EDMONTON – The man who took hostages at gunpoint at a Workers’ Compensation Board building sobbed in court as he apologized to his captives, but remained adamant that he is also a victim.
“I am a political prisoner of corporate bullying,” Patrick Clayton testified Thursday at his sentencing hearing, wiping tears from his eyes. “I have suffered significant psychological, physical and emotional despair that has dehumanized me in every way possible.”
The 40-year-old said he is disgusted by what he did and agrees others are as well. But some people have described him as a hero and celebrity, he added.
Clayton was almost proud as he recalled how his hostage-taking brought Edmonton’s downtown to a standstill for several hours on Oct. 21, 2009. It was “the world’s loudest cry for help,” he said.
Details also emerged about Clayton’s history of alcohol and drug abuse, previous attempts for media attention and injuries to his knee both before and after the 2002 work accident that fuelled his beef with the compensation board.
His claim is still ongoing.
Clayton faces a maximum life sentence for the offence of hostage-taking. He earlier pleaded guilty to the charge, as well as to two weapons offences.
The court has yet to hear how much time Crown and defence lawyers will be recommending.
Clayton admitted to using cocaine over two days before he walked into the building with his grandfather’s hunting rifle and a backpack carrying 100 rounds of ammunition.
He fired a shot at a fleeing security guard, then herded nine people into an eighth-floor conference room. Although many of the hostages thought they were going to die, Clayton told them several times he wasn’t going to hurt anyone.
And he didn’t care when some of them who left to use the bathroom never came back. One by one, the hostages walked away or he gave them permission to leave. He surrendered 10 hours later, upset that police broke a promise to have a TV reporter waiting for him on the other side of the door.
Clayton told court he tried three years earlier to peacefully resolve his dispute with the workers’ board by threatening to throw himself off a city bridge.
Police negotiated with him for 40 minutes before he climbed down from an upper ledge. A police report said he told officers “he couldn’t stand the pain in his knee anymore and wanted to end it.”
But when he was later taken to hospital, he told a worker, with a big grin on his face, “that he really wasn’t suicidal.”
“He just wanted to get some media attention to escalate his claim with WCB, that he expects to get a big pile of cash from them,” said court documents.
Clayton said he later spent a week picketing outside the office building but felt humiliated by passersby who laughed at him.
He said his troubles began nine years ago, when he tripped over a piece of metal and injured his right knee on a construction job. He said a compensation board doctor reinjured his knee during an exam the following year.
But under cross-examination, he admitted he first injured the knee years earlier off the job by shovelling snow. After the work accident, he aggravated the injury when he slipped while shopping and fell at home while sweeping his floor. In 2006, his former girlfriend hit him with her car.
Clayton said he received monthly payments of $496, but it wasn’t enough to live on. And although he had surgery on his knee, it didn’t work.
The board eventually cut him off from the money and the prescribed painkillers he had become addicted to. He said he previously went into a drug treatment program but started using cocaine again to manage his pain.
Crown prosecutor Lisa Tchir reminded Clayton he still had options. He filed an appeal but failed to attend a meeting with his appeal worker and didn’t hand over necessary tax records.
One of the hostages, Randy Morrow, was also a claimant who injured his shoulder on the job. He said outside court he understands Clayton’s frustrations, but it sounds like he’s in denial.
“What I saw in there was a man battling with addiction for a very long time who got himself into a very bad hole, and he’s still trying to dig himself out,” Morrow said.
“I’m sympathetic with Patrick Clayton in his attempt to resolve his problem with the compensation board. I am not sympathetic in so much as that his life has led him to this point. He obviously made some bad decisions along the way.”