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The Brantford Expositor
By Michelle Ruby, Brantford Expositor
The mother of Evan Jones believes her son’s dangerous behaviour, which led him to be shot and killed by city police, was a “cry for help.”
When Caroline LeBlanc took the stand Wednesday at the inquest into her son’s death, she described him as loving and kind boy.
“He loved his family and adored his niece,” she said. “He loved animals and liked to cook. He was a really good person.”
Eighteen-year-old Jones was shot dead by a city police officer at his Sympatica Crescent home Aug. 25, 2010.
The officer was cleared of any wrongdoing by the Special Investigations Unit.
The inquest is mandatory under the Coroner’s Act. It is scheduled to last until May 11 and hear from about 30 witnesses. Dr. Jack Stanborough is presiding over the inquest.
At the time of his death, Jones had almost three times the legal limit of alcohol in his system. An autopsy showed that he also had drugs in his system, some medicinal, along with traces of past cocaine use.
In the weeks leading up to his death, Jones had been experiencing mental health issues, along with drug and alcohol problems.
In June 2010, he took half a bottle of Tylenol and was admitted to hospital.
On the night of his death, he had been wielding kitchen knives and demanding that police officers kill him.
“Do you believe at that point in time that Evan did want to die,” asked Glenn Stuart, who is acting as the family’s lawyer.
“I think it was a cry for help,” said LeBlanc. “I think he was like, ‘Help me.'”
A statement by Const. Adam Hill, the city police officer who shot Jones, was read into the record by Karen Shea, who is serving as counsel to the coroner.
Shea explained to the jurors that Hill has not returned to work since the day of the shooting due to medical reasons and, based on a ruling by Stanborough, will not be appearing in person at the inquest.
Jones’s family opposed that decision because Hill will not be subjected to cross-examination.
In his statement, Hill said he was called to 91A Sympatica Cres. just before 10 p.m. on Aug. 25, 2010, to respond to a domestic dispute.
LeBlanc called police, telling the dispatcher that her son was “throwing things around, going crazy.”
Hill said that en route to the home, he received information that Jones had been “flagged as violent and had previously assaulted police officers.”
Another officer, Const. Kari Drake, arrived at the scene at about the same time.
Hill said that he saw Jones standing on his porch in his boxer shorts, waving two knives and “rubbing them together as a butcher would before cutting meat.”
A woman, later identified as LeBlanc, was standing on the front lawn and Hill said he feared for her safety.
Both Hill and Drake said they used “tactical communication” in an attempt to talk Jones down, repeatedly asking him to drop the knives.
Jones asked officers to shoot him, and put both knives up to his own throat causing superficial cuts, said Hill
“He didn’t seem in his right mind.”
But the officer said he felt that “distance and time were on my side to de-escalate the situation.”
Hill said Jones ignored all police requests to drop the knives.
Jones, Hill said, then “gave a sinister sneer” and went inside the house.
Hill said he had a third officer who had arrived at the scene, Const. Leonard Van Holst, confirm that Jones’s sister and two-year-old niece were in the house in an upstairs bedroom.
Saying he feared for their safety, Hill kicked down the front door. He and Van Holst went inside and found themselves in the hallway with Jones, still armed with the knives.
“I felt that time and distance were now not on my side,” Hill said.
He said he continued to ask Jones to put down the knives. Drake had come into the house through a back door and Hill said he motioned for her to get out the way.
“I didn’t want a blue-on-blue situation,” he said.
Hill said he then pepper sprayed Jones in the eyes but it had no affect.
Hill said Jones then charged at the officers with a meat cleaver in the air.
“I fired as many rounds as necessary to stop the threat. I felt I had no other alternative.
“He fell to the ground. I saw him take his final breath of air. I felt his pulse fade away. The threat was over and I re-holstered my firearm.”
Jurors at the inquest earlier heard that the cause of Jones’s death was four gunshot wounds.
Harry Thorne, a forensic investigator with the SIU, said that one of the bullets hit Jones’s left arm and went into his chest, another went through his heart, another entered his lower back and a fourth bullet grazed his upper back.
Thorne said he was present at Jones’s autopsy but didn’t recall there being any evidence of pepper spray used.
When questioned by Stanborough, Thorne said the pepper spray could have been vented through the open front and back doors of Jones’s house.
Another SIU forensic investigator told the jury that three bullets, two knives, one cleaver, a barbecue fork and five bullet casings were found in the home.
There was also an impression on the wall of the living room consistent with it being struck with a cleaver.
LeBlanc said the first evidence of her son’s drug problem was in January 2009 when he was caught smoking marijuana and referred to a program at St. Leonard’s.
The inquest heard that Jones left the mental health unit at the hospital several times without being discharged.
He also left Holmes House, an alcohol and drug treatment facility in Simcoe, after being admitted a few days earlier in July 2010.
On July 17, 2010, he was caught shoplifting a chocolate bar.
On Aug. 4, 2010, Jones got into a fistfight with his brother, Bill, and LeBlanc called police. She said she told police Jones was taking anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medications. Jones got into a scuffle with officers and was charged with assault.
LeBlanc said that, for some time in the summer of 2010, Jones seemed to be doing better. He joined a gym and started working out with weights at home.
“He wasn’t hanging out with anyone. He just wanted to get healthy. He wanted to get off the drugs. He hated the drugs.”
But earlier in the day on Aug. 25, Jones had been drinking with a friend and returned home in the evening agitated. When he started throwing things, LeBlanc called police from outside her house.
“I was at the end of my rope with him. I didn’t want to put up with it anymore.”
She said she was shocked a few minutes later when police arrived and drew their guns. She turned to see Jones on the porch holding the knives.
LeBlanc said she was concerned that her son may harm himself but told Van Holst that she felt her daughter and granddaughter were safe upstairs in the bedroom.
“I knew he would never hurt anyone in a million years.”
When questioned by jurors and Stanborough, LeBlanc said she felt she could have been helped by more family support to deal with her son’s issues.
The inquest continues today.