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Stabbing assailant had sought help, say friends

Evan Freeman

Friends of Evan Freeman, the 22-year-old who the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) have confirmed was the assailant in a brutal downtown Kingston stabbing incident, say he had sought help numerous times for a debilitating drug addiction that completely changed the person he had been.

40-year-old Christopher Barry, of Kingston, perished from his wounds in the Sept 12, 2019 attack and another man, 85-year-old Terry Stafford, suffered serious injuries, but is expected to recover. Freeman also died at the scene after being shot by police and suffering self-inflicted knife wounds.

Friend Noah Rockey said he had known Freeman since they were 14 and 15, respectively, when they both lived at a foster home just outside of Smiths Falls. “He was a very shy person, and it took years to get past his shell,” said Rockey, who explains that Freeman was a “custody boy,” a term Rockey uses for a child brought up as a ward of the crown.

Rockey said that Freeman spent most of his life in foster homes and in the care of the Children’s Aid Society after his father passed away at an early age and his birth mother was unfit to care for him.

The system left Freeman without the life skills he needed to take care of himself, Rockey said. “(CAS) gave him money, but they never taught him the lessons he needed,” he said. At age 21, Freeman “aged out” of the system and was never able to find his place in society, feeling more at comfort in jail than outside of it. “I’m pretty sure he was homeless (at the time of the incident),” said Rockey, “Jail was more like home to him.”

Indeed, Freeman had a history of violence and drug abuse, according to police records.

In 2016, while Freeman was living in Brockville, police were called to a Smiths Falls-area fast food restaurant after staff said Freeman was refusing to leave the premises. Although the restaurant was closed, the then-20-year-old was insisting on getting a hamburger. Police said that when they arrived, Freeman was still forcefully demanding his hamburger and refused to leave. He was arrested for being intoxicated in a public place, and police said that when they searched him, he was found to be in possession of two grams of cocaine.

Rockey confirmed that, in fact, Freeman had recently moved on to the use of harder drugs, including crystal meth, which had completely changed his personality. “When you do drugs, you’re a completely different person. I don’t think a lot of people really understand that,” said Rockey.

But a longtime friend, who asked to be anonymous, said that Freeman was desperately seeking help for his problems and never received it. “He knew struggle, but he always spoke of wanting to be and do better for himself… He reached out for help on numerous occasions, including before this tragedy, and he was denied the help he was so desperately in need of,” she said.

Freeman’s friends allege that, the same day of the fatal stabbing, Freeman had attended a methadone clinic near the location of the incident and, according to them, had been turned away. Citing privacy laws, the clinic was unable to confirm or deny whether that was the case.

“If he would have received the help he needed and reached out for then I have no doubt in my mind that Christopher and Evan would still be with us today,” the friend said.

Despite Freeman’s turbulent past, she says the brutal event was entirely out of character for him.

“He was an awkwardly shy, very respectable, compassionate, loyal and caring person who, in his right mind, never would have harmed anyone, let alone take a life,” she said. “For those who didn’t know Evan, he was the furthest thing from a monster! He was a kind and loving kid, a lost soul in need of help and, like many others in this city, his cries for help were ignored.”

Trying to make sense of a senseless tragedy, Rockey said he thinks several factors drove Freeman to that fateful day. “He was very depressed about the death of his father… and he was lonely,” said Rockey, explaining that the recent anniversary of Freeman’s father’s death had been weighing heavily on him. “And he really wanted to not be addicted any more.”

“He also wanted his family to know he was gone, but he needed to go in a very public way (for them to see it),” said Rockey, noting that Freeman had recently been estranged from most of his family.

Still, both friends expressed that the tragic incident points to failures of the system, and a series of unfortunate issues and consequences of having fallen through the cracks.

“I wish there was more I could do to make people understand that what happened was not Evan’s choice. He never would have willingly took a life,” said one.

“It takes tragedies such as this for people to pay attention when they should be helping people suffering from mental health [issues] and addictions every day in order to prevent things like this from happening in the first place.”

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45 thoughts on “Stabbing assailant had sought help, say friends

  • September 16, 2019 at 2:22 pm
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    This is horrible……AsI know of others who scream for help but no one listens….then this stuff happens..we need more funding and facilities that care for people.

    • September 16, 2019 at 6:45 pm
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      If the Conservatives continue to gain ground, there will be less funding than ever for agencies and programs that might provide help.

      • September 18, 2019 at 4:16 am
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        Maybe Liberals should be doing more to make drugs unattractive to young people rather than glorifying them as a way to self-medicate.

