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By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
ALTADENA – Coronor’s officials Monday identified a man shot and killed in a drive-by shooting this past weekend as 18-year-old John Muir High School football standout Brandon Jackson.
Jackson, who played fullback/linebacker for the Muir Mustangs, was gunned down at about 10 p.m. Saturday in the 300 block of West Palm Street as he was walking home from a friend’s party.
Neighbors said someone pulled up in a car, then called Jackson over and opened fire. He died later at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena.
Coroner Chief Ed Winters said Jackson suffered gunshot wounds to the abdomen. An autopsy was expected to be performed today or Wednesday, he said.
Sheriff’s Detective Adan Torres said investigators had no motive or suspects. He said no witnesses had come forward to offer any clues.
But a source close to the investigation said the shooting likely was gang related. A shooting Sunday night in Pasadena that left a 44-year-old man wounded might have been done in retaliation to Jackson’s slaying, the source said.
Muir Principal Sheryl Orange said Monday she requested a stronger police presence at the school.
“I asked them to watch the perimeters,” Orange said.
On West Palm Street on Monday, friends and relatives of Jackson set up a sidewalk memorial to the victim.
People who knew him said Jackson was in the process of turning his school career around. The 5-foot, 11-inch, 175-pound football player scored a touch down in last year’s Turkey Tussle game between Muir and Pasadena High School in which Muir won, 63-6.
“This kid was off and running in the classroom, bringing his GPA to a 2.7,” Muir football coach Ken Howard said Monday. “He was all about becoming successful, keeping a positive attitude.”
Howard held a team meeting where the mood was somber as players consoled each other.
Jackson was described as a “good kid” and “respectful,” a starting fullback who was expected to shoulder more offensive responsibility next season.
As a sophomore Jackson forced a key fumble that helped the Mustangs tie and nearly knock off the defending CIF-Southern Section Southeast Division champions.
Adrienne Lett, vice president of the football booster’s club, said the club held an emergency meeting Monday night to talk about how to help Jackson’s family with funeral costs.
Also, grief counselors and counselors from Child Welfare and Attendance and the Mentoring and Partnership for Youth Development were at Muir on Monday speaking to students.
Muir senior wide receiver Karl Holmes Jr. remembered Jackson’s ambition to improve his personal life.
“He would say, `I just want to get a job and help my sister,’ because his mom had passed away when he was in the seventh grade,” Holmes said. “He had said he just wanted to help his family and he wanted to be the man of the family, and I respected him for that.”
Holmes and Jackson were among a group of Muir High students who as sophomores went to Washington, D.C., to witness President Barack Obama’s historic inauguration.
“He was crying when it all happened,” Holmes recalled.
The two had known each since they were both 12 years old, Holmes said.
“He was more than a teammate – he was like a brother. The sad thing is, I can’t remember the last thing I said to him.”
Howard pressed his players to keep Jackson’s memory alive.
“I told them, `If you have Brandon’s phone number, keep it and don’t delete it,”‘ Howard said. “That if they have his picture, don’t delete it – keep it.”
Michael Burnes, a sophomore who had known Jackson since both played Pop Warner football as 11-year-olds, was still trying to comprehend the death of his childhood friend.
“It’s just a sad day,” he said. “Known him since we were kids.”
Dennis Vaughn, a senior linebacker, said he recognized Jackson’s leadership skills early on.
“He was only a sophomore and he was on the sidelines telling us to keep our heads up,” Vaughn recalled. “He always had a positive attitude. There was definitely no gang involvement. That’s not what he was about. He was about getting his work done and moving on.”
Staff Writer Beige Luciano-Adams contributed to this report.