With the apartment on fire, 10-year-old Jayvion Jones knew he had to save his mom from the boyfriend threatening to kill her.
"I was just scared. I don't know what to do if she dies," the quiet-spoken Jayvion said Tuesday. "I wouldn't have nobody to take care of me. She's my mom."
So Jayvion fought back, and on Wednesday he'll receive the Chief's Award for Merit from the St. Paul Police. His neighbor, Montel Mixon, who also came to the rescue during the attack last summer, will get the Chief's Award for Valor. Eleven other citizens will also be recognized for helping others.
"I'm very proud of him," Ebony Jones, 37, said of her son Jayvion Tuesday. "If it wasn't for him and Montel, I wouldn't be here."
Jayvion speaks quietly, almost matter-of-factly, about the morning of Aug. 16 when he and his 8-year-old brother, Michael Sims, heard a "big crash" as they got ready for day camp. A Molotov cocktail thrown through their mother's bedroom window set the curtains on fire.
Jones yelled for Jayvion and Michael to get out of the apartment. She was about to follow when her longtime boyfriend, Louis Ambrose, 48, who had been locked out overnight after a fight, stormed into the couple's apartment in St. Paul, spraying lighter fluid on the floor and wall.
Jayvion grabbed his brother and pushed him outside, then grabbed his mother's hand and tried to pull her to safety. But Ambrose grabbed Jayvion and pushed him out the door and locked it.
Ambrose sprayed Jones with lighter fluid and struck a lighter, but there was no flame. Jones struggled to the front door and managed to get it open. Ambrose grabbed her upper torso and tried to drag her back inside. Jayvion grabbed both of her legs and pulled desperately in the other direction.
"I thought I was going to die," Jones recalled.
Ambrose dragged the two back in, but Jayvion didn't give up. He stood his ground inside the apartment.
"Louis told him to go back out," Jones said. "Jayvion said, no, he wasn't going to leave me."
Michael raced to neighbors in search of help. "I was just going crazy," he said Tuesday, his lip quivering as he tried to keep from crying. Then tears streamed down his cheeks and he found comfort in his mother's arms. "I thought my mom was going to die," he said.
Scared, angry and in shock as Ambrose and Jones struggled, Jayvion was determined to fight for his mom. "He's done mean things before," Jayvion said about Ambrose. Ambrose pushed the boy out of the apartment and proceeded to drag Jones to the bathroom where he poured Pine-Sol over her head. Meanwhile, the fire raged in the bedroom.
"It was out of control in the bedroom," Jones said of the blaze.
Jayvion tried to kick the apartment door in, "but it was metal and too hard." He ran a few buildings down the street and found Mixon, who kicked down the outside door and later the locked bathroom door. Ambrose fled.
Jones had stripped off her clothing because of the cleaner and lighter fluid. Bleary-eyed from the dousing, Jones managed to strip down the blue shower curtain and wrap it around herself before fleeing the burning apartment.
Mixon alerted others in the East Side four-plex to the fire.
"The courageous and selfless actions of Jayvion and Mr. Mixon that day prevented a horrible tragedy," the Police Department said in a news release about the awards.
Jayvion smiles when told he was brave and a hero, unlike most youngsters his age. "Most 10-year-olds shouldn't have to do things like this," he said.
In December, Ambrose was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
"I feel relief," Jayvion said. "Nothing else will happen to us because he's out of our life."
Star Tribune staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report.
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