MCSO on knife-wielding suspect who put St. John Fisher in lockdown: ‘This person’s intent was violence’

PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Shalom Mathews, 19, is accused of threatening a St. John Fisher University staffer with a knife “with the intent to tie up the victim and subject her to sexual contact.”

“That was the suspect’s intent,” Chief Deputy Mike Fowler said at a news conference Thursday afternoon. “He was prepared to act on that and we found evidence leading us to that conclusion.”

This is the incident that lead to Fisher putting the campus into lockdown Wednesday evening. The alleged attempted knife attack happened inside the university’s School of Pharmacy around 5:30 p.m.

Mathews was arrested by Monroe County Sheriff’s deputies on Jefferson Avenue in Henrietta just after midnight.

Mathews was officially charged with attempted kidnapping and attempted forcible sexual abuse in Pittsford Town Court early Thursday morning. He is in the Monroe County Jail on $30,000 bail.

The court papers include a statement from the victim. She told deputies a young man, slender, wearing a mask – whom MCSO believes is Mathews – came into her office seeking help for library services. The staffer says she directed the man to the library. Fifteen minutes later, the staffer said the man returned and said he needed to talk to someone but insisted on closing the staffer’s door. When she asked if he felt like hurting himself or others – as staff is trained to do – the staffer told deputies the man replied “No.”

The staffer says she told the man that in order to reach wellness staff after hours, she had to contact university security.

“At some point during our conversation,” the staffer is quoted in the statement, “He told me he was failing all his classes.” 

“I realized that his right hand was in his right coat pocket throughout our whole conversation,” the staffer told deputies. “I could see there was an object in his pocket but I did not know what it was.”

The staffer told deputies that she offered to contact security to get the man in touch with the university’s wellness center a second time.

“The male said ‘I’m sorry’ as he stood up from the chair and pulled out a knife from his pocket,” the staffer said. “He stepped towards me with the knife and repeatedly apologized. The knife was being held in his right hand and his arm was close to a 90 degree angle and pointed at me. At this point I stood up out of my chair and grabbed his right wrist with my left hand. I put my hand on his chest and pushed him until he hit the door and wall of my office. Once I had him against the wall, I took the knife out of his hand with my right hand and kept the knife in my hand. I then opened my office door, shoved him into (redacted) and continued to push him through the (redacted) and into the hallway. While doing so I kept screaming ‘No’ and ‘Get out.’ Once the male was in the hallway, I shut the door to (redacted) and it automatically locks. I then went back into my office closed the door and called 911. I kept the knife in my hand until I got back to my office and put the knife on my desk. The knife looked like that common black handle kitchen steak knife.”

I asked Fisher’s director of safety and security if they teach employees to disarm.

“We don’t train them to disarm but we train as a run off from run, hide, fight. We call it avoid deny, defend,” said. Russell Reynolds, SJFU Dir. of Safety and Security. “It’s an all-hazards approach to any kind of critical incident. Fight when it’s your last resort and that’s what the staffer did.”

“This staff member, you know what an amazing, strong woman,” Chief Deputy Fowler said. “She did exactly what she had to do. And she reacted on her basic instinct.”

The sheriff’s office says they are talking with other police departments because there is concern that this is not the only offense by Mathews.If you recognize the name and face and have a concerned, MCSO asks you to call 911.

Mathews is scheduled to be in Pittsford Town Court for a hearing on March 5 at 5:30pm.

Here are photos from the sheriff’s office investigation at St. John Fisher University:

Here is the text that went out to students at the university during the lockdown:

The university announced that the lockdown was lifted and shared this statement on X at 9:16 p.m.: