A Winnipeg man who was hailed as a "homeless hero" for rescuing people from the Red River twice says he is ashamed to be sitting in a jail cell for assaulting a woman in a violent panhandling incident.
Faron Hall, 48, has been at the Brandon Correctional Centre since May, when he was arrested for attacking a mother who had offered him fruit instead of money near the city's downtown.
Hall pleaded guilty to an assault charge last week and was sentenced to six months in jail. He was credited for time served and will remain in jail for about 60 days.
In an exclusive interview with CBC News, Hall said he is more ashamed than anyone else about what landed him behind bars. Now clean and sober, Hall said his alcohol addiction has led him to jail.
"I didn't have a recollection of, you know, what happened, and that's the scary part, eh?" Hall told the CBC's Sheila North-Wilson on Thursday.
"I was drinking with some friends and I guess I was drinking courage, just to do it and to get that next fix."
Was offered apples
The woman had offered apples to Hall after he asked for money at the corner of Donald Street and Ellice Avenue.
But Hall became angry and kicked her car door, striking the woman. Two of the woman's young children were with her at the time of the incident.
Hall was hailed as a hero after he saved a 19-year-old boy from drowning in the icy and fast-moving Red River in May 2009.
Then in September 2009, Hall jumped into the same river a second time in the hopes of rescuing two friends he had been drinking with.
Hall helped one of his friends out of the river, but he was unable to save the other — a loss that Hall said has had a bigger impact on him emotionally than his heroic deeds.
"It's never going to leave me," he said.
Turned to alcohol
Hall acknowledged that he has turned to alcohol to deal with negative emotions for over a decade, even though it has landed him in trouble.
With the accolades and national media attention he got for the river rescues, Hall also received a lot of support, including his own apartment.
He even completed a six-week addictions treatment program, but Hall said it was not long enough.
"I guess maybe all these incidents the last few years, you know, maybe that's why I'm here," he said.
In going from a hero to a convicted criminal, Hall said he knows he has let some people down.
"I've received some letters, some mail here, and a lot of people, you know, they're disappointed in me," he said.
But Hall added that nobody regrets what he did more than himself. He said he would like to personally apologize to his victim and her children for his behaviour, if the opportunity arises.
Hall said he looks forward to getting out of jail soon, but added that he is nervous because he doesn't know if or how he can get counselling to kick his alcohol addiction.