    • September 22, 2019 at 2:27 pm
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      There’s not enough trained people to help people like evan, kingston would rather build a bridge down off Montreal st, Which there’s no need for it, Just another 30 to 40 million, They’ve closed mens shelters here, So they have 1 shelter maybe holds 50 people, In a city of 124 thousand, That’s just crazy,

  • September 16, 2019 at 2:31 pm
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    This is very sad, my heart goes out to everyone that its effected. The system is really messed up and people need to wake up to the real issues that should be better taken care of. My sincerest apologies to this young man for feeling so alone. Rest in peace xx

    • September 17, 2019 at 10:27 am
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      This is disgusting – “sincerest apologies to this young man for feeling so alone. Rest in peace xx”

      Yeah, let’s just throw all personal responsibility out the window and sympathize with the maniac murderer. Like “xx”?! Really, you want to give the guy a couple kisses for what he did? Absolutely pathetic.

      Plenty of people have problems, and yes there should be more resources available for mental illness, but trying to shift the blame to the system is a sad commentary on the level of entitlement and victim-mentality in our society.

      I don’t care how much the system failed this guy, he is 100% responsible for what he did, and people should stop making excuses for him.

  • September 16, 2019 at 3:25 pm
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    It is tragic that he sought help and was not able to obtain it. But can’t blame the methadone clinic if he was not a registered patient, it is not their mandate to just take in anyone off the street, but unfortunately the appropriate channels for help were not offered or made available to him. We all need to be aware of the terrible toll drugs take on people and society, I have witnessed people acting really strangely and assumed they had either been on illegal drugs or were not taking their prescription meds.

  • September 16, 2019 at 3:57 pm
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    This government needs to allocate more money to mental health and focus less on taking away firearms. Mental health is the issue.
    This government needs to focus less on supervised injection sites and more on helping these people get clean and stay clean. Drugs are the issue.

    • September 16, 2019 at 9:31 pm
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      Really stop care about people with fire arms.. There’s way to much wrong with those words.. So the ones that do NOT want help are aloud to have guns.. Great idea.. Glad he didn’t have one.. There’s be more dead people..

  • September 16, 2019 at 4:28 pm
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    This society is rotting and dying in front of our very eyes not long before these unfortunate incidents become more common but I doubt any Canadians actually care about anything we are all slaving away to pay outrageous taxes that go to economic refugees instead of Canadian citizens what a shame Canada is a failed state

  • September 16, 2019 at 4:49 pm
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    I find it deeply disturbing that all the stories, all the attention, all the pity is being heaped upon the murderer, and not his victims. It’s a sad world indeed.

    • September 17, 2019 at 7:29 am
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      @Ken Baumgartner- I don’t think any less empathy and sympathy is going towards the victims. What he did was still monstrous, and shouldn’t be condoned or endorsed by anyone. It is however important, to understand how people like him got to this point, if only to make sure others don’t do the same.

      • September 18, 2019 at 4:18 am
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        “Oh, the poor boy, he murdered someone, viciously wounded another and traumatized an entire community.”

        Sickening responses .

      • September 18, 2019 at 2:29 pm
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        Well these bleeding hearts could start their posts with, “First, I really feel for the victim’s families, but addicts are simply more important in this PC world of ours.” I don’t see anyone that’s excusing his actions making an effort. Just a bunch of high horse talk.

    • September 17, 2019 at 1:44 pm
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      @Ken Baumgartner There isn’t some amount of sympathy that means we only have so many “sympathy points” and giving 10 sympathy points to Evans mean that the victims get 10 points less. That’s not how people or our emotions work. By addressing the situation that Evan Freeman was in, we are trying to initiate a conversation about how to prevent this from happening again, and in doing so demonstrating more care and attention to the victims than misplaced outrage ever could.

  • September 16, 2019 at 5:58 pm
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    Many years ago my uncle who suffered from depression and anxiety took his own life after reaching out for the help he so desperately wanted. 18 years later and no one has taken responsibility for all the failures in our system. Being a nurse and seeing first hand how our entire medical system is failing on every level, it’s extremely hard to accept that in this day and age we haven’t improved at all. It’s times like this that someone will make an empty promise to correct our shortfalls but when it comes to accountability and change it’s always someone else’s department. We as Canadians need to start kicking our politicians in the teeth and make them bring forth the change we need to not only make our medical system as great as it used to be but make it the best in the world so that we can once again be the innovators we once were. Why do we always have to wait for tragedy before we raise an eyebrow??

    • December 14, 2019 at 8:35 am
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      Thank YOU! For your professional service…..

