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Surveillance footage and bulletproof vest also presented in supreme court
The courtroom was silent except for the crinkle of the brown paper evidence bag and the sound of ripping tape as RNC Const. Stacy Sweetland opened it. In the dock, Jason Earle watched.
Having donned a pair of black rubber gloves, Sweetland reached into the bag and pulled out a black bulletproof vest, describing it to the court as similar in weight to the one she was wearing at that moment as part of her standard-issue police uniform.
Next, Sweetland picked up a two-foot long white evidence box and used a blade to cut the seal and open it. Inside, amongst brown paper, was a 22-calibre automatic firearm, the stock wrapped in silver duct tape.
The items, along with a number of live rounds and spent casings, were among the things seized by police from a home on Barachois Street where Earle was arrested on Sept. 3, 2016.
Sweetland was tasked that day with videoing the area. Police had received a call from inside the residence from Earle, who reported a man in distress who was armed, very dangerous and likely to hurt people. That man was allegedly himself.
Earle's father, Billy Earle, took over the phone call and remained on the phone with a civilian operator as officers were dispatched to the area, taking up positions behind their vehicles in front of the home and knocking on neighbours' back doors to tell them to stay inside and away from the windows. Children playing on the street were ushered inside.
Billy told the operator his son was agitated and had been at the hospital earlier in the day.
Over the next half an hour or so, a man Billy identified on the phone as Jason remained in the residence, threatening to shoot himself and police officers. As Billy attempted to calm him, finding him cigarettes and urging him to sit down, Jason was heard through the phone yelling and threatening to shoot.
He picked up the phone and spoke directly to the operator, calling the police names, saying he had a gun just as powerful as RNC guns, saying he wasn't afraid to die, and insisting an autopsy would confirm he wasn't on any drugs.
"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," he said. "I'm not going to jail. I'm going in the ground."
Officers outside the home heard at least three shots fired, both in the front and at the rear of the home, before the front door of the residence opened and a gun with a duct-taped stock was tossed out, sliding along the pavement of the driveway and coming to rest by the sidewalk. Seconds later, Jason and Billy emerged, grappling at each other.
In the dock, Jason turned away at times from the screen that played the video of the tossed gun, and he and his father wrestling their way down the driveway. In the recording, Jason appeared to be trying to get to the gun, while Billy seemed to be trying to hold him back. Sweetland was hurrying toward the scene at that point, but it was a surveillance camera set up in the window of an upstairs bedroom inside the home that captured the footage that was shown in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Wednesday.
When the two men fell to the ground, a dozen RNC officers were seen descending on the driveway, guns drawn, arresting Jason, taking the gun and going inside the house.
There, they located the live and spent casings, the vest draped over the back of a living room chair and the surveillance footage. There were what appeared to be bullet holes in windows in the kitchen and living room, as well as a smashed glass patio door.
There was also what looked like a bullet hole in the vinyl siding of the house across the street.
Jason was charged with 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. The gun, police later determined, had been stolen, and Jason was subsequently charged with that as well.
The court heard testimony Wednesday from several police officers, including Const. Pamela Pike of the RNC's forensic identification unit. She had been videoing the scene with Sweetland the day of the standoff, she said, and had been tasked with taking photos of Jason at police headquarters. He had dried blood around his mouth and nose, she noted, and redness on his elbow and leg.
A police officer had also been injured, and Pike photographed his swollen lip, too.
RNC Sgt. Justin Soo said Jason's parents declined to give statements to police, and his mother, who owned the Barachois Street home, didn't agree to let officers in to get the surveillance footage. They arrived with a warrant the next day and retrieved it.
Billy Earle has been called as a witness for the Crown and is scheduled to take the stand in court Thursday, along with four other witnesses.
The Barachois Street incident wasn't Jason's last alleged standoff with police: two months ago he was arrested and charged with uttering threats, assault with a weapon, firearm offences and breaches of court orders in connection with an incident on Kennedy Road in St. John's. Police spent about an hour and a half outside the home with weapons drawn, speaking to Jason through an open window of a home. Jason reportedly gave himself up and was taken to hospital. Those charges have yet to make their way through the courts.