone, cocaine and methamphetamine in May 2021.

A look at his Facebook page shows a man who has been proud to become a father in recent months. He rides motorcycles, and enjoys fishing. But a look at his list of criminal convictions shows that Fowler was in trouble with the law before his most recent charges.

He was convicted of seven violations of court orders and one conviction for failing to appear in court. All eight offenses date from 2011 and 2012.

According to data reviewed by CBC News, Fowler was never convicted of a violent crime.

He is now charged with shooting at least two men in Conception Bay South on Thursday. The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary also says it is investigating a possible third shooting, but it was not clear if a third person was injured.

Two men are still in hospital, at least one of whom is in serious condition.

A black SUV stopped near a badly damaged vehicle, which is sideways against a pickup truck on a rural road.
This was the scene where Matthew Fowler’s alleged flight from the police ended. According to witnesses, he was removed from the sedan, searched and taken into custody. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

Fowler’s latest charges are expected to be announced Friday, when he first appears in county court in St. John’s.

Aside from the shootings, Fowler could also be charged with fleeing the police. Witnesses say they saw him driving at high speed on the St. Thomas Line in Paradise just before 2:30 p.m. Thursday as police gave chase.

An officer expanded a spiked strip, which punctured the tires of the Hyundai Elantra Fowler was driving. He then came into contact with a couple of vehicles, which trapped him.

Witnesses told CBC News they saw the crash and watched as police pulled Fowler out of the vehicle and took him into custody.

1st emergency warning ever issued by RNC

About 45 minutes before the manhunt ended, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary used the county’s emergency alert system to ping cell phones in northeast Avalon, alerting them to the gunman.

“Active criminal threat – Gunman at large after three shootings in CBS city,” the warning read. “The RNC advises the community to take shelter in their place.”

It was the first time the RNC used the alert system to warn the public of an active situation. The move was especially thanked by the public, including people who said it kept them away as the chase unfolded.

“The person in question was driving at 100 km/h along our road past my house with chased police(and) sirens on,” resident Pat Rodgers wrote on Twitter. “The alarm made me lock my doors and stay inside with my two grandsons.”

An emergency alert from the RNC reads Active Criminal Threat - Gunman on the loose after three shootings in the city of CBS.  Suspicious, 31-year-old Matthew Jeremy FOWLER, described as six feet tall, 200 pounds, with tattoos around the neck.  FOWLER has dark hair and brown eyes.  FOWLER is believed to be traveling in a black Subaru Legacy JFH 710. The NC advises the community to take shelter on the spot (stay in your home, work, or indoors), with secure entrances, while the police search for the suspect.  Updates will be provided through RNC's social media platforms and local media.
An emergency alert from the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, sent at 1:39 p.m. on Thursday. (Matt McCann/CBC)

“That warning changed our plans and kept us at home,” wrote another resident, Moiraine Blue. “We would have traveled right through the area we were supposed to stay away from. It kept us away from danger and away from the responding officers. Very good call, RNC.’

The Emergency Services Department of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security oversees the alarm system. It is part of the nationwide Alert Ready system, which can hit mobile phones in a specific area with a push notification and loud alarm.

It has been used by several police forces across Canada in situations where public safety was an urgent concern, but is perhaps best known for a time when it was not used – during Canada’s worst mass shooting in Portapique, NS

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