Cory Shaffer, cleveland.com, May 21, 2018
William T. Jones Jr. took less than a minute to plot and carry out the execution-style shooting of a uniformed Salvation Army worker he didn’t know last December, then spent the next four minutes telling a witness why he did it.
“F–k Trump,” the 27-year-old screamed in the nearly four-minute video shot by a witness. “They’re going to kill us all.”
The video panned from Jones, who for several minutes lay on the ground with his hands behind his back before he hopped up and declared that “LeBron [James] said we have to unite,” to the body of Jared Plesec, whose life Jones had taken moments earlier with a Ruger 9mm.
“A life for a life,” Jones screamed, wide-eyed and fueled by adrenaline. “I did it fo y’all, man.”
The video gave for the first time a window into the circumstances behind the death of Plesec, a 21-year-old Collinwood resident who dedicated himself to the Salvation Army and to preaching Gospel, and a subsequent crime spree in which Jones carjacked and shot his way across the Cleveland and into the west suburbs.
Jones was sentenced Monday to life in prison with no chance at parole, plus an additional 154 years after he pleaded guilty last month to stave off the chance that prosecutors would seek the death penalty.
Jones offered a one-sentence apology to members of Plesec’s family, before he invoked the deaths of Tamir Rice, Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams by Cleveland police, and Trayvon Martin in Florida by George Zimmerman.
“It just seems, when a white life takes a black life, it’s justified,” Jones said, reading from a prepared statement. “Today you seek justice. I can’t help but wonder, if the shoe was on the other foot, would it be justified instead?”
Plesec, a 21-year-old youth worker at the Salvation Army Temple Corps Community Center in Collinwood, stopped to talk to a man in the lobby as he was on his way to collect money for the charity.
Plesec struck up a conversation with a resident about alcoholism and sin. Jones walked up to the pair and asked if they were “talking about Jesus,” Thomas said, quoting the other man who was later interviewed by Cleveland police homicide detectives.
Surveillance cameras recorded the interaction in which Jones listened for several minutes before he walked away. The video, played in court Monday, showed Jones walk around the lobby and check down hallways to make sure no one was around.
He pulled the Ruger from his waistband, walked up to Plesec, pointed it at the 21-year-old’s temple and fired a single shot.
Within minutes, another resident came in the door and stumbled upon the scene. She pulled out her phone and started broadcasting a Facebook Live video, which captured Jones’s statements.
Jones scampered from the building when he saw an ambulance approach, and launched a crime spree that saw him shoot at a man and carjack a woman at a Collinwood gas station; carjack a man at the East 72nd Street Marina; and open fire on a group of joggers gathered at the parking area at the Emerald Necklace Marina in the Cleveland Metroparks Rocky River Reservation in Lakewood.
One of the four bullets he fired at the group struck Angela Altier in the thigh and severed her femoral artery. If it weren’t for a Rocky River police officer, Altier would have likely bled to death in the grass, Thomas said.
Jones made his way to Lakewood where he stole a truck from a Sloan Avenue construction site and carjacked a woman at a Gold Coast apartment building on Edgewater Drive.
He drove into a nearby parking garage and, as officers closed on him, burst the car through the doors. He was ultimately caught when a Lakewood police SUV rammed the front of the last car he stole.
Every person that Jones inflicted violence on was white, save for a Adam Kim, an Asian-American man whose car Jones sent three bullets into as Kim and his partner were driving to get a cup of coffee.
When Jones approached a black man in an attempted carjacking, Thomas said Jones didn’t point the gun at the man, and said “I don’t want to have to hurt you.”
Jones began his statement by declaring to Gall that he was not racist. The statement prompted groans from Plesec’s family members.