The courtroom was silent, tense and ripe with emotion on Friday as the Waseca community looked to close the chapter on what has been nothing short of a horror story.
Despite having her life drastically change forever through the actions of a single man, Megan Matson embodied every ounce of strength and support the community has shown her family since her husband, Officer Arik Matson, was shot Jan. 6 in the line of duty. Through her unwavering victim impact statement and assisting her husband walk in and out of the courtroom, Megan Matson was the beacon of hope for a town looking to heal.
“Sometimes we have to let go of the picture we had of what we thought life would be like and find the joy in the story we are living,” she said during her statement to the courtroom. “We have found that joy, and we will keep living.”
The Matsons sat silently wrapped in one another’s arms Friday listening as a judge handed Tyler Robert Janovsky a prison sentence more than three decades long. But neither looked at the man who changed their lives forever for more than a brief moment.
Janovsky, 38, of Waseca, pleaded guilty in July to one count of the attempted murder of Matson and one count of attempted murder of Waseca officers Andrew Harren and Sgt. Timothy Schroeder in relation to the January incident that left Matson critically injured from a gunshot wound to the head.
During the sentencing hearing Friday, which included victim impact statements, Judge Christine Long sentenced Janovsky to a total of 420 months in prison. Per Minnesota statute, Janovsky must serve at least two thirds of that. The remainder would be served on supervised release.
“No one is happy at the outcome — it doesn’t make up for the losses the community, the officers and the families have experienced,” Long said, addressing Janovsky. “But this is what the law allows, and what the parties agreed to in the plea petition.”
While receiving his sentencing, Janovsky raised his eyebrows in what appeared to be a look of indifference. Prior to the judge’s ruling, Janovsky made a quick statement where he apologized for the pain and suffering he caused the Matson family, his own mother and his two sons.
“Law enforcement has treated me better than I deserve,” Janovsky said, looking only at the judge. “I am where I need to be and am ready to take my medicine and being this next journey of my life.”
All other charges linked to the shootings were dismissed as a result of the July plea agreement. Waseca County Attorney Rachel Cornelius also agreed to drop a first-degree manufacturing meth charge from a separate drug case filed in December. Also part of the agreement: the federal government won’t pursue drug charges linked to the December case.
Upon entering the courtroom, it was noted Janovsky winked at someone in the audience. Multiple people who had been directly impacted by the January incident gave victim impact statements prior to the judge handing down the sentence. Throughout the statements, Janovsky remained emotionless and unbothered, never once looking at any of his victims.
Two of those were Jack and Mary Williams, owners of the home Janovsky shot Matson from atop of. The couple said while homes are meant to be a safe haven, their security and privacy was stripped from them in a matter of moments when Janovsky fired at the Waseca officers. Multiple bullets penetrated the Williamses’ house, garage and vehicle, turning their property into a crime scene.
“It was a heart wrenching site to see a police officer and the intruder lying on the ground wounded,” Jack Williams said. “We were in disbelief.”
Stifling tears, Mary Williams said seeing Arik Matson return home Oct. 19 and walk into the Waseca Police Department with Megan by his side was an important moment for the couple, though she added their journey to healing is still ongoing.
Both Harren and Schroeder also made statements to the court, with Harren saying he’s not sure if he will get to a point of forgiveness for Janovsky – a sentiment shared earlier by Waseca Chief of Police Penny Vought just moments prior.
“A good man was shot. A good husband was shot. A good father was shot. A good son was shot. A good brother was shot. A good police officer was shot,” Vought said as she discussed the turmoil Janovsky’s actions brought to her department and the community. “I will never forgive the defendant for the devastation he’s caused – his actions do not warrant forgiveness.”
Perhaps one of the most profound statements came from Schroeder, as he courageously admitted while holding back emotions that series of events and the sounds of the gunshots from Jan. 6 continue to haunt him.
“The sound of those shots ring out loudly – I cannot outrun them, I cannot concentrate, they are with me and all I do,” Schroeder said. “Every day I put on my badge, I wonder if I will ever be good enough for it. I blame myself that I couldn’t protect my partner.”
Members of Arik Matson’s family also gave victim impact statements, including his brother Jared Matson who said while the family is grateful every day that Arik is alive, the maximum sentence of 35 years and possibility of parole is simply not enough for the magnitude of the impact Janovsky’s actions had over the last 10 months. Megan Matson’s mother, Michelle Joyce, prepared a statement but was unable to deliver it through her tears, having Cornelius read it on her behalf.
“I will no longer give one more thought or care about what happens to [Janovsky],” Joyce wrote along with the details of how the family felt torn apart while Matson was away recovering in rehab. “My family is back together, and no one will hurt us again.”
Following Megan Matson’s statement, she recited a prayer she said has helped her get through the nightmare of the past several months.
“Today I choose to give all the pain, bitterness and revenge to you, God,” Megan Matson said. “Heal every part of me.”
With his wife’s assistance, Arik Matson walked to the podium to deliver his own statement, an action Cornelius said in and of itself was a statement all by itself. He said that while he cannot recall all the details of that night, his life has changed forever and that so much was stolen from him.
“I was in the wrong clothes at the wrong time in the wrong place,” Arik Matson said. “But when all is said and done, I wanted to protect the people inside the house and protect the officers I was with … I would still respond to that call if it were made tomorrow.”
During the July hearing, Janovsky told Judge Long that on the night of Jan. 6 he was aware that officers were looking for him as he hid behind a house. Janovsky said that he went on the roof of a Third Avenue SE home and shot at Matson with the intent to kill him before firing at Schroeder and Harren with the same intent.
According to the criminal complaint, Janovsky, who was on supervised release for a 2010 drug conviction, had a warrant out for his arrest at the time of the shooting. According to court records, police found materials for a potential methamphetamine lab, as well as drugs and a loaded handgun at his Waseca residence in December.
On the night of the incident, four Waseca Police officers — including Matson, Schroeder and Harren — were dispatched to the 900 block of Third Avenue SE in Waseca following a report a suspicious person with a flashlight in nearby backyards. Capt. Kris Markeson was also at the scene.
Officers first made contact with Janovsky that night on the balcony of the home where he then fled to the garage roof before circling to the front of the house, according to the complaint. It is there that he fired his gun at the officers, striking Matson in the head. Janovsky was in turn shot twice, sustaining non-life threatening injuries. According to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Matson and Schroeder fired their weapons during the incident.
Janovsky admitted to initiating the gunfire when he entered into the plea agreement.