August 12, 2002 at 5:18 PM EST - Updated July 26 at 11:45 PM
CANTON, Ohio (AP) - A man who was shot to death after leading city and highway police on a chase and killing a police officer was not normally a violent person and was impassioned about his constitutional rights, people who knew him said.
Federal agents and police searched for weapons and explosives Saturday night in the apartment of the man authorities identified as the gunman, Donald Matthews, 61, of Jackson Township, a Canton suburb.
Massillon patrolman Eric Taylor was shot and killed Friday night, after he and other police joined the State Highway Patrol in a chase of the car Matthews was driving (scene pictured, above).
Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms joined the search of Matthews' apartment at the request of the FBI, said ATF agent Frank A. D'Alesio, based in Youngstown.
"What we're here for is looking for firearms or anything that might be related to the officer's homicide," D'Alesio said.
Massillon Municipal Judge Edward Elum approved the search warrant and Matthews' family cooperated, he said.
Matthews and Taylor -- killed by a bullet from Matthews' imported gun when his back was turned -- died in a shootout that followed a 12-mile chase when Matthews twice fled a trooper who stopped him for speeding, authorities said.
D'Alesio said Matthews' wife, Catherine Matthews, told authorities a pistol found inside was her weapon. It was not seized because she had it legally.
Shortly before 8:30 p.m. Saturday, detectives emerged from the apartment with at least three packed paper bags and a small computer tower and placed them in an unmarked car.
Patrol officials have said they are investigating whether Matthews had ties to militia groups, who oppose taxes and most federal government restrictions.
Matthews was the leader of a Christian constitutional study group and abhorred violence, a fellow member told the Akron Beacon Journal.
"Don't try to tie us into a militia group. We are not," said David Gatto, 71. "We tie the laws in with God's law to show how they relate."
The group opposes most traffic laws and believes that state troopers do not have legal authority to stop a vehicle or demand a driver's license, he said.
Two years ago, Matthews began running the group, called the National Constitutional Academy. He had been involved with the study group since the early 1990s, Gatto said.
"This man is a strong defender of the Constitution," Gatto said. "This man is a teacher of it -- he's very thorough. He knows it backward and forward, as well as the Bible."
Gatto said Matthews led study groups several times a week at a restaurant in Massillon and at a diner near Magnolia.
In the mid-1990s, Matthews worked for about 18 months in the hunting department at Kame's Sports Center in Lake Township.
"Don was an interesting character," said his supervisor, Steve Brockway. "He felt back then that government was interested in taking his rights away."
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)