I promise you this …

It’s too very long to post all of the important parts here, so you’ll need to go read this article about 18-year-old Justin Jackson who was killed by city police after he fired on them and killed their K-9 dog.

His family, despite Justin’s history of violence and crime, refuses to believe their angel did what the cops say he did. The most important parts:

Mr. Jackson began shooting, hitting the dog twice. Police Chief Nate Harper said yesterday that bullets recovered from the dog were consistent with Mr. Jackson’s gun, a .357-caliber Magnum.

The officers, who were not injured, returned fire. Mr. Jackson died of gunshot wounds to the head and chest, according to the Allegheny County medical examiner’s office.

At his parents’ house in the West End yesterday, Mr. Jackson’s relatives gathered to mourn. In addition to grief, they expressed anger over what they believe was an unjustified shooting. Many family members do not believe he had a gun and theorized that police shot both the K-9 and Mr. Jackson.

Donald James Jackson, his father, said he has witnesses to back up this theory, but he did not want to provide their names yesterday.

He said witnesses told him that they saw one of the officers hover over his son’s body and he suspects the officers planted a gun and other evidence there.

“Eyewitnesses, evidence at the scene and trace evidence from the crime lab will prove beyond doubt he had the gun,” said Lt. Daniel Herrmann of Major Crimes. Chief Harper said that the gun recovered from Mr. Jackson had been reported stolen in 2006 from a home in Elliott.

The family said even if Mr. Jackson did have a gun, it did not warrant police fatally shooting him. In their view, the officers may have shot Mr. Jackson to make him pay for killing the dog.

Denise Bazemore, his aunt, said she was infuriated at the way the police reacted.

“Is a dog’s life worth more than a human life?” she asked.

Mr. Jackson had planned on going to night school and getting his GED, his father said.

“He decided he wanted to make a change in his life,” he said. “At the hands of the city police department, it was taken away.”

Dear Jackson Family. In your suffering for your loss, you must come to acknowledge some truths, truths that may be easier to see once the grief clears:

1. Police officers would rather shoot themselves point blank in the knee cap than intentionally shoot their own K-9 dog. I promise you it is true.

2. If you are standing across from a person with a gun and that person begins firing that gun, you are not concerned with whether he is firing the gun at the dog or at you. You will fire your gun back every single time. I promise you it is true.

3. The police do not carry around stolen guns just in case they need to plant one on a body. Your son had a gun. I promise you it is true.

4. You son had his life taken away, not at the hands of the city police, but by his own hands when he chose to fire his weapon. I promise you it is true.

5. A dog’s life is not worth more than a human life, but as awful as it sounds, in my currency, the life of a police officer protecting his city and his own life, is worth more than the life of a criminal shooting a gun at him. I think it is true.

6. There are absolutely incidents all over the nation in which police officers wrongfully accuse and/or kill young black men. This is not one of those times. I promise you it is true.

7. You loved your son, but he went down the wrong path and that is why he is dead. Admitting that doesn’t mean that he was a bad son.

It is the truth.


  1. LostBoys
    May 9, 2008 5:18 pm


    I would not do that. That is dumb.
    If I did, I would be carrying a gun.
    Does that give the police the right to shoot me or to have a K-9 attack me?

  2. Melissa
    May 9, 2008 5:58 pm

    I agree PittGirl. Those of us that are normal, tax paying, upright citizens need to stand up to this bull crap. Our society is being overtaken by folks who don’t want to take responsibility. We need to take a stand and say no more. Lets not justify what they are saying.

  3. pgh412
    May 9, 2008 6:21 pm

    Thank you for this. My husband is a K-9 officer and everything you said is true. Killing or shooting at a K-9 is the same as doing it to an officer.

  4. bucdaddy
    May 9, 2008 7:10 pm

    “What makes a human better than an animal?”

    Brian, For one thing, a woman gives a much better hum job than a gerbil. Of course, she wants to talk about the relationship after, so maybe it’s a wash …

  5. Gunn Lino
    May 9, 2008 7:39 pm

    Let’s see, there are a lot of black cops in the “Burgh, so if a black cop shoots a black bad guy who does the same dumb shit thing this “kid” did, does that make it a racist cop killing?
    Let’s see, will the real racist please stand up.

