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Man who threatened mayor was battling addiction, mental health issues

A Barrie man who admitted storming into Barrie City Hall demanding to speak to the mayor and threatening to stalk him says he’s seeking help for addiction and mental-health issues and has been sober for 11 months.

“It’s been a very hard road to go through addiction, but I am glad I was able to find AA,” Lance Freeman, 45, told the court during a teleconference hearing on Monday. “If it wasn’t for them, I’d be dead right now and I owe my life to the AA program and the people of Barrie for pretty much getting my life back on track.”

Freeman pleaded guilty to a series of threat-related charges and was handed a suspended sentence and 12 months probation.

Court heard Freeman went into city hall Sept. 9, 2019, and approached a staffer in the mayor’s office demanding to see Mayor Jeff Lehman. 

“Mr. Freeman was told that he was not able to speak with the mayor and he became irate and advised that he would follow him, stalk him, and go to his house to get answers,” Crown attorney Samantha Brown said while reading from a statement of facts.

He repeated the threat when asked to clarify.

The following week, court heard, a merchant at a Wellington Plaza store reported the theft of golf clubs. Outside the store, Freeman was swinging the clubs and threatening people looking at him.

When police approached Freeman, he became very aggressive and was subsequently tasered.

During Monday’s virtual court hearing, Freeman first contested some of the details, but after a break said he accepted the facts.

His lawyer, Kim Miles, told the court he was on crystal meth at the time and has been dealing with ongoing mental health issues.

“During the moment when the incident happened I was in a drug-induced psychosis, so the situation seemed different to me,” added Freeman, confirming his guilty pleas.

In a separate incident two months earlier, court heard that Freeman was standing in line at the downtown Dollerama store when he started creating a scene, yelling derogatory slurs at another customer. When a staff member tried to calm him down, Freeman threatened to kill him.

Miles said Freeman has been seeking help and is reaching the 11-month anniversary of being sober. He was also able to find housing through Empower Simcoe after being homeless for three and a half years and is receiving psychiatric and addictions counselling.

“He has taken just about every step possible” to address the drug and mental health issues, said his lawyer.

“Please keep up the good work, I’m impressed with that,” Justice Cecile Applegate concluded.

City hall officials would not discuss specific details about security at the downtown office facility, but did say safety at all city facilities is taken seriously. In an emailed statement, city officials also said there is full-time security presence at city hall during regular business hours.

In 2018, Freeman made the news after he shot and released video of the controversial arrest of Olando Brown in downtown Barrie  who was tasered by police several times and later died while in custody. The Special Investigations Unit later determined Brown died from swallowing two “golf ball-sized” plastic bags at the police station. Analysis by Health Canada determined the bags contained heroin, fentanyl, caffeine, and dimethylsulphone.

Marg. Bruineman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, barrietoday.com

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