      Meanwhile….
      Just today…. The Province is announcing rollout of new effort…. Let’s hope 2020 brings clearer vision…

  • September 16, 2019 at 6:06 pm
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    So sad that Mr Freeman cried out for help since he was young and never received the right help leading him to make many bad choices including this horrible tragedy. The
    system needs some fine tuning for sure :(

    • September 17, 2019 at 9:10 am
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      Any evidence other than another junkie saying he never received help? In many of these cases these individuals were getting lots of help and had a lot of resources at their disposal. They blame the healthcare field for not helping him? The guy chose to be a meth addict, from my understanding he was getting lots of help and still brutally slaughtered people. Get all the facts before pointing fingers at everyone else.

      • September 17, 2019 at 1:48 pm
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        @ James Ah yes, “chose to be a meth addict”. When he was filling out the “What crippling and life destroying addictions would you like to suffer from?” form he checked the “Meth” box. Great use of the word “junkie” there as well. Good stuff. Very informative.

      • September 17, 2019 at 9:57 pm
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        You need to get the facts… one does not choose to be an addict. And you might want to investigate the ‘help’. There are many loop holes in todays society that prevent someone with a disease of choice from getting the appropriate help.

        • September 18, 2019 at 2:24 pm
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          That’s some messed up apologist logic there. Unless another destructive person pushed an addictive act/substance on you, its all choice. Ask yourself why addicts are attracted to addictive acts? A moment of self destruction doesn’t have to result in a regressive addiction. They could have eaten too many carrots instead of going through the trouble of sourcing and buying meth.

          Kim, I noticed you haven’t said a word for the victims in this story. Do you have any wise words for their families or the people who don’t want to be affected long term by addicts? Maybe we can all learn to be better people through your well considered, balanced insights.

      • September 18, 2019 at 2:40 pm
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        James clearly you dont know what these children go through and the childhood trauma they endure. Our system is seriously flawed and 90 percent of all ppl who reach out for help get turned away. There is not enough funding and beds to go around. Alot of times they are sent on their way and chopped off as attention seeking. When in fact these children needs serious help and guidance. You may think drugs are a choice but for some it’s their life line. They grew up watching their parents do it..it numbs the pain..a coping mechanism for them. It’s easy to say it’s their choice but I really dont think you have a clue. If you were to sit down honestly and listen to some of their stories you would be speechless. Ya sure some ppl.grow up in hell ans still turn out alright but they are few ans far between

      • September 18, 2019 at 7:05 pm
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        James, you need to read what the article actually says and try to see where this young man was coming from. I find your statement cruel and unjust. In fact, he never got any help at any time, This youn man was bounced around from foster home to foster home, and no one ever gave him a chance to be loved or wanted. I guess it is easy for you to sit back and pile the blame on him, I hope that you never have to experience what it was like for him, and may God have mercy on you for your cruelty towards someone who is alone in life and looking for help.

      • September 18, 2019 at 10:42 pm
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        My father is a recovering addict, I’ve witnessed some bad shit happen, i’ve once seen my dad looking for someone in our couch.. that wouldn’t of happened if he wasn’t on drugs but I knew it’s because he’s on drugs and he’s addicted. When you are on drugs like these you are not in control of your actions! And It is hard for someone to just get clean, that boy was 22, who knows how long he had been using for when his brain wasn’t even fully developed. It’s taken my dad since he was 23-55 and he’s still trying. Unless you know the mind of an addict or better yet this specific person I suggest you don’t put out your disgusting opinion when a young man has died. His family and his friends as well as him deserve peace. He wanted help he asked for it, he said he felt like he was going to harm himself or others, health care professionals did not take this seriously??? And look what happened. No one deserved to be injured or dead, including Evan Freeman R.I.P. The problem is not Evan. It’s drugs and our society’s shitty way of dealing with the problem. Needle dispense boxes are put out and clean crack pipes are handed out at methadone clinic.. and you think “junkies” are the one to blame? Even when they’re on the path to recovery their overdose weapons sit in front of them.

  • September 16, 2019 at 6:20 pm
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    He also wanted his family to know he was gone, but he needed to go in a very public way (for them to see it),” This was in the article if you read it properly. He had a choice that day, not to attack innocent bystanders and murder and attempt to murder another. A trip to the hospital for help would have been the right thing to do! Why are you making him the victim?

    • September 16, 2019 at 9:23 pm
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      You or your immediate loves ones have clearly never had a mental health crisis or needed long term mental health care. “A trip to the hospital” you say. If it were only that easy. I truly wish it were that simple. There are many victims in this horrific incident, and Evan and his loved ones are included in this. We failed him when he asked for help.