  6. Mitch Cumstein
    May 9, 2008 9:27 pm

    It’s been said here multiple times, but apparently for Lost Boys it bears repeating…

    He wasn’t shot because he was carrying a gun and the police thought they saw it.

    He was shot because the cop saw him pull a gun (minutes after responding to a shooting in that area) and fire. The cops did not know if he was firing at them or the dog, but they knew it was in their direction. I’d say the fact that he fired in their direction gives them the right to fire back, no?

    Sounds like this young man wanted the live the thug life and that’s how he died.

    If it had to be someone, thank god it was him and not the cop.

  7. Shibori
    May 9, 2008 9:44 pm

    Is a dog’s life worth more than a human’s? In general, maybe not. But was this dog’s life worth more than this human’s? If guns are drawn and someone’s going to die? Definitely. One had a long history of public service, one had a long history of crime. One had contributed something to society, one didn’t. I don’t put much credence in what he was “planning” to do (but hadn’t done yet). I can say I’m planning on becoming a nun, doesn’t mean I’ll ever do it- actions speak louder than words. Nor do I care much what his delusional family had to say. “Good kids” aren’t in lockdown at 14- criminals are. Is it a shame that his life was a waste? Absolutely. But let’s put that blame where it belongs-on the family that raised him. The only question is how long until the family files the inevitable wrongful death case.

  8. lilly
    May 10, 2008 12:17 am

    Yes, the life of a dog who goes out every day to protect myself and the general public is worth about 1,000 times more than the life of a thug kid with a rap sheet a mile long carrying a stolen weapon. Let’s talk degrees here…a gerbil is not the same thing as a police dog, a moral, normal person is not the same as this despicable thug.

    Let his family continue making fools of themselves; why should it make any difference to us? They are beyond ridiculous –anyone who could feel slightly sorry for them, I would hope, is more likely to see what the rest of us normal people do – they’re as worthless as he was.

    I feel safer knowing that this kid is no longer out roaming the streets.

  9. Bamela
    May 10, 2008 12:49 am

    I’m the last person to read the Trib, but every once in awhile I’m curious about their take on things. They (predictably) are even less forgiving than the PG.
    My favorite part:
    “All of that stuff was when he was a juvenile, and he made some mistakes,” Donald Jackson said Wednesday, about his son’s problematic life. “That’s when you’re supposed to make mistakes, when you’re a kid. It doesn’t make him a bad kid.”

    Right…when he was a juvenile…last year. Let’s just turn the other cheek at how your son rang in his adult years with a silly little arrest for choking a 13 year old, right Mr. Jackson? I mean, that WAS his ONLY arrest as an adult, and even adults are allowed to make mistakes sometimes, right?

    Here are some things *I* consider mistakes, from MY years as a ‘juvenile’:
    -The New Kids on the Block t-shirt I’m wearing in every picture from summer vacation 1988;
    -A haircut that was tragically close to being a mullet between ages 10-12;
    -The 6 months at age 14 when I ‘became a vegetarian’ and refused to eat anything but egg noodles;
    -Getting my one and only speeding ticket at age 17 while singing along so passionately to Dishwalla that I lost track of how fast I was going.

    A sampling of Justin Jackson’s ‘juvenile mistakes’:
    – Not only being sent to juvie multiple times – being a horrible enough kid to get KICKED OUT of juvie, multiple times;
    -Grand theft auto;
    -Terroristic threats;
    -Pulling a pellet gun on a Port Authority Police Officer;
    and (my personal favorite):

    Seriously, there should be some sort of moral reprieve granted to anyone who, just this once, wants to say that justice has been served.

  10. Still A. Fan
    May 10, 2008 5:57 am


    he already FIRED HIS WEAPON…….

    pg, i’m telling you – go private and sell memberships as some of these comments are…well…..cookoo for cocoa puffs

    lostboys….the police yell “drop your weapon” if they see you have one and you didnt yet pull the trigger!!!!

    once you pull the trigger, they don’t take cover and yell “drop your weapon”. they fill your body with hot lead.

    are you that naive?

  11. Still A. Fan
    May 10, 2008 5:58 am

    monty – that’s hilarious and got lost in the mix. well played, sir.

