I came to push some buttons: Stanson
Ex jail guard had car full of weapons
Tells Star from prison he needs surgery


Aug. 15, 2004. 08:20 AM

James Paul Stanson is set on defending himself but will get technical advice from a lawyer. He appears in court again on Friday.

James Paul Stanson says he came to Toronto for food, shelter and heart surgery. The former jail guard, who allegedly plotted to shoot up the city in June, is now in jail after being denied bail on numerous weapons charges.

In an exclusive jailhouse interview and two subsequent phone interviews this week, Stanson talked about his health, his decision to come to the city and his chance meeting with a dog.

Stanson was arrested June 23, after Toronto police say a man approached an officer saying he'd come from New Brunswick planning to go on a shooting rampage but changed his mind after encountering a friendly dog on the lawn of the Harris Filtration Plant in the Beach.

Stanson faces eight weapons charges and is scheduled to appear again in court Friday. A psychiatric assessment has found him fit to stand trial. Burly and goateed, Stanson, who goes by the name Paul, tells his story by phone behind the glassed-in prisoners' area of the visiting room.

"Lousy," says the 6-foot-5, 270-pound man, when asked about his health. "I'm trying to relax so I can keep my blood pressure as low as I can." Stanson practises Tai Chi, the Chinese martial art, but says he usually just makes up his own slow-motion moves in his white segregation cell where, when he extends his arms, his fingertips touch both walls at once.

"I'm waiting for life-saving, open-heart surgery." Stanson says he has diabetes and Marfan's syndrome, a genetic disorder that can cause a serious heart condition.

Stanson, 44, says his medical condition has forced him to give up a plan to raise dogs in Wood Point, N.B., where he moved a year ago. The Niagara Falls native likes dogs, "mostly because I never had one as a lad."Deciding to seek medical treatment from world-renowned cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Tirone David at the Toronto General Hospital, he left his Maritime home June 21, stopped in Fort Erie to see a friend and arrived in Toronto on June 23. He stopped for a walk in the park outside the east-end Harris Filtration Plant that day, where two dogs bounded up to him. He liked the pluck of one of the dogs. "I thought it was certainly not a timid dog, that it would come up to a stranger and say `I want you to play with me.' I thought that was quite amusing."Stanson will not talk about what influence his encounter with the dog had on his alleged plans.

After his walk at the filtration plant, Stanson says he drove around looking for a police officer, finally spotting a squad car parked in the lot outside the Leslie St. Loblaws centre. He waited for the officer to come out to his car, honking twice to get his attention. The officer motioned for Stanson to approach the cruiser. He did.


`I'm trying to relax so I can keep my blood pressure

as low as I can'

James Paul Stanson


Police say Stanson's late-model Subaru was full of weapons; a 12-gauge shotgun, a bolt action rifle with a telescopic lens, a 9-mm semi-automatic, a machete, a throwing knife, camouflage ski mask, black leather gloves and 6,296 rounds of ammunition. His car also contained dog blankets and a dish still filled with kibble, which Stanson's uncle Edwin Stanson has said belonged to his nephew's mutt terrier MacTavish.

Stanson tells the Star that all the guns were registered. "I had no intention of hurting anybody or causing any damage," he said. He added that he came "to push some buttons" and "intentionally become incarcerated close to Toronto General Hospital.

"I had to give the police probable cause for ordering my detention.... I'm medically unable to work (because of Marfan's syndrome)." Stanson says he resigned from his job in 2001 because of medical problems.

He says he had been a guard for 14 1/2 years, moving from Niagara Detention Centre in Thorold to Toronto West Detention Centre, and spent the last four years of his career at Hamilton's Wentworth Detention Centre. He says he scored perfect on his prison guard course. His uncle Edwin Stanson told the Star his nephew is a member of MENSA, an international organization for people with high IQs.

Now Stanson is living on the other side of the bars, as a resident of the Don jail. Being in jail gets him the food and shelter he needs, he says, although he's not a fan of the Don's meatloaf. He gets his food through a hatch in the door and says he rarely goes out.

And he waits for his day in court. Stanson's set on defending himself but will get technical advice from defence lawyer David Berg. "I came here because of medical necessity and I'm willing to take the bitter with the sweet."

Stanson says he has "access to Martin's Criminal Code as required" but spends most of his days and nights reading James Michener's Alaska.

Jail guards also bring him books and newspapers, he says. And on his 44th birthday last week, a guard gave him a pillow, which he says are in short supply.

Stanson has asked his relatives, his sister and his uncles not to visit him in jail or in court.

"It would be a real ego bruising for either party, me or them."