Teen expresses regret for killing that broke hearts in two families.
Utarus Jackson found solace in an unexpected embrace Tuesday outside the courtroom where his teenage son was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
"I'm sorry," he sobbed repeatedly into the arms of Susie Moore, whose great-grandson Trequan Sykes, 16, was gunned down June 1 by Malcolm Jackson, also 16.
"No matter what our kids do, we love them," she consoled him softly; adding that forgiveness was possible. "We will feel differently," she said. "Right now, I'm getting there."
Sadness and regret, rather than anger and revenge, permeated Jackson's sentencing for second-degree murder almost two months after he fired several fatal rounds at Sykes' back as he was walking away from an argument outside his south Minneapolis home. It was the swift conclusion to what prosecutors called a "tragic and senseless case."
With Judge Mark Wernick's permission, Malcolm Jackson faced Sykes' sobbing parents and the two younger siblings, who saw their brother die.
"I know 'Sorry' won't bring him back, but I am. I truly am," said Jackson, dressed in a shirt and tie with his dreadlocked hair brushing his shoulders. "My actions ... I wasn't thinking. I'm so sorry. I wish this would have never happened. You can always forgive someone, but you can never forget. I hope you might forgive me some day. Not now, but maybe later."
Jackson could be paroled by age 33. Sykes' mother, Phaedra Singleton, told Wernick that her son, a Roosevelt High School star athlete who was born with a series of physical defects including a hole in his heart, fought for years to have a normal life, only for it to be snuffed out.
As Jackson's mother, Shantae Burnett, looked on, Singleton said she imagined walking in her shoes. "If my son killed him, I would want my son to have a life," she said. "But I'll miss my son for life."
Exchange, then gunfire
According to the charges, Jackson, known as "Bishop," fought with Sykes' 17-year-old brother two weeks before the shooting. On June 1 he stashed a revolver outside South High School, which he attended, in anticipation of a confrontation. After school Jackson and two others, who were not charged, met Sykes and two of his siblings, both 14, in an alley not far from their homes near 29th Street and Bloomington Avenue S.
After Jackson allegedly pointed the gun at the 14-year-olds, he and Sykes exchanged words. Jackson then fired at Sykes from 3 to 4 feet as Sykes ushered his siblings away and turned to walk inside. Sykes' family said Jackson's friends goaded him into firing the shots.
Jackson waived adult certification proceedings and pleaded guilty two weeks after the shootings. Although Sykes' parents were initially displeased with the deal, Assistant County Attorney Teresa Froehlke said it's a proper outcome, given that Jackson, who was two weeks past his 16th birthday when he committed the crime, accepted responsibility immediately. There was also no guarantee a grand jury would find evidence of premeditation, necessary for a first-degree murder indictment.
'Be your own man'
One of Jackson's attorneys, Rachelle Stratton, said it was a difficult case because he was a well-liked, intelligent high school student. "The more we learned about Malcolm, the less any of this made sense to us," she said.
He took responsibility quickly, she said, because he wanted to spare both Sykes' family and his own from pain.
Afterward, Moore said Jackson's apology meant little to her family, but conceded there wasn't much he could have done short of waving a magic wand to bring her great-grandson back to life. She hopes instead, that he's honest with himself in his remorse and thinks not only about what he did but why.
"I keep telling these boys, be your own man," she told Utarus Jackson with grief and frustration in her voice. "Don't let nobody push you into something you gotta pay for."
Abby Simons • 612-673-4921