  12. Ed Heath
    May 10, 2008 7:39 am

    Still, y’all are saying this kid was a dangerous criminal and kind of brought this on himself. To the family, this was a child (to parents they are always children, but especially when they are nineteen) walking down the street targeted by police. Now, y’all may say that the police saw a suspicious individual, but the family and friends would ask whether he was suspicious *just because he was black*. And before you all protest that the police are professional and all, remember the Pittsburgh Police were under a consent decree not so long ago, for their practices against African Americans. The African American community has a long memory, or slavery and segregation, which they are entitled to. I mean, this sounds like it will turn out to be a justified shooting. But let’s remember that another young black man died, this time at the hands of the people who are supposed to protect the citizens. That is a tragedy. Concentrating on what a bad person this was makes this a double tragedy, because now the African American community would rightly wonder why the police would think this kid was a bad person, was it because he was black? This is a big part of why the Jeremiah Wright issue has gone as bad as it has. Because the media and so many other (white) people have branded Wright a nut job, and according to exit polls, so many (white) voters say it influenced their decision. For all the progress made, the US is not a post-racial country by any stretch.

  13. retiredguy
    May 10, 2008 10:01 am

    Just to add my two cents. This guy was a thug. He was raised by thugs. His mother was charged in the past for hiding a gun for him. I just knew, as many of you did, that the first words out of his family’s mouths would be: “they shot him for a dog” and “we want justice”.

    The news media didn’t help when they reported that the police returned fire after Jackson shot at the dog. They continued to report this even AFTER Nate Harper’s press conference where he flat out stated that they returned fire after Jackson began shooting in their direction.

    I remember when the city Officer who was dragged by the car had to shoot the thugs that were dragging him. Sheldon Ingram description was “the cop’s big cop ring got stuck in the door, you know, those big rings cops wear”. Good job sheldon, it was his wedding band.

  14. efw_west
    May 10, 2008 10:36 am

    Police did a public service on this one….read the story about the “good kid”


  15. C.S. Keys
    May 10, 2008 1:08 pm

    Why does Ed Heath write “y’all” in some sentences and “you all” in others?

  16. retiredguy
    May 10, 2008 4:31 pm

    Yes, he was a dangerous criminal and he did (not just kind of) bring this on himself. Waa waa waa. Segregation. Slavery. Bullshit. He pulled out a .357 and started blasting away. And no the police do not have to shout “drop it” or any other such TV bullshit. A guy starts shooting and the police are going to shoot back. If you don’t want to be killed, don’t pull out a gun.

    If this guy had the balls to pull a gun and shoot at two uniformed police officers and a police K-9, what kind of chance do you think the average unarmed citizen would have had, should he have desired that citizens car, or jacket or phone?

  17. Chad
    May 10, 2008 4:33 pm


    How noble. How righteous. How absurd.

    Jeremiah Wright IS a nut job. (Do you believe the government invented AIDS to kill blacks?) That kid WAS a criminal who fired in the direction of cops who had every right to fire back. (Do you believe they should have waited, you know, just to make sure he wasn’t gonna eventually give up and put the gun down?)

    Neither of those statements is, in any way, a reflection of race. They are reflections of fact and reason and common sense.

    If we really want a post-racial country, then we have to cry “Stop” in the face of people who seek to perpetuate racism. And we have to cry “Bullshit” in the face of people who seek to blame racism for the very real consequences of their very foolish actions.

  18. bucdaddy
    May 10, 2008 4:34 pm


    Both might paw you and both might not, both might kill you and both might not, and both might eat you and both might not, but on the whole, I’d take my chances sleeping with a woman rather than a tiger.

    At least the woman might show some remorse.

    Answer your question?

  19. PGHOfficer
    May 10, 2008 4:40 pm

    I attended the memorial today for Ulf at the City K-9 academy and the only person who was noticably not there was Hiz Honor Mayor Lukey. One would think that when an officer is killed in the line of duty that the mayor should attend.

  20. pgh412
    May 10, 2008 7:38 pm

    A Working Dog’s Oath

    Author – Unknown
    I will lay down my life for you
    and expect nothing but love in return.
    I protect my officer with my life,
    and would gladly take a bullet in his place.
    I am sent in to find lost children
    and fugitives on the run.
    I find drugs and weapons and even bombs.
    I am the first sent in
    and sometimes the last to leave.
    I am the nose and ears of my officer.
    I will protect and serve him.
    I would die for him and for you.
    I only ask for compassion and a kind word.

