EVERETT — Prosecutors are declining to file charges against a south Everett man for his part in a fatal struggle with a man he suspected of trying to steal his boat motor in July.
The death of Dylan Thomas Jones, 23, is a tragedy that could have been avoided, Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe said. There isn’t enough evidence, however, to prove that his death was a crime, he added.
“We’re not certain a crime was committed, and we don’t charge people when that’s how we feel,” Roe said.
Prosecutors don’t believe they could prove that the boat owner, 67, intended to kill Jones. They also don’t believe they can show he intended to assault the younger man, or that he was acting with criminal negligence or recklessness to prove a manslaughter charge.
The evidence suggests that the older man was trying to detain Jones for police. Prosecutors would have to prove to a jury that the amount of force he used was unreasonable.
Additionally, prosecutors were told that Jones had a potentially lethal amount of methamphetamine in his blood. The medical examiner concluded Jones died of asphyxia from being choked. He also concluded that acute meth intoxication contributed to the death.
Those facts make it difficult to prove that the boat owner was solely responsible.
“In that respect this case is not totally unlike some of the tragic incidents where police struggle with people on drugs and they expire. We don’t typically charge the police with a crime in those cases,” Roe said.
The older man told detectives that he came upon Jones attempting to steal an outboard motor from his boat, which was parked outside his house on a dead-end street.
The boat owner recognized Jones as a friend of his nephew. He suspected he’d stolen some property from him a few days earlier.
The two struggled, and he pinned Jones down to detain him for police. The older man said he wrapped an arm around the younger man’s neck and tried to stay on top of him.
Jones appeared to lose consciousness. The boat owner left Jones there while he retrieved some plastic ties to bind his wrists. He told detectives he planned to restrain the man for police.
When Jones apparently regained consciousness, the older man again wrapped an arm around his neck and was able to restrain his wrists. He asked a neighbor to call 911.
When sheriff’s deputies arrived, Jones was lying on the ground. He wasn’t breathing. Despite attempts to revive him, Jones died at the scene.
“Would it have been better for (the boat owner) to call 911? Absolutely,” Roe said. “Police are trained and equipped to better deal with these type of situations. That’s why we have them.”
Prosecutors met with Jones’ family on Monday to discuss the decision.
The slain man’s family still have many unanswered questions, including what happened that day. They don’t believe that Jones would have attacked the older man. They are convinced he would have fled, given the chance.
The boat owner knew Dylan Jones, and also knew what kind of car he drove, all information that could have been passed along to police, said Kyle Jones, the dead man’s brother.
“My brother could have made better choices,” Kyle Jones wrote Tuesday in a statement to The Herald. “However, (the boat owner) could have as well. A simple phone call to police or even to our family given Dylan’s history with (the man’s) nephew likely would have resolved this situation without it costing a life.”
Kyle Jones said he understands people have the right to defend themselves, but his brother wasn’t a stranger breaking into the man’s home.
“This wasn’t some unpredictable thief in the night and if that were the case, I’m all for supporting a shoot-first-ask-questions-later policy if you feel you or your family are in danger. This was anything but,” Jones wrote. “That being said, I believe I understand the prosecutor’s decision not to pursue the case given the state’s laws and lack of any witnesses aside from (the boat owner).
I suppose (he) will just have to live with taking a young life on his conscience, when there were any number of other ways to resolve the situation.”
The boat owner could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
In an interview earlier this month, he said that seven months of legal limbo was taking a toll.
“Nothing is worse than having this dangle over your head forever,” he said.
The grandfather of eight said he wished Jones had run, because he never could have caught up with him on two replaced hips.
“Even staggering, he was faster than me at that point in time,” he said.
Eric Stevick contributed to this story.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.