Shot in the Dark

May 22, 2015
Originally published on May 27, 2015 3:45 pm
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We're going to start off today's episode with a story that comes to us from the storytelling podcast "This Is Actually Happening." And this podcast, it does feature raw elements and, as such, listener discretion is advised. And in today's story, David Jackson, he's sure of just one thing and that is that he's never ever going to be like his dad.

DAVID JACKSON: I grew up in Detroit, Mich., born in 1970. I used to daydream that there was some other family out there missing me, right? I used to daydream about being an adult, or I'd daydream about being a ship captain. I had all kinds of little worlds I would go to. My uncle Leonard - his nickname is Nimp (ph) - he was a DJ. He'd take me to his drum lessons, and they were really, really boring - really boring. But I was completely content with just sitting there for the two hours and watching him just knowing he was close. I was able to forget about everything and dreaded, dreaded going home.

One night when I heard my mom screaming at my dad to stop hitting her, I ran and jumped on my dad's back and pled for him to stop, you know? He took me and threw me across the hallway. I hit a door, and from that moment on, I was afraid of him.


JACKSON: I was 6 when that incident happened, so I was a year older than my son right now. He had guns all over the house. They were in the house all over the place, loaded, ever since I can remember. I used to play with his loaded guns as a child. My dad was extremely racist - hated white folks at the time. And I mean, I grew up hearing, the white man is a blue-eyed devil. He has a tail.

And by then, my mom was - all she wanted was to be loved, and I guess she felt that she wasn't worth anything else, you know, that there was nothing better for her. So she started acting differently toward me, more like my dad. The racist things started coming out of her mouth. It kind of turned my world upside down, you know? It's just not the woman that I knew. She kind of turned a blind eye.

Fifteen years old, my dad and I got into an argument, and he threatened to kill me. He'd never said anything like that before. I've heard everything else, but he'd never said - you know? And it really scared the hell out of me. And I told my mom, hey, I don't know about you. You should take the kids and get the hell out of here, but I'm gone, you know? And I stayed gone. I swore I'd never go back.


JACKSON: I eventually went back, though, not because I wanted our family to be together but because by this time, I'd grown so protective of my mom. I'd grown very protective of my siblings. I moved back home. So we were living in this house together and hardly said a word to one another. My mom walked around, pretending like everything was fine. Everything was fine to her.

I'm coming up on my 17th birthday. By this time, I'm 16. It's 1986, and I had begun to see this young lady who lived in the neighborhood and kind of a nut case for a 15-, 16-year-old, you now? So one day, my mom told me, hey, you have to have this girl - you know, let her know, don't call here anymore. She's calling all hours of the night, all hours of the day - please, you know? So I agreed.

So on this particular Saturday, this young lady called early in the morning - 7. It was daylight. And my mom woke me up. I told you to tell this girl not to call here. Now, actually, I had told her, but she called anyway. And my dad happened to call to speak with my mom. My brother answered the phone, and my dad overheard us arguing. He asked to speak with me. Stop arguing with your mom. I'm like, Dad, look; we're not - it's not that - shut up. Stop arguing with your mom, or I'm going to put my foot in your a**. I said, Dad, look. There will be no more putting your foot in anybody's a**. And he said, you better not be home when I get home, and so I knew something was going to happen.

I unloaded. I went downstairs into the basement, and I unloaded two guns. I unloaded a .38 revolver, and I unloaded his .22 Ruger - took the magazine out, popped the one out of the chamber and threw everything away - threw all the ammo away. I left home.


JACKSON: I got back home. My dad's car was in the driveway. I walk in the house, and all of my clothing was in a pile in the middle of the living room floor. He picked up a bat that he had sitting there with him, and he raised it and he said get out of here. And I looked at him and said that s*** always made you tough, huh? That's the only - that makes you tough, and that pissed him off. He swung and if I hadn't lifted up my arm, you know, he didn't knocked me out or killed me there, but the bat broke over my arm and fractured it. Adrenaline goes, and that's it. It's on and cracking. My family - my mom, my two - three younger siblings - got in between us just as my dad and I went at each other, punching each other over my family. He runs downstairs. I hear the footsteps and footfalls, and he comes back upstairs. He's got this .38 point-blank range at my chest four feet from me, and he tells me to get out of the house. And I said go ahead, man. You know, beating the s*** out of kids and women always made you feel like a man.


JACKSON: Click, click.


JACKSON: He pulled the trigger twice, believing this gun to be loaded point-blank range at my chest, and he killed a piece of me, man, right there, unloaded gun f****** killed a piece of me right there. And so I remember blanking out, just standing there dazed. It felt like I was in a tunnel. It felt like everything around me was rushing. It felt - it sounded echoey. I do remember hearing my brothers and my sister and my mom - get out of the house, get out, get out. They're trying to push me toward the front door. And my dad's still standing there, and he looked at the gun, opened it up, ran downstairs.

By this time, I'm on the front porch. It's a hot summer day. He comes to the door. I'm on the porch. I'm still dazed. All of a sudden, the screen door flies open. My dad comes out on the porch, pushes me, points this gun at me - this Ruger this time. I was cooked, dude, my brain was fried, and he said get the f*** out of here, and I couldn't move, so he pulled the trigger twice.