  21. Still A. Fan
    May 11, 2008 12:01 am

    Ed said: “I mean, this sounds like it will turn out to be a justified shooting. But let’s remember that another young black man died, this time at the hands of the people who are supposed to protect the citizens. That is a tragedy. Concentrating on what a bad person this was makes this a double tragedy, because now the African American community would rightly wonder why the police would think this kid was a bad person, was it because he was black?”

    Still said: NOOOOOO! It’s because he had a gun and was shooting it!!! He shot their police dog and then turned towards them. For F’s sake man, wake UP. GAWD! All justified shootings come from the hands of the people who are supposed to protect the citizens. DUH! i hate people who just start writing what they think sounds good to them yet logically, it makes NO sense. NONE. ZILCH. ZIPPO. NINCA. NYET. Would Ed Heath be mad if the kid that got full of bullet holes was chinese? NO!

  22. medgirl
    May 11, 2008 1:22 pm

    A K9_( is an officer…thats the way it is.) But we are in America…and in America we protect the felons who carry illegal guns and illegals who steal our tax money and common criminals who are “good kids”…ironical, isn’t it…
    WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE PROPLE…This kid was a common thug….not an alter boy.
    The K-9 did his job and sacrificed his own life. That is his duty and he did it. This common thug deserves no less than to serve as a reminder what happens when you break the law.

  23. Eric W
    May 11, 2008 8:47 pm

    Animals do not have high-level cognition. They lack abstract reasoning, self-awareness, language, and anything resembling civilization. Animals can only adapt to their environments; humans can adapt environments to suit their wants and needs.

  24. Jim
    May 11, 2008 9:17 pm

    Amazing. Simply amazing. The courts should have no trouble getting a conviction in this case, sine every single one of who who are so absolutely sure of what happened were surely witnesses to this event.

    Let me position myself here. I believe that if you shoot at a police officer you should expect to receive return fire, and if in that process you are killed, I belive you deserved to die. I believe that if you shoot at a police dog, the same set of circumstances holds true. And I believe that most of the time, the police tell the truth when they report what happened during any confrontation. I also believe that the circumstances of this event certainly LOOK like it happened the way the police tell it. But I also know that I was not there so I have no idea what the real truth is, and based on that I damn sure am not going to make a fool of myself by stating without a doubt that the kid was guilty of the actions as they have been put forth. That is what our system of justice is for, remember? Innocent until proven guilty applies to everyone, or has George Bush convinced you all differently?

    Have the police ever planted evidence at the scene of a crime? Of course they have. Is it possible for a police officer to be in possession of a stolen gun? Of course it is. Is it possible these particular officers knew this person who had criminal history? Of course it is. Is it possible they decided to take the law into their own hands and rid their world of someone they did not like? Absolutely. Did things happen the way I’ve just suggested may be possible? I have absolutely no clue, nor do I veen remotely suggest I think they did. I’m simply pointing out the fact that it is possible. And that possibility is why we have a susyem of justice in place that says you are innocent until proven guilty.

    Shame on every single one of you who are so self righteously spouting forth your opinions as if they are facts. That includes you PittGirl. Shame on every one of who who are so positive that this man who was shot was guilty. Unless you were there and witnessed everything, you have no more knowledge of the truth than I do.

    I sure do HOPE the police are being honest here, and I agree that it does look like they are. But I would be ashamed of myself if I simply took it on faith that just because someone told me that’s how it really happened, that I believed it. And you all should be equally ashamed. With attitudes like these, we’ll never get Habeus Corpus back.

  25. Julia
    May 12, 2008 8:18 am

    Ed – Slavery and segregation? Come on. I absolutely DO NOT think that blacks are treated the same as whites in this country especially by the police, but maybe it’s time they listen to people like Bill Cosby and Russell Simons and rise above the stereotypes instead of playing into them. I will be the first to admit I lived in Pittsburgh for 23 years and never once went to the Hill District, Wilkinsburg, Homewood, etc. However, stop using the”slavery and segregation” that has been played for the last 40+ years. Be the change you wish to see int he world. This “boys” behavior (multiple times in juvie, illegal gun possesion, etc.) wasn’t punished by his parents, but they helped cover it up! What do they expect?

