Family and friends of a University of Baltimore student who was engaged to be married next year were in shock Monday as they planned instead for his funeral.
Julian Jones was killed in an attack early Saturday outside a nightclub in Toronto. He was 26.
"There are a couple things I had hoped I would never have to tolerate, and one was the death of one of my children," said Tobias Jones, the victim's father. "This is extremely difficult."
Police in Canada's largest city said they, too, are trying to make sense of the killing, which they described as completely unprovoked.
"Mr. Jones and his group were minding their own business," Toronto police Detective Robert North said. "In fact, they overtly said that they did not want to be involved in an altercation. And they were essentially assaulted by these thugs."
Jones was in Toronto for a bachelor party to celebrate the coming wedding of a friend, his father said. Police said Jones was punched and kicked in the head about 2:30 a.m. Saturday. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
North said investigators were still gathering video and forensic evidence from the neighborhood where the attack occurred to identify Jones' attackers. North said he talked to the other members of Jones' group — about 10 in all — before they left Toronto to return to the United States.
Jones and several other members of his group had just come out of the Blnd Tger, a club in a "trendy and up-and-coming area" of bars, clubs and businesses, "merely to get some food," North said.
Other members of their group had taken a taxi back to their lodgings, North said.
Police believe that Jones' attackers had been in an altercation with a different group outside the club, and that Jones' group was "essentially set upon" for no reason amid the commotion.
North said Jones and his friends did absolutely nothing wrong.
Jones was to be married to Shenel Darden in Niagara Falls, N.Y., on April 30, 2017, a year to the day after their engagement, his father said.
The Arundel High School graduate was studying environmental sustainability and human ecology at the University of Baltimore downtown, but would visit his father in Glen Burnie on Wednesdays and Sundays.
They would watch football, eat dinner and inevitably fall asleep next to each other on a pair of couches, his father said. Jones would wake up and head back to Baltimore and his studies.
"He's just a straight-path, regular, good guy," his father said. "He was kind, caring, considerate, and he had faith in mankind. He had this thing where he thought things would get better."
Growing up between Glen Burnie, Severn and Odenton, Jones was always a "peacemaker" who could "get people to settle down" if they were in an argument, his father said.
That he would be caught up in a deadly fight doesn't make sense, he said.
Jones' mother, Sonia, died a few years ago in a motorcycle accident, a devastating loss for the family, including Jones' 18-year-old sister Kayla and 23-year-old brother Justin, his father said.
"I had finally gotten better at dealing with the death of his mother" he said before trailing off.
Tobias Jones said his sister called Saturday morning to tell him that something had happened to his son in Canada.
Then Darden called, distraught, and said she was outside his apartment with a couple of her family members and that they had to talk, he said.
He said he knew instantly what that meant.
"My God, I fell to my knees."
Jones' father said some of Jones' friends who were on the Toronto trip were back in Maryland on Sunday and visited him as well.
"They were still all in shock," he said. "They were stunned. They were dazed, as well as me. But they were on the front line."
Jones' body remained in Toronto on Monday. His father said he was trying to figure out the logistics of bringing his son's body home across an international border.
"I have no idea, because it's Canada," he said.
Chris Hart, a spokesman for the University of Baltimore, said Jones transferred to the university from Anne Arundel Community College in the fall of 2014, and was on track to graduate this spring.
"We profoundly regret his loss. It's a loss for our campus community," Hart said. "His friends and family are in our prayers."
The Blnd Tger also expressed condolences. Club managers said in a statement that they are "committed to assisting the police in any way that we can," and had provided video surveillance footage from outside their establishment to investigators.
North said the incident was unusual for Toronto.
"We are a safe city, and we pride ourselves on being a safe city," he said. "Unfortunately, this has sort of put a black mark on us."
Toronto — with nearly 3 million residents the fourth-largest city in North America — had 56 homicides last year, North said.
Baltimore, a city of about 620,000, had 344.
North said Jones' attackers should turn themselves in while they have the chance.
"If they don't, we will find them," he said.
Police have described only two suspects in their 20s — one slim, the other large, both wearing black — but said there were others in the same group who are also being sought for questioning.
Jones' father begged anyone with information to come forward, so that those who attacked his son can't attack anyone else.
"He believed in trying to help people," he said of his son. "He was a great son, a great brother, and he was going to be a great husband."