Last month, my friend Bryan sent me this message: “Do you know Messy? Check out her story.”
I went to Messy’s Instagram and saw this:
“Do not host this guy if he asked,” reads the original message, along with some Chinese at the bottom. “Parkour people plz beware of him. He stole expensive camera, and use other guys [credit card] and so on,” writes Messy in her repost.
I felt my adrenaline spike. I didn’t know the whole story–I don’t read Chinese and didn’t know any parkour people from Taiwan at the time. But I knew this guy.
His name is Matthew Stephenson, and he’s been stalking and harassing my friend Sheep for two and a half years.
I met her about a year ago. She came to a Parkour Visions class at Freeway Park with Coach Ian in the middle of winter. When we partnered to practice handstands, she shook my hand and introduced herself as “Sheep.” I liked her immediately. She had such a positive attitude about parkour. She could do everything I could do, and more.
We connected on Facebook a few days later (where she goes by Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigailov, a character from the book Crime and Punishment). She invited me to train with her the next Friday. Back at Freeway we practiced dive rolls in the wet, muddy grass. We used our bodies as human obstacles to dive over, standing up higher and higher as the other became more confident.
“I bet you can clear the wall,” she said, after some practice. I wasn’t so sure. The wall was made of concrete. “I’ll crouch down the same height as the wall, and you dive over me.”
“What if I hit you?” I said.
“You won’t.” She had total trust and confidence in me, and that made me trust myself. I cleared her, cleared the wall, and she did the same.
“I can’t believe you got me doing dive rolls,” she said afterward. “I hate mud.”
We’ve trained together nearly every week since that day. She and I and several friends organize the Seattle Jumps parkour group. After training we usually eat meals together. Over heaps of food, we share stories of growing up, what we like and don’t like about our work, and our aspirations.
I don’t remember exactly how I found out Sheep had a stalker. She may have mentioned it in passing, probably not wanting to trouble anyone about it. I do know that I didn’t understand how dangerous he was at first.
In June, that changed.
One weekend while Sheep was away hiking, Matthew made an imposter account of her.
He began friending all of her friends. He joined all the Facebook groups she was a part of and began making posts pretending to be her.
Here’s an example of a post he made in a local parkour group pretending to be Sheep. He wrote: “
So he was asking people to message him to scope out “hidden spots” on top of buildings together. What was he trying to do? Would he have said harmful things through private message? Would he have have followed through if someone agreed to meet him? And what would have happened then? There’s no way to know what he intended.
Because Sheep was away, she couldn’t do anything. I contacted the people he had friended and the groups he had joined, asking them to block and report the account. I didn’t want her to have to deal with this. Everyone I contacted reacted quickly as they could, but it still took several days for the ordeal to be over.
This was the first time I personally witnessed the damage he caused. But I knew this wasn’t the first time he’d done this, nor was it the only way he has harassed her over time. I knew it probably wasn’t the worst of it.
After Bryan messaged me about Messy’s Instagram story, we connected with the parkour community in Taiwan to figure out what happened there.
- He’d stolen expensive cameras from Wenteng Chang at Ninja Taiwan Academy.
- He’d “borrowed” over 1000 USD from Liao Hung Wei’s (廖宏偉) parkour team FRMP and never returned it.
- He’d stolen a credit card from another person and bought himself a flight out of the country.
Hung Wei told us he’d traveled to Korea, and that they’d contacted the community there to warn them.
We were all concerned–Sheep especially.
What other harm could he do to the parkour community? Sheep finally decided to share the whole story of her stalking and harassment by Matthew.
It’s the type of story that will make you question reality. None of it really makes sense. What’s wrong with him? Why would he do this? Is it all a terrible game to him? Is it part of some evil master plan?
I’ll tell you the plot twist now, instead of saving it for the end: Matthew is severely mentally ill.
When Sheep first contacted the police over a year ago, they told her Matthew had been in and out of prison and mental institutions for stalking and theft. She learned there were other victims. We don’t know if he’s physically violent, but we do know he enjoys psychologically tormenting people, trying to make them feel afraid and isolated.
I’m not sure where he’ll go next. I imagine he doesn’t have much money. He probably cannot hold down a job with his mental illness. But he’s smart enough to play on people’s sympathies and good will. How far will he go to get what he wants?
While I’m furious at Matthew for causing all this pain to my friends and community, part of me feels sorry for him. He’ll never know what it’s like to connect with others on a deeper level. He may never lead a happy life.
It makes me sad and frustrated that there is no good solution. Our system is not set up to deal with his problems. In the end, we can only protect our own communities from the damage he causes.
Let’s make it harder for Matthew to infiltrate our communities and hurt people.
It’s not much, but if you’ve gotten this far, please consider doing the following:
- Block Matthew’s accounts on social media. Facebook: Account 1, Account 2. LinkedIn: Account 1 (update: this account has been deleted). Twitter: Account 1, Account 2. If you find any new accounts he has opened, please contact me and I’ll update this post.
- Share this post and Sheep’s post on social media, and ask your friends to do the same.
- DO NOT host Matthew Stephenson or allow him anywhere near your communities.
- And lastly, if Matthew has victimized you, please share your story so we can understand the full level of his destructiveness.