  26. Brian
    May 12, 2008 8:51 am

    Lin, wasn’t trying to confuse the issue at all. Was simply trying to present a different, albeit totally unsupported, side of the coin. Why would I want to confuse the issue? Ridiculous. But you don’t know me, so I guess I can see why you might think that. I wasn’t considering a religious side of it because I do not think the Bible ever was meant to be taken word-for-word literally. But that’s just my opinion. I agree the dog is a law enforcement officer, and if shots are fired at the animal, return fire from the officer must occur. Totally justified. So I agree with you on that 100 percent. State law even makes it a felony to taunt a police dog.

    Bucdaddy, temendous, tremendous, tremendous comments. Seriously, I rarely laugh on Monday mornings, and today’s the rare exception.

  27. bucdaddy
    May 12, 2008 9:27 am

    Brian, Maybe we CAN all get along!

    And at the risk of sounding like I’m now coming to your defense, Eric W. (and everyone else here) might be interested in reading an article in the current issue of The New Yorker, titled “Birdbrain,” which raises exactly those issues. Check their online edition; the author is Margaret Talbot.

  28. tecmo
    May 12, 2008 9:34 am

    Unrelated, but I met Aulf, the dog, after a brief encounter with the cops several years ago. RIP to Aulf and Justin Jackson, regardless of how everything went down.

  29. btezra
    May 12, 2008 12:28 pm

    one of your best posts and IMHO it was well-written and to the point, unfortunately it centers around a horrid set of events…cops shooting at people, young people shooting at people and animals, young person dying, cops being questioned, people claiming the race card has been played, family who cannot accept reality…

    we need to get past engaging race in all that happens, this seems fairly simple, young troubled person tweaks and shots at a cop and canine officer…you gotta realize that if that’s the reality of the moment that nothing good is gonna come of it

  30. Jen
    May 12, 2008 3:09 pm

    You are the voice of reason in a world full of bulls**t.
    Keep on speaking the word!

  31. JMarz
    May 12, 2008 3:25 pm

    I could not agree more. I once was in a garage that was right next to a police station. The garage was infested with racoons we asked the police officers to shoot them and they said they would, but one shot would result in an hour worth of paper work to explain that shot.

    You want answers for your childs death……ask yourself.

  32. OutOfCounty
    May 12, 2008 4:50 pm

    PittGirl, you are right on with this one. I completely agree and I think that the cops need our support because they were/are right.

  33. Mia`
    May 13, 2008 1:44 pm

    Okay, I’m a few days behind on this one, but I had to toss my two cents into the mix…

    I have several friends and family on the police force. One of which is a K-9 officer. The dog/officer lives with his handler…he is part of the family. To the human part of the K-9 team, that dog is his partner, just like any other human would be…and if you threaten/harm his partner, he will return fire. That dog is worth several thousand dollars in breeding and training. As far as the police department is concerned, that dog is worth more than any of the criminal element they have to deal with, and yes, they will treat an assult on that dog the same as an assult on any other law enforcement officer.

    To someone who hasn’t been exposed to/doesn’t know a K-9 officer, perhaps they might think of it as a glorified guard dog…and no killing a guard dog is not the same as killing a person, but a K-9 officer is soooo not a guard dog, glorified or otherwise.

    And to Brian…if that dog in the burning building was a K-9 officer…unless the human was a child or loved one….I’d be saving the dog first, a glorified guard dog – then I’d save the human first. That is assuming I didn’t know the human to be a waste of oxygen…then I might just light my cigarette on the flames and sit back and wait for the fire department to arrive (And here’s to the firemen! Another under-rated group of humans!)

  34. AMY
    September 17, 2008 4:52 pm

    Police dogs are the extension of an officer and are bound by the same laws and the Constitution than their human counterparts. It is viewed that killing a police dog is the same as killing a human police officer because they are also sworn officers, and have to complete training before given a badge and put out on the streets. I have several friends who are K-9 officers in the city and the borough. These dogs are not aggressive and are well trained to only work when commanded by their handlers.