The Shots No One Heard
Terrance Jackson remembers standing in the middle of his living room as two Minneapolis patrol cops passed him on their way out the door. Nothing they could do, they said. Which left him alone with Stacy again. The police knew that his wife had just tried to stab him with a kitchen knife; she said so to the 911 operator. And they knew there was a gun in the house.
Stacy started right back in the minute they left. "One of those cops asked me out," she teased.
"So what?" Jackson said. "I'm going to get somebody else too."
He turned and began a familiar trek up the stairs to pack a few things and leave, as he'd done more than a dozen times before.
This time he was stopped in his tracks by the metallic sound of a bullet being drawn into a pistol chamber. He spun around to see her standing at the bottom of the stairs with his .25-caliber handgun pointed at him. She had a familiar look on her face, he remembers thinking, the one she got when the lid was about to come off. Jackson ran the rest of the way up the stairs and locked himself behind the bathroom door.
"She banged on it and banged on it and banged on it," he says. "And she was cussing me out. She said, I'm going to shoot you in one head and then shoot you in the other head."
He pauses. "It was pretty poetic, you know what I mean. Then she was doing a crusade for all my ex-girlfriends, saying in the name of Kim and the name of Elanya and doing that whole kick. When she gets angry, she doesn't peak. She just keeps going on and on and on."
The commotion finally stirred the couple's infant son, TJ, who had been asleep downstairs. He began to cry. "I said, 'Put the gun down, you're going to be really sorry if something dumb happens. TJ is crying. Put the gun down.' I'm thinking should I jump out the window? It was on the second floor. I'm like, shit, she ain't going to do it."
Just then, Stacy managed to kick out the bottom plank of the bathroom door. "She stuck her head and the gun through. I was picking up hairspray and stuff and throwing it at her," he says. "She retracted on that whole thing. And she continued to bang on the door.
"I would say about a half-hour, 45 minutes later a hinge popped out, then another hinge. If I leaned against the door, she could shoot through the door, so I didn't know what to do. The door eventually came down. And I stepped into the doorway and she started firing. With each step I got shot.
"First step was here," he says, pointing to his left shoulder.
"Second step I took, I was shot here." He points lower, almost at his heart.
"By the time I took my third step, I was right next to her. That was when she shot me in my leg. And she was still going to pull the trigger but I grabbed her and the gun shot her in the leg."
They struggled until he got the gun out of her hand and threw it out a window. And then Terrance Jackson kissed his wife on the back of the head and told her he loved her. Asked her to call 911. He walked out into the street for help, trailing blood all the way. "It was a beautiful sunny day, winter time," he says. "It was Sunday afternoon and I remember there was a little white kid standing in front of his house and I tried to say 'call for help,' but the words didn't come out. I could see myself riding on my little trike. My life was passing before me."
Jackson spent 10 days at Hennepin County Medical Center full of tubes, including one to drain the blood from his left lung. He went through two surgeries. The bullet that entered his body near his left nipple had bounced around a bit, hitting the sac around his heart, his diaphragm, and his spleen before lodging near his spine. One of the other bullets was removed days later from his left hip, which had to be fitted with metal screws. The third is still lodged near his collarbone.
The coming days were a reunion of sorts for Jackson. Friends who hadn't seen him in months, even years, flocked around his hospital bed. His father, to whom he'd never been close, visited every day. Jackson had lost touch with lifelong pals during the two years he'd been married. Even the ones he tried to stay in touch with had eventually stopped coming around his house. They didn't want to meet up with Stacy. They thought she was crazy.
Police records show no arrests or charges stemming from altercations between Terrance and Stacy Jackson before the shooting. He had called the police about her on one occasion; for her part, the only concrete incident that Stacy Jackson's defense attorneys would ever be able to point to involved a broken rib she sustained during one of their fights. And on that occasion it appeared that she was the first to turn violent. Friends of Terrance Jackson, male and female, say Stacy (who, along with her mother and her attorney, declined to speak to City Pages) was typically the aggressor, a claim that police records seem to bear out. "I usually was the one to be physical," she is quoted as saying in one police report. She once had to go to the hospital with a broken hand--caused, according to her own account, by hitting her husband so hard.
