USA: He got a gun because 'everyone else' had one

08 February 2010

In the process of showing off a 9 mm handgun, Calvin D. Jones — son of the former Nebraska running back by the same name — shot his then-girlfriend, Bria Bell, blinding her.

By Todd Cooper

The spitting image of his father, Calvin D. Jones stood with head bowed in a Douglas County courtroom and told the judge how sorry he was.

In the process of showing off a 9 mm handgun, Jones — son of the former Nebraska running back by the same name — shot his then-girlfriend, Bria Bell, blinding her.

“I know I made a mistake,” Jones said softly to the judge. “It was a dumb mistake, and I know it’s going to have an effect on her life forever.”

It was a mystifying mistake from a young man who had a record of school trouble but few legal problems before that night.

Douglas County District Judge Mark Ashford listened, then sentenced Jones, 18, to four years in prison for second-degree assault. That translates to two years under state sentencing guidelines. Jones had faced a maximum of five years on the charge.

His attorney, Jackie Barfield, said Jones’ mother, Zaneta Green, is a caring woman who tried to guide her son. His father — the fourth leading rusher in Nebraska history — has had little involvement in his son’s life.

Court records show that the elder Jones, who had a brief NFL career, is more than $300,000 behind in child support payments for his son and two more children he fathered with different women. From 2002 to 2006, a string of misdemeanor thefts landed him in jail for short stints, primarily in Lincoln.

The 39-year-old Jones since has spoken to youth groups about battling a cocaine addiction that he says began in the NFL in the mid-1990s. He has told groups he entered drug rehabilitation and accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. Court records indicate he hasn’t been arrested since 2006.

His son had few problems with the law before the shooting.

In November 2007, the younger Jones was caught with a small baggie of marijuana at Omaha North High School and placed on probation.

Court records show he violated that probation by testing positive for marijuana and alcohol. He had a spotty school record — sporadically attending Parrish and Blackburn alternative schools after getting kicked out of North.

But Bria — and, eventually, her parents — saw another side of him.

The Bells opened their home to Calvin for dinners. They discovered that, as children, Bria and Calvin had been in the North Omaha Good News Bears, a youth group run by a local pastor.

And they discovered a mellow, mild-mannered young man who answered the Bells with “Yes, Ma’am” and “No, Sir.”

He was funny and talked about the future. He wanted to go to trade school to become a welder.

“Bria shared with us, ‘I like this guy, he’s a cool guy,’ ” Margie Bell said. “We felt like we had an opportunity to embrace him into our home, to be a positive influence in his life.”

And then came Jan. 14, 2009.

Jones said he met a man outside a dollar store near 42nd Street and Redman Avenue and bought the 9 mm handgun for $100.

When the judge asked him why, Jones shrugged. “Because everyone else has one,” he said.

Two days later, Jones asked Bria to feel his chest. She punched him, only to discover he was wearing a bulletproof vest.

Bria said she hadn’t seen him with a weapon or vest before.

“I just thought he was a guy trying to show off in front of a girl,” she said.

Less than an hour later, Jones was showing off the gun when he shot Bria.

Six months later, Jones wrote Bria a note, laying bare his grief. Bria says she knows Jones is sorry. But his remorse, she says, doesn’t restore her sight.

The judge echoed that.

“I know you have a lot of guilt,” Ashford told Jones.

“You’re going to have to learn some skills, some coping skills. On the other side of the coin, what you are going to need to do and accomplish doesn’t even carry an inkling compared to Bria.”

Original article online at:

Omaha World-Herald