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Jason Earle, police officer punched each other as tense Barachois Street standoff ended, court hears

Billy Earle said he tried not to look at his son, Jason, too much that day in September 2016. For one, he didn't want to cause Jason, who was already hyperventilating and yelling, to become any more upset.

He also didn't want to take the chance that he'd witness Jason die by suicide with the gun he was aiming at himself, fingers on the trigger.

Jason's girlfriend had called Billy on his cellphone about an hour earlier, saying Jason had been turned away at the Waterford Hospital and was at his mother's Barachois Street home with a gun, threatening to take his own life.

Billy told Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Justice Vikas Khaladkar on Thursday that he had rushed over to the home, got Jason's mother and girlfriend to leave, locked the doors and tried to calm his son, whom he said has had mental-health issues since age 10.

The RNC were on the phone, though Billy said he doesn't know how that happened. He suspects Jason may have called them.

Billy said once police officers had taken up positions outside the home, he took off the bulletproof vest he had been wearing for work and gave it to his son.

"I said, ‘Jason, I want you to put this vest on just in case this goes in a different direction,’" Billy testified.

"This is what's going to happen, OK? They're going to come in, I'm going to shoot them, they're going to shoot back, I'm going to die." — Jason Earle recorded speaking to RNC operator

Earlier in the week, the court heard the audio recording of the call to police. A voice identified as Jason's was heard first, telling the operator there was a man in distress who was armed and dangerous and would possibly hurt people. After that, Billy was heard taking over the call. He told the operator his son had an automatic weapon and a "full clip" of ammunition, was wearing a bulletproof vest, and was threatening to shoot himself. Billy advised the operator to tell police officers not to approach the front door.

Jason's voice came back on the phone later, threatening to shoot police and then himself.

"I'll shoot you," he told the operator first. Later: "Are you guys coming? I'm waiting, What's going to happen? You'll see.

"This is what's going to happen, OK? They're going to come in, I'm going to shoot them, they're going to shoot back, I'm going to die."

Officers positioned outside the home testified to having heard at least three gunshots at different times, one of the shots landing no more than 25 feet away from them.

Jason Earle has pleaded not guilty to a string of charges related to a September 2016 standoff in St. John's.
Jason Earle has pleaded not guilty to a string of charges related to a September 2016 standoff in St. John's.

Billy told the court he saw the gun in Jason's hand discharge three times: once into the telephone, once through the patio window when Jason had lost balance on a chair and once through the front kitchen window as he had attempted to get the weapon away from Jason. Billy said he then threw the gun out the front door and tried to escort Jason outside to police.

"Did you have any concerns of Jason harming anyone?" Crown prosecutor Erin Matthews asked Billy on the stand.

"Absolutely not," Billy replied.

"Do you recall advising the 911 operator to tell police to take caution for fear of harm?" Matthews continued.

"I do recollect talking to somebody on the phone," Billy said. "I wanted to keep the level of anxiety down as much as possible ... so I could get a clear window to disarm him. So I did say to the RNC officers to have nobody visual in front of any windows or just around the perimeter of the house so we could work this out the best we can. At no time did he ever engage in firing at any RNC officers, absolutely not."

Billy was heard on the 911 recording asking for 60 milligrams of Ritalin, a stimulant medication used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, for his son, saying, "I think it will bring him under control."

He told the court he received the pill and gave it to Jason, and when he noticed a change in Jason's demeanour as the medication kicked in, he took the gun and threw it outside.

Surveillance video played in the courtroom showed the gun sliding down the driveway and landing near the sidewalk before Jason and Billy came out, wrestling with each other. Jason appeared to be reaching for the gun, while his father attempted to hold him back. When the two men fell to the ground, Jason on top of Billy, police rushed in, took the gun and arrested Jason.

The gun — a sawed-off 22-caliber firearm with its stock wrapped in duct tape — allegedly stolen and used by Jason Earle during a standoff with police at a home on Barachois Street in St. John's in September 2016. Forensic testing determined the gun had been fired a number of times, and investigators found bullet holes and spent casings at the scene. A home across the street also had what appeared to be a bullet hole in its vinyl siding.
The gun — a sawed-off 22-caliber firearm with its stock wrapped in duct tape — allegedly stolen and used by Jason Earle during a standoff with police at a home on Barachois Street in St. John's in September 2016. Forensic testing determined the gun had been fired a number of times, and investigators found bullet holes and spent casings at the scene. A home across the street also had what appeared to be a bullet hole in its vinyl siding.

Though it's not clear on the video exactly what happened, one of the officers ended up with a swollen lip and Jason had blood around his nose and mouth.

Jason was kicking at officers and punched one of them in the face, RNC Const. Glenn Cunningham testified, saying the officer retaliated with a single blow "to neutralize him."

After Jason was arrested, RNC officers searched the home and found a bulletproof vest, several live rounds and spent casings, what appeared to be bullet holes in windows in the kitchen and living room, as well as a smashed glass patio door, damage to phones, and a spring from a firearm. Across the street, there was what seemed to be a bullet hole in the siding of a neighbour's house.

The gun, a 22-calibre, sawed-off automatic rifle with duct tape on the stock, was determined to have been stolen, a firearms expert told the court. The original owner of the gun also testified briefly, telling the judge that he bought the gun when he got his licence about 10 years ago, but it had gone missing from his truck about two years after that. He reported it to the firearms registry, and was advised to tell police if he wanted, he said.

Jason, 25, has pleaded not guilty to charges related to the gun theft and the standoff with police that day, including charges of unauthorized possession of a firearm, unlawfully possessing a prohibited firearm with access to ammunition, uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm, assaulting a police officer and unlawfully discharging a firearm while being reckless toward the life of another person.

Jason is also facing charges related to another standoff with police that happened two months ago on Kennedy Street in St. John's. He is said to have given himself up before being taken to hospital. Those charges have yet to make their way through the courts.

tara_bradbury@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @tara_bradbury


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