Cedric Sanford, who's known Terrance Jackson since they were kids growing up together in north Minneapolis, says he saw the shooting coming. "I was the one who told him she was going to shoot him," says Sanford, "five or six months in advance. He was complaining that they were living in an unsafe neighborhood and that he wanted protection for her because he was gone so much. He said he was going to get a handgun. I said, 'She is going to shoot you.' He just laughed at me. But I'd see her grab at him around the collar and scratch him. I told him, 'She's not stable. She's going to get mad at you one of these days and shoot your ass.'"
Stacy Alicia Lawrence literally walked into Jackson's life one day. He and a friend were driving home from band rehearsal when they saw a slender, attractive woman walking down the street in a bright red sweater. By the time the two managed to get back around the block, another car had stopped to talk to her. Jackson waited. They made small talk for a while, and then Jackson asked her on a date. At the time he had a small part in the Guthrie Theater's production of Skin of Our Teeth. He invited her to see it.
They hit it off from the beginning. It turned out that she had lived a block away from the house where he grew up and he didn't even know it. Now that had to be fate, he thought.
Jackson spent his formative years among some now-famous company. He sang and played percussion in Prince's first band, Grand Central, which also included Andre Cymone (born Andre Anderson) and Charles "Chazz" Smith. When the band members were in their early teens, they used to practice in Jackson's basement. They were like brothers, sharing their first experiences with liquor and sex.
Jackson's mom and dad both had successful careers, his mother as a school teacher and his father as a Hennepin County prosecutor. They were busy; Jackson remembers vying constantly for his mother's attention. "She was a loving person," remembers Chazz Smith. "But she never thought Terry worked his potential. They had high expectations of him. But Terry, his focus was always misdirected. He could never lock in. It's not that he was lazy, it's just that he could do so much and nobody ever funneled it for him."
Jackson's mother died when he was 18. He was so grief-stricken that he hitchhiked to California to get away without telling anyone. When he finally came back, he began what would be a lifetime of bad relationships. He would fall in love, but something would always get in the way. Another man. Hot tempers. Sometimes he would run away. He joined the army when he was 22 after one particularly rough breakup.
When he came back two years later after a general discharge, some of Jackson's childhood bandmates were making good. "Prince promised to put us all in his first group," says Smith, "but some people got to Prince and told him it's not a good idea to put friends in the group. That hurt Terry." Jackson played brief stints in other bands through the years, but none of them worked out. "He never believed in himself," continues Smith. "He always felt like he had to have a woman. I have seen women be violent to him. One lady took a crowbar and busted the windows out of his car. I never saw him be violent, though I've heard things."
Jackson liked aggressive women. "I remember when a girl would get mad at me," he says, "I would be like ooooh, fire. I like that. She's got fire in her. That was just like my mom. My mom would beat the crap out of me but I loved her still. I remember having really nice girls, but thinking they were boring." He was a fighter, a Golden Gloves boxer, and he thought nothing about slapping a woman if she made him mad. The Minneapolis Police Department has no arrest record for Jackson before 1990, when he was picked up three times for assault. According to court files, only one of those incidents resulted in charges.
Jackson thought things would be different with Stacy. She was 21, more than 10 years his junior. "She's a very artistic person," he says. "I discovered that in her. I said I would help her, kind of like a mentor. When things were good, they were the best. She understood me as being an artist. She encouraged me. I'm a person who lives by inspiration, which is kind of sad." Three months after they met, they were married in a small ceremony on Valentine's Day, 1991.
During their marriage, Jackson sought medical attention numerous times for injuries he says he sustained at the hands of his wife. Once, he says, she kicked him so hard that it bruised his kidney and caused him to pass blood for a week. Another time she sprained his wrist. "Even before we got married," he says, "I told her I would leave her if she kept on hitting me. She broke her hand on me. She hit hard. She had a little bony fist and believe me, you can hurt somebody no matter what size you are. I told her I'd leave her. And I did leave her. I left her a lot."
At least 18 times, by his own count. Stacy Jackson would later tell police that the two of them accepted violence as part of their relationship. Once, in 1992, Terrance Jackson called the police on his wife, complaining that she was hitting him so hard with her fists that she was giving him welts. He made an audio tape of the ensuing police call--just in case the police didn't take him seriously, he says.
