Jason Jones: A no-show at his probation meeting

  • Article by: JIM SPENCER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 5, 2010 - 6:44 AM

Despite being a no-show at probation meeting, he wasn't high-profile fugitive.

Jason Jones killed a cop Saturday morning because he was afraid of going back to prison for a low-level probation violation, according to a statement his alleged accomplice gave police.

But nobody was looking for Jones, even though the state Department of Corrections issued a warrant for his arrest after he missed an April 22 meeting with a probation officer.

In fact, state and local officials confirmed this week, the manhunt didn't begin until the fugitive allegedly gunned down a Maplewood police officer Saturday morning. Until then, Jones was just one of about 250 ex-cons on the state's list of criminals wanted for violating his probation.

Finding probation violators is not the responsibility of Ramsey County, said Community Corrections spokesman Chris Crutchfield.

That job falls to the state Corrections Department. But Jones wasn't a high priority among the ex-cons who disappeared after a variety of infractions, including missing scheduled drug tests, leaving home while under house arrest and failing to show up for work while on supervised release.

Jones fell somewhere in the middle, below murderers and sex offenders and above burglars. With just five officers assigned to find fugitives in Minnesota, the Corrections Department dispatched no agents to scour the streets for Jones, a violent man who had already shot two people and stabbed another.

"The DOC's goal is to apprehend all offenders who abscond from supervision," DOC spokeswoman Shari Burt said in a statement. "Warrants are prioritized based on risk to public safety."

Burt said the unit arrested eight fugitives from April 22 to May 1. She said those individuals had been convicted of crimes including assault, aggravated robbery and second-degree murder.

Police have offered no explanation for why Jones failed to meet his probation officer. But six weeks after getting out of prison, Jones was on the wrong side of the law again. The self-professed gang member decided to steal a car and kidnap the driver. When the robbery went sour, he and his alleged accomplice, Joshua Martin, were forced to flee on foot.

Sgt. Joseph Bergeron found them a few blocks away. Jones allegedly killed the officer before he could get out of his squad.

Panicked, the two men ran in opposite directions. Jones later phoned Martin to say police would have to kill him because he didn't want to go back to jail. Jones was shot to death after attacking another officer. Martin remains in Ramsey County jail, charged with second-degree murder and kidnapping.

Jones' death ended a troubled life and a struggle by state and local agencies to control him.

"I was not really surprised that this could end in violence," said Jones' grandmother, former St. Paul City Councilwoman Bobbi Megard. "I'm not making excuses for him. But I do know that we failed. ... We all failed and we know it."

Trouble at 16, 17, 18

Jones' mother, Allison Megard, lost custody of Jason, and her daughter, LaShae, because of drug addiction, Bobbi Megard said.

When the sibling's first court-appointed foster parent turned out to have a criminal record, Megard said, the children ended up with the criminal's sister.

Megard spent as much time with the kids as she could, but she didn't seek custody of her grandchildren.

"I beat myself up right now for not doing it," said Megard, who served on the St. Paul Council from 1994 to 1998. "These children have been around drug dealers and criminals. So what do you think they see day-in and day-out?"

At 16, Jones stabbed a girl who fought with his sister at a party. At 17, he tried -- and failed -- to rob a classmate at St. Paul's Central High School.

At 18, he tried -- and failed again -- to rob a St. Paul man at gunpoint. Jones shot the intended target, but got no money. Jones also accidentally shot one of his friends.

Prosecutors said the only crime they could charge him with was attempted aggravated robbery, which brought a three-year sentence because he used a gun.

Under state guidelines, Jones could have gotten out of prison after just two years, but he earned an extra 66 days for misbehavior. By the time he was released on March 15, 2010, Jones violated prison disciplinary policies 21 times, including four serious infractions -- fighting with other inmates and assaulting prison workers

"That's a lot of discipline," Burt said.

Megard said her grandson received medical treatment after someone stabbed him in prison. "My daughter came to me for money so she could go see him," Megard said.

Burt declined to confirm that Jones was injured in custody.

Jim Spencer • 612-673-4029

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