      • September 18, 2019 at 2:10 pm
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        So who is the priority in this equation?
        “individual in mental health crisis” > “health of multiple innocent people”

        Maybe you haven’t been touched by mental illness on the other side of the equation. You know, walking along with a too expensive coffee and have someone run up to you without reason and stab you.

        When you’re father is maimed or killed, your opinion will change from, “we need impossibly to help these people retroactively, shame, shame on you all with your comparatively perfect lives!”, to “at the first sign of trouble they need to get the help they need, whether they like it or not, in a secure area, away from harming others, and get the needed treatment, whether they like it or not”

        I mean you know, his victims were of course not similarly mentally ill, they were tax payers who didn’t personally cut funding to some program that would have magically found Evan at the right time and talk him down from something he wouldn’t admit he was about to commit. So have some understanding for others.

    • September 16, 2019 at 9:37 pm
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      Was thinking the same thing.. And he’d rather be in jail.. So much wrong with this poor boy that was so wrongly done by.. What about the others that don’t make sure his family now’s 1000% he’s dead by killing as many people as he can that don’t get help or do what he did..

    • September 17, 2019 at 12:56 am
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      If he was in a drug induced psychosis then no, he may not have been able to make that choice.

    • September 17, 2019 at 5:09 am
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      Because he was a victim. As someone who deals with mental health issues daily I can attest to the fact that when things go bad they go real bad. You are not yourself and can and do act in ways you would never normally do. Sometimes you are ‘lucky’ enough to get to feel bad for it later and hate yourself even more. He wasn’t so ‘lucky’ this time. We as a society can continue to sit high and mighty and judge the men (I think we can all agree we do much better at accepting and assisting the women who suffer) who suffer alone with these conditions while these terrible events continue to happen or we can be decent human beings and actually try to prevent them.

    • September 17, 2019 at 11:22 am
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      I agree. Saying the wanted his family to know he was gone and it had to be public…
      He could’ve done 1000 other things, that didnt involve taking someone else’s life. The people he stabbed did nothing wrong. One is dead, to suit this kids ultimate end.
      He could’ve stepped in front of a bus, train, jumped off a bridge, or, stabbed himself in the throat, which he did anyway.
      The friends say he wasnt a monster, I’m pretty sure he proved them all wrong!

  • September 16, 2019 at 7:33 pm
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    When are we going to fix the problem we have with mental health. Kingston is one of the worst places for the treatment of people with mental health. Toronto has an entire hospital devoted to helping mental health patients.
    I never got the help I needed until I left this city.
    My life got 100% better when I left this city.
    I got help overnight it felt like here all I ended up getting was a criminal record.
    Sad sad world we live in.
    Poor kid.

    • September 18, 2019 at 7:15 pm
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      Amanda, you are a blessing to the kind of people that are caught up in this kind of situation, I have been witness to the insufficient, lack of help and understanding towards people young and old suffering from mental illness. I am very happy that you are one of the lucky ones that actually got help. Very good to know that someone understands where this young man was coming from and so sad that it all ended so tragically. Have a good day Amanda.

  • September 16, 2019 at 7:35 pm
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    Living with bipolar disorder myself, I know very well how it feels to seek help – sometimes for years – and never get it. One thing we need to realise is that substance abuse is a kind of mental illness. And I mean people are sick, *not* bad. Our health system is failing us and this incident is one symptom.

  • September 16, 2019 at 9:14 pm
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    The system is so broken and the agencies that can fix it just keep passing the buck…People with addiction and mental health issues are sent to jail for stealing food because they are hungry…Once in jail they are only seen as “DRUGGIES ” not as a person who needs help…The prison system treats them like animals…all the money spent on building new prisons should be spent on treatment facilities and sober living homes…Ones that people can afford to go to…Private treatment facilities cost a fortune so most people cannot go..
    Medical detox is needed to help addicts get through the effects of withdrawal which is a terrible thing..That is why most addicts stay using..For most treatment facilities you cannot have used drugs for 72 hours to get in..addicts go to detox and within 24 hours they are so sick they leave to get the drug that makes them feel and function normal…whatever normal is..
    The medical profession are also very critical and judgemental..
    My daughter has suffered from drug addiction for close to 20 years.. she suffers from severe ptsd..night terrors..sleep paralysis..personality disorder..anxiety and the list goes on.
    Raped, drugged and beaten over 2 days and her assailant gets 6 months time served and 3 yrs probation and she gets a life sentence of PTSD.. This because a smart ass defense attorney being paid by our tax dollars makes her out to be a tramp..a druggie.. crackhead..beats her down until she is mentally and emotionally destroyed..
    No one sees the story behind the addiction, and every addict has a story…
    Society needs to wake up…these “druggies” are our loved ones..their children..mother..father..brother..sister
    My heart aches for everyone involved…We as a community need to get together and speak up…
    I could write a book about what I have witnessed about mental health and addiction ..and the agencies that could fix it if they just sat down as a team and discussed how to save our children…