"She's been throwing stuff at me, she punched on me, pushed me around," he told the officers.
"Do you want her to just leave for a while?"
"Yes, I would like for her to leave, please... She's trying to provoke me to hit her."
The officers, after expressing dismay at having to sort out the problems of two grown people, decided to flip a coin to see who should leave. Jackson lost.
"Why should I go to jail if I didn't do anything wrong? I'm the one who called."
"OK, listen to me. As long as we're involved, we make the decisions here."
Jackson explained that his teenage daughter from another marriage was in the house and having some personal problems that he needed to stick around and handle. The police then told Stacy she had to find someplace to cool off.
"What do I do to file a report?" asked Jackson.
"Call the city attorney's office. But I'll tell you right now, it won't stick. It's a woman's state. Unless she broke a bone or something, it's almost impossible..."
"What do you mean, it would be impossible to arrest her? She admitted she hit me."
"Yeah, we could arrest her, but you know what's gonna happen. She'll be out of jail in less than 10 minutes."
He called the police again on February 28, 1993, this time to say that she had tried to stab him with a kitchen knife and chased him down the street with it. He called 911 from his grandmother's house down the block and asked that police meet him back at his house so that he could get some clothes and personal items. He didn't want to go over alone, he said, because "I have a gun in the house also." He mentioned the gun twice. Stacy called 911 while Jackson was on the line. Her version of the story was that "I've been assaulted by my husband and I need to have someone come out here so I can make a report... I kicked him out of the house."
"Hold on a sec," says the operator on the 911 tape. "Are you--we have, uh, we have, we have your, is it your husband or boyfriend?"
"Yeah, it's my husband."
"He's on the other line here."
"Um, he's saying that you stabbed him."
"I tried to."
"You tried to stab him?"
The police showed up at the house and left the two there, gun and all. In police reports, the attending officers would claim that "neither party wanted the other arrested and both refused to leave." They would say that they didn't know anything about the gun, though Jackson, Stacy, and the transcript of the 911 call all indicated otherwise. It's an important point, since MPD policy states that "Arrests for domestic abuse, based on probable cause, are expected if any of the following circumstances exist: Signs of injury or impairment, dangerous weapon involved, alleged assault--no signs of injury, victim alleges to be in fear of immediate bodily harm."
Less than an hour later, husband and wife were shot. And Stacy Jackson was on the phone to 911 again:
"I need the police at, uh, 3840 Clinton Avenue South. We're shot."
"Both of us."
"Who, who shot you?"
"My husband... and I shot each other."
"Where are you shot?"
"In the leg."
"Where is he shot?"
"In the chest."
"Stay with me on the phone."
"He's walking on the street."
Stacy Jackson gave a description of her husband and the general direction in which he was walking.
"Are you bleeding badly?"
"Um, not really, no."
"How did he get shot?"
"Huh? I shot him."
Stacy Jackson was released from the hospital after being treated for a minor leg wound. She was not arrested for a month; she would later claim that she had been in fear for her life when she shot her husband, that he had been "acting weird" and had beaten her earlier in the day, which she told police was unusual: She was the one who "usually hit first." She said that when she shot him, he had been calling her names, asking where the gun was, and "ranting and raving, telling me to pack my shit and go."
Three or four days into Terrance Jackson's hospital stay, he was served with a restraining order filed by his wife. "I asked her about that," he says. "I said, 'Why in the world would you send me a restraining order in the hospital after you shot me?' She said the [battered women's] advocates told her to do that. As soon as this thing happened, advocates were sent to her. Which kind of struck me, too. Because here I am, I'm the victim. I got hurt. How come I ain't got no advocate?"
Domestic abuse cases are often the most difficult criminal proceedings. Victims often decide they don't want to press charges. Or they go back to their abusers. Nicole Nee, who prosecuted the case against Stacy Jackson, says she's heard many a tearful plea in her office begging her to drop charges. "What we tell our victims is that this is the state of Minnesota versus the defendant, not you versus the defendant. You are not the plaintiff. You don't have the power to bring or drop charges.