JACKSON: And my brother says to me you're bleeding, you're bleeding. I looked down, my pant leg is flipping red, blood just pouring down. He nicked an artery. This dude is killing me right now, and so I ran, jumped off the porch, jumped the fence into a neighbor's backyard, jumped that fence into a vacant lot where I fell out.


JACKSON: I couldn't run anymore. I lost quite a bit of blood. My friend from across the street has an older sister who happened to be home. The honkey pigs that my dad always railed about, she and her brother helped me into their house. All the time, my dad's pointing a gun and advancing on all of us. A neighbor next door stepped outside of her house with a 12 gauge.


JACKSON: And said, hey, man, you need to go back in the house. You need to go back in the house. Get out of here. Go across the street. And she had this thing pointed at him as I was being carried into the house. The ambulance arrived.


JACKSON: I get to the hospital. They remove both bullets. A few days later, I get a call from the detective, has my mom there with him. And he's trying to talk me out of pressing charges at the behest of my mother who at this time no longer worked and needed the alimony and child support from my dad. So now she was planning on leaving him. What mattered most to me was was that my mom and my brothers and my sister were fine, so I agreed to drop the charges. And at this time, a victim can agree to drop the charges and the DA wouldn't pick it up. That's not so these days. He was released that day.

So I left home. My leg is healed up but nothing else. I left Detroit ended up in a homeless shelter. I couldn't hold down a job. For the next several years afterwards, all I could do was think about what happened. I was very consumed with the fact that I didn't have any any family, and it angered me. I made sure I got plenty screwed up every single night of the week. So I began to party a lot - raves and LSD and ecstasy.

I'm 43 now, and it trips me out that it still does this to me. We're not married, but she and I have been together for seven years now, and we have a wonderful son - awesome kid, man. The complete opposite of what I was his age - happy.

My son, he looked at me one day when I yelled at him. He shook. Oh, my God, that was me. I looked at my kid, and I hugged him. I'm so sorry. I do not want to make you afraid of me, but sometimes I've been afraid, you know, that I become him - my dad. I moved here to California in 1997, and I didn't see any of my family, although I spoke to them on the phone - all except my dad. I didn't see anyone. We were experiencing some financial difficulty here, you know. We were on the verge of an eviction. You know, we were both unemployed. Spoken to my sister on a number of occasions, my mom, conversations with them had been going well over the past few years, and so I reasoned that it'd be a good idea to get my family to Detroit where we'd have support in making a life for ourselves.


JACKSON: Now, I was not without extreme reservation, doubt. I was afraid that we would not only fail at getting our feet on the ground, but that something dreadful might happen. But I had irrational hopes. I had been longing for my family for a very long time. I've been missing them a lot. For some reason, I thought maybe, you know, we can go from here. We're adults now. A lot of time has passed. Maybe we can meet halfway - meet each other halfway.

So we arrive in Detroit, get to my mom's house, and my mom fell back into one of her catatonic states. And now I know I'm going to see my dad after all of these years.

So he arrives at the house. We didn't hug, and I don't believe we shook hands. I think neither of us at that moment knew how to proceed, but I watched him kneel down and get eye-level with my son and speak to him just as if he were another adult. You know, how are you? And he picked him up, held him and looked at me, and I couldn't be mean. I couldn't angry. But over the course of the four months we were there, he became - he was there for us, a family man like he'd never been before. I was blown away. This was not the man that raised me. We began talking, sitting down. We went on a few drives. We went to the store with him and all general talk. You know, you got to eat right. This is my dad - you got to eat right, you got to get into the doctors. You got to get a prostate exam (laughter). I was amazed at his willingness to open up. And when things got really bad in Detroit, I remember, he says, you know, you and your family belong in California, man. There's nothing here for you. And I'm not telling you this because I want to get rid of you; I want you. I want you here. I'm telling you this because I love you.


JACKSON: But right before we left Detroit, I couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't take sitting down with him having these awesome conversations but still feeling as if the past is just right there going, hey, hey, you know?

So I asked him, I said, Dad, what kind of a childhood did you have? He said I had a pretty good childhood. I said really, no trauma? No trauma that I know of. Right, I'm going, OK. No violence, your parents, Dad? Nope, everything was fine. Dad was strict, but everything was fine. And I just couldn't believe what I was hearing. I still don't think I believe it, but OK.

I did want to ask why he shot me, and I should, I should, but I didn't have the heart to push any further because I know he's - I know it's hard for him, and I think that I could take not knowing more than he can take sitting there and telling me.


WASHINGTON: Thank you, David, so much for sharing your story. That piece was produced by Whit Missildine, creator of the "This Is Actually Happening" podcast, part of Misfit Radio Network. It was produced as well by Nancy Lopez with an original score by Renzo Gorrio. And subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. We'll have a link at


WASHINGTON: Now, in just a moment, we proudly present the return of Jeff Greenwald when "The Weight Of The World" episode continues. Stay tuned.

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