Woman who saw police kill her ex-boyfriend says 'he didn't get the help that he needed'
Roy Freake, who was shot to death June 11, had struggled for years with mental health and addictions issues
Amanda Antle was holding her baby — Roy Freake's son — as she felt Freake press two steak knives against her neck.
Freake had broken into the back of Antle's house. He and Antle were in her bedroom when police officers entered the home. That's when Freake grabbed her.
The officers instructed him to drop the knives. He didn't.
Antle saw them fire a Taser twice. She says the knives kept moving. Then she heard a "pop."
Roy Freake, 37, was killed in a police intervention in the central Newfoundland town of Grand Falls-Windsor in the early morning hours of June 11. Antle says an officer shot Freake after two Taser discharges could not incapacitate him.
Antle says Freake clearly came to the house under the influence of cocaine, and couldn't control his impulses.
"He said, 'I'm not leaving here unless I'm in a f---ing body bag,'" Antle recalled.
Antle doesn't blame the police for firing the bullet. Rather, she blames years of struggle with the justice system, health-care facilities and law enforcement, none of which could help Freake overcome severe mental health and addictions issues.
"No matter where he went, no matter what he did, no matter who he spoke to, no matter who I spoke to with him and argued with, it was like it was a lost cause from the start," Antle said.
"And it just built up and built up and built up until it got to this point. And now a man's life is lost because he didn't get the help that he needed from our system."
'They basically threw gas on the fire'
Antle was living with that failure for years, so when she heard glass shatter in her home early that Friday morning, she knew it was Freake breaking in. And when he started threatening her, she knew he wasn't — at that moment — the man she loved.
"I knew he was not mentally there.… It wasn't the Roy that I knew. I knew that he was just distant, he was broken. It wasn't him. It was a shell."
Only 12 hours earlier, Freake had been in police custody.
On the Wednesday, he had been picked up by police in nearby Bishop's Falls, after he broke his court conditions and tracked down Antle, angrily demanding to see their children and his belongings.
Antle said she knew he was in a bad state. Officers later told her that he was initially compliant with their orders, but his behaviour deteriorated while he was in custody. She said RCMP compared him to "a caged animal kicking the doors."
The RCMP will not comment on the incident, and in fact have not confirmed Freake's identity.
At 1:30 p.m. on the Thursday, he was brought before a judge in provincial court in Grand Falls-Windsor and released on bail. Lorne Freake, Roy's father, signed the release papers on Fogo Island, because he couldn't make it to the courthouse.
According to Antle and his father, Roy Freake was released alone. His truck had been towed — he didn't have his keys or even his cigarettes — and he had no way to make the 140-kilometre journey to the ferry dock in Farewell to cross to Fogo Island, where his parents live. He only had 40 per cent battery left on his cellphone.
By that point, it had also been more than 24 hours since Freake had had an opportunity to take his medication.
'You wouldn't do this to a dog'
As part of a court order, Freake wasn't even allowed to be in Grand Falls-Windsor, his father said, unless he had a legal or medical appointment.
Freake called his father. It would be one of the last times Lorne Freake heard his son's voice.
"Oh boy, I tell you, he was really blowing up then," Lorne Freake said. "'I'm out here, I got no effin' truck and I got no effin' car,' and all this."
During the series of phone calls that night, Freake asked his father for advice. But Lorne Freake, who was on Fogo Island after the ferry stopped sailing, couldn't pick him up.
Lorne Freake alleges that his son was released before he even signed the bail papers. When he realized the predicament his son was in, Lorne Freake cursed at the court staff.
"I said, 'You wouldn't do this to a dog.… You just threw him out, no odds about him.'"
Lorne Freake says the justice system's actions that night set his son up for failure. "By putting him out there on the street, they basically threw gas on the fire."
After discovering that Freake had been released and that his truck had been towed, Antle expected him to walk to her house in Grand Falls-Windsor — which is what he did.
After Roy was shot, Antle's boyfriend, Matt Morris, tried to console her. But while paramedics started CPR, she went straight to the bathroom and vomited.
Steps forward, steps back
Antle says Freake desperately wanted to get better and made great personal sacrifices to try to beat his cocaine addiction — including shutting himself in his room for weeks after detox treatment in order to fight his urges.
"He said, 'If I get out of this bed, I'm going to use,'" she said. "He said, 'You don't understand how bad it is right now, how bad I want to go.' He said, 'I'm staying here. It's safer here.'"
At the end of that six-week struggle, Antle said, the Humberwood Treatment Centre in Corner Brook told him he should continue on his own.
But Freake didn't have a family doctor, Antle said, so he would go into the hospital to access his medications.
According to Lorne Freake, Roy was once assessed as having the cognitive function of a 17-year-old. When he was good, his father said, he was a hard worker — and Antle calls him a good father.
But there were always struggles.
"Roy had this crazy idea that after a couple of weeks [sober], he was good — when he wasn't. He wasn't good," Lorne Freake said. "I always told him, I said, 'You don't need [these drugs]. That's not you.'"
"He said, 'I do.' I said, 'No, Roy, you don't.'"
Western Health, which operates the Humberwood centre, said it could not comment on any individual case.
Some of Freake's struggles are reflected in his criminal record, which stretches back to 2010. His most recent conviction was entered in December, when he was given a six-month sentence for assault.
"Jail seemed like a joke, you know? In one day, out the next," his father said. "I think the last time he done, like, three months. It was nothing to him. Nothing."
Lorne Freake says the RCMP detachment knew this extensive history when they released his son alone into Grand Falls-Windsor that Thursday night.
The RCMP will not comment on the family's critique of how Roy Freake was released that Thursday afternoon, citing the ongoing investigation that the Serious Incident Response Team of Newfoundland and Labrador (SIRT-NL) launched after the June 11 shooting.
Michael King, the director of SIRT-NL, said in a statement that his agency investigates to a criminal standard, but "does not cover assessing and/or revising police agency policy."
A shared grief
Freake's funeral was held on Fogo Island a week after his death. Antle made the trip from Grand Falls-Windsor to be present.
His mother and father plan to bury him next to his brother, Paul, at the United Church cemetery near Barr'd Islands. They believe it's the first time two brothers have been buried next to each other in that graveyard.
He was hellbound. He wanted to die that night.- Amanda Antle
Paul Freake died suddenly April 25 in Drayton Valley, Alta. He was 28.
"I'm like a chicken wandering around with no head," Lorne Freake said. "I don't know, it's hard to describe."
He's caught in a cycle of wondering what would have happened if he had refused to sign Roy Freake's bail papers. Would the police have gone back and picked him up again, giving him somewhere to stay that night?
Meanwhile, Antle says moments of that night are seared into her mind: the sound of the paramedics' defibrillator. The paramedic asking an officer for the time in order to declare a time of death. Antle stepping over her ex-boyfriend's body to walk down the stairs.
The first calls she made were to Roy's parents, so they could hear the news from her.
"All I did was cry and say, 'Look, I'm sorry that we couldn't convince him to stop.' But I said, 'You know, he was hellbound. He wanted to die that night.'"
In the days since Freake died, Antle has been agitating for change. She wants to speak to politicians, to make sure his death wasn't in vain.
"There's days that I'm angry because I know this was preventable, I know that he could have gotten the help had it been provided properly," she said.
"Then there's days that all I can do is cry."