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Brandon Sun - PRINT EDITION

Medal of Bravery recipient charged in standoff

John Fawcett Vernon Hewitt, a well-known former minor-pro hockey player and bodybuilder, was arrested following a standoff in the city’s west end. This photo was taken in 2008 after Hewitt spoke to rural Manitoba students about his experience with addiction.

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John Fawcett Vernon Hewitt, a well-known former minor-pro hockey player and bodybuilder, was arrested following a standoff in the city’s west end. This photo was taken in 2008 after Hewitt spoke to rural Manitoba students about his experience with addiction. (FILE)

John Hewitt is seen showing the difference in the size of his hands suffered from years of fighting in 2005. Hewitt, who was a fighter in the Battle of the Hockey Enforcers in 2005, was arrested on Tuesday after a standoff with police.

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John Hewitt is seen showing the difference in the size of his hands suffered from years of fighting in 2005. Hewitt, who was a fighter in the Battle of the Hockey Enforcers in 2005, was arrested on Tuesday after a standoff with police. (FILE)

The man arrested following a standoff in the city’s west end once received the Medal of Bravery for helping to pull a child from a car wreck as fire inched closer.

The accused is John Fawcett Vernon Hewitt, a well-known former minor-pro hockey player and bodybuilder who has been described by at least a couple of people who know him as a "good guy."

Hewitt’s mom, Debbie Hewitt, declined to comment at length about the events surrounding Tuesday’s standoff, but has written about her son’s long-term struggles with drug and alcohol addiction in the past.

"He has slipped through the cracks," she said on Wednesday. "The Johnny that everybody’s seen in the last while has been his disease, not him."

Hewitt made his first court appearance on Wednesday, and was held in custody for a second court appearance today.

Brandon police didn’t release many details, but court documents allow the piecing together of some of the events leading up to the standoff.

What follows are allegations based on court documents. They haven’t been proven in court and Hewitt is presumed innocent.

Essentially, those documents allege that sometime on Monday, Hewitt had held his girlfriend or domestic partner captive, assaulted her with a pool cue and wooden rod, and threatened to kill her.

Police were apparently seeking to arrest Hewitt on those charges at the time of the standoff.

Hewitt, 39, is charged with assault, assault with a weapon, choking to overcome resistance, uttering threats to cause death and forcible confinement.

Those charges all list one woman as the same victim, and as court documents label the charges "domestic violence," it’s assumed that she is Hewitt’s girlfriend.

The charges date from Feb. 13, the day before the Brandon Police Service Tactical Response Unit could be seen stationed outside Hewitt’s home on the 100 block of 24th Street.

As it’s generally known that Hewitt was alone in the house at the time of the standoff, presumably the girlfriend managed to get away or was released at some point.

A neighbour indicated that police had informed him on Monday, around 11 p.m., that Hewitt was inside the home. Based on that, the ordeal would have begun sometime Monday evening.

An arrest warrant for the above charges was issued on Tuesday, at the time Hewitt was believed to still be in his home, so he would have been wanted on those offences at the time he was in his house.

Around 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, police peacefully arrested Hewitt at the home.

As a result of the standoff, Hewitt is charged with resisting or obstructing a police officer by failing to comply with the officer’s orders.

Notably absent at this time are any charges from Tuesday that relate to possession of weapons, suggesting that Hewitt may not have had any at the time of the standoff, including any firearms.

However, if police searched the home following the arrest, it may take time for a report about what was found to be filed.

Police said they believed Hewitt may have had weapons, hence the use of TRU members as a precaution.

Hewitt is also facing impaired driving charges that date from last Saturday. He was due to appear in court on those charges this week.

Hewitt is originally from Portage la Prairie, and his Facebook page lists him as working in sales at a Brandon car dealership.

In the past, he has made headlines in a positive way.

He had a hockey career that included play between 2002 and 2004 with the Quebec Senior Major Hockey League and he played one game with the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League back in 1996-97.

His statistics indicate he wasn’t a goal scorer, and he himself later confirmed that he was a fighter.

With the Asheville Smoke of the United Hockey League in 2000-01, for example, he recorded one goal, two assists and amassed 232 penalty minutes in 43 games.

In 2005, Hewitt was a fighter in the Battle of the Hockey Enforcers, finishing third in his category.

In 2009, a broken back forced him out of a bodybuilding competition. Doctors said he would be lucky to walk again, but in 2011 he won his category at the Manitoba Amateur Body-building Association novice championships.

Most recently, he was known for helping a mother and one-year-old boy who were trapped in a wreck following a crash near Kemnay on Oct. 3, 2014.

A car had collided with an SUV carrying the mother and baby, sending both vehicles into the ditch.

Hewitt and his friend, Dale Woloshyn, first ran to the burning car, where they bent the car door with their hands to free a trapped passenger.

Hewitt then used a tire iron to smash the windows of the SUV, and he jumped into the vehicle and grabbed the child from the back seat as fire approached the vehicle.

The boy and his mother were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

About five years ago, Debbie nominated her son for an award from a bodybuilding sponsor, an entry that appeared online.

She described how her son was a recovering drug addict and alcoholic and wasn’t proud of the trouble he’d once found himself in.

He’d played hockey across North America before settling in Brandon in December 2006 to work as a car salesman.

At the time of his mother’s award nomination, Hewitt had been sober for two years, but was then diagnosed with a broken back that may have been due to calcium buildup on his discs from his hockey days.

A painful surgery and recovery led to the use of prescription drugs, which Debbie described as leading her son again down a "dark path."

Despite that, he would return to sobriety again, she wrote. Bodybuilding helped him onto a better path, and he became a role model to young people.

» ihitchen@brandonsun.com

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 16, 2017

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The man arrested following a standoff in the city’s west end once received the Medal of Bravery for helping to pull a child from a car wreck as fire inched closer.

The accused is John Fawcett Vernon Hewitt, a well-known former minor-pro hockey player and bodybuilder who has been described by at least a couple of people who know him as a "good guy."

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The man arrested following a standoff in the city’s west end once received the Medal of Bravery for helping to pull a child from a car wreck as fire inched closer.

The accused is John Fawcett Vernon Hewitt, a well-known former minor-pro hockey player and bodybuilder who has been described by at least a couple of people who know him as a "good guy."

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