Father of girl killed in drive-by: ‘Our daughter was a person of love’

pramati@macon.comNovember 22, 2013 

Facing terminal cancer, Sebastian Jackson already was on borrowed time with his three daughters.

He spent Thursday morning having breakfast with his middle daughter, 16-year-old Alyssa, at Twang Southern Tastes & Sounds, where they ordered their favorite meals.

She showed him a note she wrote to him in her notebook that read in part: “I’ll be there even if I have to walk 100 miles. I’ll be there through all the lies. I allways (sic) loved you and I’m here to show that I came a longe (sic) way and that if anyone can make it ‘we did.’ ”

Under the note is a drawing of a broken heart held together with a bandage that reads “Dad” on one half and “Alyssa” on the other, with the words: “We were broke apart but now back together. I love you daddy” underneath.

When Alyssa asked her father to go to see her friends in the Unionville neighborhood later that day, he initially forbid it. But she insisted, and he eventually changed his mind.

“I relented, foolishly,” he said.

On his way to pick her up that night, he was running 10 minutes late because he had to change a flat tire.

“I got a call saying my baby had been hurt,” he said.

Jackson tried calling law enforcement friends to find out what was happening, and when he got to the Cedar Avenue house of Alyssa’s godmother, Andrea Gooden, he saw police cars. He and other family members went over to the hospital, where they got the news.

Alyssa was dead from a single gunshot wound to her back.

The Southwest High School student had been outside Gooden’s home with Gooden’s 16-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son.

According to a Macon police report, a witness told investigators that he saw four or five men around the stop sign at the corner of Cedar Avenue. A brown Cadillac drove by and began firing gunshots at the group. One of the shots struck Alyssa in the back.

Alyssa, along with Gooden’s children, managed to run inside the house. Once inside, she collapsed.

“She was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Gooden said.

She wasn’t the only casualty. Charleston Burnett III, 13, a student at Ballard-Hudson Middle School, was riding in his grandfather’s white Ford F-150 pickup along Cedar Avenue when a bullet went through the back window and passenger’s headrest and glanced off the younger Burnett’s head.

“We were riding along, and I heard, ‘Boom! Boom!’ ” Charles Burnett said. “(Charleston) said, ‘Grandaddy, I’ve been shot!’ I said, ‘You ain’t been shot.’ Then I felt the blood on his head.”

Burnett said he immediately drove his grandson to the hospital, where he was in stable condition Friday. Burnett said his grandson, nicknamed “Brother,” was talking to his friend who was sitting in the back seat when the shooting started. They were both hunched over, which is why the shot missed the friend completely and only glanced Charleston.

Police later found the bullet on the floor of Burnett’s truck.

Bobby Watson, who lives across the street from Gooden, said he heard shooting and immediately called the police. He said the sound of shooting in that neighborhood isn’t that unusual. Just a couple of weeks earlier, another woman was shot in the neck just up the street from where Alyssa Jackson was shot.

While Watson said he didn’t know the teen girl, he saw Burnett’s grandson ride his bike through the neighborhood frequently.

“Everybody knows he’s a good little kid,” Watson said.

‘A beautiful person’

It would be understandable if Sebastian Jackson and his ex-wife Shenese Brown were filled with rage over the killing of their daughter.

While both were nearly overcome with grief Friday afternoon at Brown’s residence, they said they aren’t going to succumb to anger against the shooters.

“She was a beautiful person with a lovely personality,” Brown said. “She sang in the choir at Southwest. ... It was my baby.”

Jackson, who said he “was toe-tagged twice” because of his cancer, said he would rather be the one to have died instead of his daughter.

Jackson said he wanted the shooters to know that the family won’t let the tragedy taint the memory of their daughter.

“To those individuals who stole my daughter, we will not allow you to occupy any space in our minds,” he said. “They say God doesn’t put any more on you than what you can handle, but I don’t agree. God allows a lot more than we can bear, to let us know we are not in control. It lets us know we have to come to him for help. ... Our daughter was a person of love, and we’re not going to let some ignoramuses take that away with their cruel and unjust acts.”

Jackson said incarceration hasn’t proven effective against gang problems, because it just makes gang members more effective criminals later on.

Robert Boswell, Brown’s husband, said, “We’re going to love, no matter what. Hate is not a word.”

Gooden, whose family has lived at the house for six months, said she was at church at the time of the shooting. She said a lot of teens gather on her lawn, and she tries to pass along “tough love” to keep them on the right path.

“Everybody likes to come over, and I try to steer them on the right way,” said Gooden, who added that she found a .357-caliber bullet outside her daughter’s window a few weeks ago.

Gooden said there’s a neighborhood shot house nearby where some teens go to try to score alcohol or marijuana.

“They’re hanging around and hustling because they think they can get some weed,” she said.

The Bibb County school system provided counseling help to students at Southwest, Ballard-Hudson and Hutchings Career Center. David Gowan, director of risk management for the school system, said those schools all had students and teachers who were affected by the shooting.

Southwest Principal Tanzy Kilcrease said Alyssa Jackson was known for her sense of humor and fun.

“Alyssa was a vibrant young lady, a fun person and very funny,” Kilcrease said. “She was very humorous. It’s a big void -- I can still hear her laughing. The children were very sad, but with the help and support of the school system, we were able to make it through the day. I hate that this happened. We’re going to continue to follow up with the students. Our hearts and thoughts go out to the family, and we wish them the best.”

Funeral arrangements weren’t complete as of early Friday evening.

Jackson’s death is the 16th homicide in Macon this year, said police spokeswoman Jami Gaudet. Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call Macon Regional CrimeStoppers at 877-68-CRIME.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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