Father mourns son's death


John Leroy Jones said his son had paid his debt to society and was on his way to living a "moral" life.

Anthony Jones, 44, spent most of his adult life in prison, beginning with a sexual assault conviction in 1982 when he was 16. And he had several other offenses since then. Gaining his freedom earlier this year had granted him clarity, his father said.

"He recently told me, 'Dada, I'd like to get a wife, but not right now. I'd like to get my life together first,' " John Jones recalled.

It grieves him that his son will never have that chance.

Anthony Jones died early Saturday after a confrontation with Las Vegas police. It began with a routine traffic stop less than a mile from his home and ended in a struggle with officers who used a Taser to subdue him.

Police said the confrontation began when Jones' car was pulled over about 1 a.m. in the 1000 block of West Lake Mead Boulevard, near Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Police said Jones was speaking to an officer at the front of a patrol vehicle when he fled north across Lake Mead. He jumped over a wall and into the backyard of an abandoned house on the 1000 block of Hart Avenue, about two-tenths of a mile from where his car had been stopped.

Police said officers went after Jones and tried to take him into custody, but he aggressively resisted them. The officers then used a Taser "several times," according to Sgt. John Sheahan. It's unknown exactly how many shots hit Jones.

Jones was taken into custody but soon appeared to be in medical distress. The officers rendered aid and called for medical help. He was pronounced dead at Valley Hospital Medical Center.

Police did not say how many officers were involved. The officers have been placed on routine paid leave. Although their names should have been released 48 hours after the incident, they were not identified Monday.

John Jones, 71, an ordained minister at Portals To Glory Church of God in Christ, doesn't buy the police account of his son's death.

Jones said his son had been working steadily as a salesman of computer parts. He recently had been promoted. His son was in frequent contact with his parole officer and lived for the weekends when he could take his nieces and nephews out for ice cream.

"He had turned his life around," John Jones said. "He had no reason to run."

The minister's son was no stranger to law enforcement.

After his sexual assault conviction, he received a life sentence but was paroled in 1997 after serving almost 15 years, according to prison records. A probation violation soon cost Jones his freedom.

That would be a continuing theme for Jones, who was granted parole, violated probation and returned to prison at least six times between 1997 and June 2010, when he was paroled a seventh time.

According to police, Jones had been arrested several times since 1998.

He was arrested for failure to register as a sex offender, failure of an ex-felon to notify authorities of a change of address, possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell and various vehicle registration offenses.

Police did not say whether Jones was in violation of his parole when he fled from officers Saturday.

John Jones acknowledged his son's criminal history, but said the past should remain in the past.

"I ain't going to say my son was the best," he said. "But he was good his last days. He loved people."

Jones, a soft-spoken man whose voice rose when speaking of Anthony's death, said that on Saturday his son left the apartment between 11 and 11:30 p.m.

Jones assumed his son had gone to visit a woman he knew.

Anthony Jones was driving his 1993 Lexus when he was pulled over. John Jones couldn't recall whether police told him why his son had been stopped. The father said he just went blank when investigators and representatives from the Clark County coroner's office told him what happened.

"When they said he was dead, everything just went," Jones said with a deep sigh. "You don't know how it feels until it happens to you."

As Jones spoke about his son's death Monday, a representative of the Nation of Islam knocked on his door to offer condolences. The representative, who did not want to be named, told Jones he could put him in touch with the NAACP.

John Jones said one of his sons was told by a police investigator that the possible reason for the traffic stop was a broken vehicle light.

Taser use by local police agencies has been controversial. Several suspects have died in recent years after Tasers were used on them.

A Taser delivers 50,000 volts of electricity, which incapacitates the body.

A 2008 study by Amnesty International concluded that Las Vegas led U.S. cities in deaths involving law enforcement use of Tasers. The study found that between June 2001 and August 2008, seven people died after Tasers were used on them. That figure topped Phoenix, where five deaths occurred in the same time period.

The study said six of the seven deaths in Las Vegas followed Taser use by the Metropolitan Police Department, which began using them in July 2004.

Maggie McLetchie, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, said Tasers should be classified as a lethal weapon. Currently, departments consider Taser use "nonlethal force," she said.

"The original use of a Taser was to provide a nonlethal, safe alternative to a gun," she said. "In reality, it turned out to be very lethal and very dangerous."

McLetchie said that police sometimes interact with suspects with medical conditions and often interact with drug users as part of their job.

"By that definition, it makes it clear that in certain types of people, it does cause death," she said of Tasers.

McLetchie said the classification of a Taser as nonlethal allows officers opportunity to use the weapon when it shouldn't be used.

Combined with the high rate of officer-involved shootings, McLetchie said, more community involvement and a broader review system must be implemented with such incidents. The coroner's inquest has proven to be too limited, she said.

"We need to get to the bottom of why we're the leader in Taser deaths and why officer-involved homicide rates are so high in Clark County," she said.

John Jones agreed. He said too many young people are dying at the hands of police. He also said that he feels bad for the officers who confronted his son on Saturday.

"Police will have to stand before God for what they've done," he said.

Contact reporter Antonio Planas at aplanas@review journal.com or 702-383-4638. Contact reporter Mike Blasky at mblasky@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0283.

 

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