It was, in many ways, the beginning of an end.
On the evening of Feb. 2, 2012, a Thursday, 15-year-old Nick Jackson and his older sister were home alone. The gorgeous yellow Craftsman home their father had built with his own hands — and, it would later be discovered, proceeds from trafficking cocaine — sat quiet a few blocks from the heart of downtown Norcross.
“Nick-Nick,” an excellent student and hard-working member of his high school football team, was in his basement bedroom playing video games. Nikia was upstairs doing whatever teenage girls do.
At 6:30 p.m., the peace was shattered.
Authorities believe at least four members of a six-man robbing crew — none Gwinnett residents, at least two convicted felons — stormed the basement that evening. They kicked in the metal door.
Nick, barricading himself inside his bedroom, was shot once through the heart. His sister hid and called 911.
Detectives believe the men who allegedly barrelled into the home that night, stealing little, were drawn there by rumors within metro Atlanta’s criminal element, tales of $1 million cash and 50 kilos of cocaine stowed inside. Within six months, Nicolas Jackson Sr. was arrested as part of a Drug Enforcement Administration investigation — the head man of a trafficking ring with direct ties to Mexico.
His home on Autry Street, federal prosecutors said, was targeted because of his actions. The elder Jackson’s drug dealing lead to his son’s murder.
Norcross Police Chief Warren Summers, a veteran of both law enforcement and criminal prosecution, was a month into a his current job when young Nick was killed.
“I can’t really say that I’ve ever seen something like this where the sins of the father are visited on the son,” he said.
Some 20 months later, a trial for one of the men implicated in Jackson’s murder is slated to begin. The final pieces of a tragic, winding puzzle are starting to take shape.
Thanks to Nikia Jackson, six men were arrested just a few blocks away on the day of the murder: Michael Davis of College Park; Jason Dozier of Lithonia; Anthony Lumpkin of Douglasville; and Atlanta residents Eddie Lewis Green, Timothy Lamar Johnson, and Reco West. Their ages at the time of arrest ranged from 19 to 46.
A seventh suspect, then-31-year-old Darrez Chandler, was arrested and charged later. He was not at the scene but “tied to the event,” a police spokesman said at the time.
Beginning Monday, 38-year-old Dozier, an oft-convicted felon with past crimes spanning most of metro Atlanta, will face murder, armed robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and weapons charges in front of Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Tom Davis. His trial has been separated from that of his co-defendants, who will be tried as a group next month.
Attorneys on both sides of the case are not saying why just yet.
“Dozier’s trial is severed from that of his co-defendants for various legal reasons,” Assistant District Attorney Mike Morrison said.
The prosecutor balked at offering further explanation, as did defense attorney Andrew Margolis.
“I can’t really be more specific without getting into the particulars of the case, which I can’t do,” Margolis said, adding that he and the district attorney’s office had agreed an individual trial was necessary.
Six shots from at least two weapons were fired into Jackson’s bedroom door that night. Only one bullet hit the teen. Officials believe they know who fired it, but they declined comment on that as well.
All seven suspects, including the one not on Autry Street that evening, are facing the same charges. Though only one of them allegedly shot and killed Jackson, all can be tried for his death because the court recognizes “the theory of parties to a crime,” Morrison said.
Anyone who aids, abets or encourages another in the commission of a crime is just as liable as those who actually carry it out.
“The person who drives a getaway car at a bank robbery,” Morrison said, “is just as guilty of the offense of armed robbery as the armed intruder who directly took money from the teller.”
Nick Jackson Sr., through his attorney, declined to be interviewed for this story. He was scheduled to begin serving 97 months in federal prison on Aug. 1.
It was unclear if he’ll be allowed to attend this week’s proceedings. If he’s there, he will undoubtedly grieve.
“Even if you cause the death of your child by your bad actions …,” Summers, the police chief, said before trailing off. “I know he feels for his kid. I don’t think for a second that he doesn’t miss his child.”
Nick-Nick Jackson was half of a school year removed from Hopewell Christian Academy when he was killed, but had attended a basketball game there just two days earlier. The valedictorian of his eighth grade class, he was known by all at the small private school.
“He was a leader,” Principal Dr. Burrell Pope said. “All the kids respected him, from the pre-K kids to the older kids. That’s how he carried himself.”
The teen’s family was active at Hopewell too — at least once a year, Jackson Sr. would sponsor a barbecue for teachers, staff and students. There was never any inkling of the father’s daily transgressions as a Cartel-connected drug trafficker.
“They were right there to assist,” Pope said.
After the younger Jackson was murdered, his former school named an award after him, bestowing it yearly to deserving students. It’s given for being, among other things, a good role model.