  • September 16, 2019 at 9:55 pm
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    Evan went to elementary school with both of my children. At a very early age, Evan showed signs of mental illness, at this time he had been removed from his birth parents and was living with his grandparents., he was a lot to handle. At the school, I was a parent volunteer. No doubt Evan fell through the cracks as 15 years ago the resources to diagnose and treat mental illness in children is more difficult than it is now. Sadly, with the current cutbacks in education, programming and mental illness these stories will not be infrequent/

  • September 17, 2019 at 11:22 am
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    This loser did have a choice and he made the wrong one. don’t blame society, maybe move the safe injection site somewhere less residential so when tweakers like this get rejected they cant immediately go around slitting people throats? He could have gone to any emergency room or checked himself into any institution…but he did not. Screw this loser, my feelings are with the actual victims.

  • September 17, 2019 at 4:47 pm
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    This story is very tragic, exposing the many cracks in our communities.. Not knowing this young man, nor his circumstances, I cannot voice an opinion. But, working in the Mental Health field, I have known many people who have asked for help, some have received this but many have fallen through the cracks. Nanaimo, BC with an NDP provincial government, still leaves much to be improved, as the community faces the challenges of both mental illness and drug addiction.

  • September 17, 2019 at 10:51 pm
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    Alcoholics decided to take that first drink and to continue to drink, Drug addicts other then the people that were prescribed pain killers decided to start taking drugs, this is a self inflicted problem that society now feels it is everyones problem. That they are not receiving the help they need, they wouldn’t need help if they never started drinking and if they never decided to make the bad choice of doing drugs. it was a choice to drink and do drugs. Forget about giving them a save place to do drugs, build a hospital and put them all in it until they are clean with no option to leave until they are clean. It is only going to get worse in Kingston, I see people everyday in the area i work that are so scary and out of control. Bad things are going to continue to happen unless these people are taken off the streets and locked up until they are clean or locked up forever if they don’t take their meds.

  • September 18, 2019 at 11:16 am
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    Thank god Mayor Patterson attended ribfest and other photo ops this month instead of fixing this broken city.

    #MayorUseless

  • September 18, 2019 at 12:30 pm
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    Why is this article making him
    The victim?! “He never would have willingly took a life” well yes he would and he actually DID. That man stabbed to death, or the 85 year old seriously injured are victims. This low life got what he had coming I just wish the cop had shot him sooner. I grew up in public housing my entire life and watched broken kids become broken people due to circumstances beyond their control but they don’t deserve sympathy. A helping had yes but sympathy no.

  • September 18, 2019 at 1:54 pm
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    This “kind and gentle kid” had lots of run-ins with “normal people”, including me and my family. He would frequent a park/camp one Summer that we were near for a week. At first we thought he just had a learning disability or something, but he kept harassing us when we visited the park. I would hear others in the park asking him to “stop”, “don’t touch that”, etc… Later that Saturday our 4 year old was on the dock fishing with a net, and my wife mentioned this “kid” was staring at him. I looked and he was in the lake, staring at our 4 year old on the deck for way too long. I had to ask him to leave (it wasn’t the park, he had no business there). He proceeded to head back to the park and tried to vandalize the buildings there. I biked by and asked if everything was ok, he say yes then proceeded to try to break into one of the buildings.
    Another lady we met in the park recounted a similar encounter with him where he volunteered that his uncle did something to him I won’t mention here (his admission, no facts to support it). She also, a year later, recalled an event where he came back in a pick up truck, parked in the same park lot, stared at her for way too long, then started doing doughnuts in the lot while she tried to get to her car, screamed he wasn’t doing anything wrong, then peeled out.
    Evan was seriously troubled. It was obvious. So obvious you have to ask yourself, when is it ok to sympathize with a 22 year old who stabbed 2 people (they were honest citizens), terrorize complete strangers, or do whatever he might have had in his head to my 4 year old?
    I would seriously caution the bleeding hearts who want to soften his image. The dirty laundry for someone this troubled for this long is never hung out in the open. If you change 2 words in the article your opinions would be very different.

  • September 19, 2019 at 10:59 pm
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    he could have just jumped off a bridge. They should have shot him one more time to make sure he was done

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