"We almost approach them like murder cases, where the victim is dead. We try to make it so they don't have to testify. It's hard when she--or he--is going to be changing their story because they are so afraid or so wrapped up. It's hard. It's tangled and emotional. But we also have to remember that every case could end up being a murder next time."
It seemed to Terrance Jackson from the beginning that the system was treating Stacy as the victim. For one thing, there was more scrutiny of his past behavior--especially his past arrests for assault--than of anything his wife had done. "I was mad at the way it started out," says Jackson. "Because I can already see the way people are coming at me, especially child protection. The whole thing was, 'What did you do to her to make her do that to you?' I can see if I jumped on her, if I were the one who kicked down the bathroom door to get to her and then she shot me. Or if I was beating her up and she ran and got the gun and shot me. But that wasn't the scenario. The scenario was she came after me. She hurt me."
Domestic abuse advocates flocked around Stacy from the beginning, he says. He was referred to one organization, the Domestic Rights Coalition, which director George Gilliland Sr. calls the only in-court advocacy service for battered men. But that group gets no aid from the state, so it charges clients a sign-up fee and hourly rates.
When Stacy Jackson was finally arrested, the charges were first and second degree assault. Prosecutors didn't file for attempted murder charges, says Nee, because "it's easier to get first degree. You don't have to prove intent to kill. If I could have proved that, it would have meant a lot more time." Nee declined to press the stiffer charges even though there had been a witness in the Jackson home who saw and overheard parts of the altercation that ended in Stacy Jackson's effort to stab her husband just an hour before the shooting. It wasn't unlike other fights they had had: Following an exchange that the witness didn't see, the man watched Stacy kick Terrance in the groin and "[start] smacking him," after which Jackson threw her to the ground. They moved their fight to another room. "Then," the witness told police, "I heard, 'Stacy, don't stab me, don't stab me, put the knife down, put the knife down.'" Later, after she had chased him out of the house, the witness told investigators she came back swearing, "I'm gonna kill him, I'm gonna kill that motherfucker."
Stacy Jackson and her attorneys based their case on a claim of battered women's syndrome. The defense isn't used that often, since there aren't that many instances in which women are charged with beating or trying to kill their husbands. Not that it never happens. Some studies claim that men and women abuse each other in roughly equal numbers; a 1986 survey published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that 54 percent of all violence termed "severe" was by women. to a 1994 Justice Department study, 41 percent of spousal murders are committed by wives. These numbers obviously run counter to conventional wisdom, which holds that women are seldom if ever the aggressors in cases of domestic violence. Part of the perception gap, claims Gilliland, is due to men's shame at being beaten up by women. Then, too, men are stronger and more likely to inflict the kind of injuries that result in trips to the hospital and outward signs of abuse.
The battered women's syndrome defense gained official standing in Minnesota in 1989 when the state Supreme Court ruled that experts on the subject could testify in court. The case in question involved a woman who shot and killed her husband after years of medically documented broken bones and internal injuries. One night her husband came home drunk and proceeded to hit her in the head with a pan from the stove, pull her around the room by her hair, and throw her to the floor repeatedly. He pummeled her with whatever heavy objects he found at hand: a piece of firewood, a car part, a rocking chair. After he finally went into the bedroom and passed out, she picked up a gun and shot him.
"It seems that any defense by Stacy Jackson along those lines was much less plausible," says Nee. "My recollection of what Stacy claimed was that Terry had assaulted her two or three times during the relationship. She said that one time he broke her rib and on another occasions may have pushed her around. They may have been planning to claim that she was around abusive men her whole life, and that anything Terry did took on more significance.
"In any case where somebody is deciding whether to prosecute, we wouldn't prosecute if it appears a claim of battered women's syndrome is meritorious. In this instance, was the response reasonable? It clearly was not. My impression was that no matter what Terry might have done in past, it was minimal compared to what Stacy did on this occasion. This was over the top."
It turned out that the defense never had to make good on the claim before a jury. Stacy pled guilty to first degree assault after an arrangement was made with the judge in the case, Patricia Belois. Based on various factors--a psychological evaluation of Stacy Jackson, Terrance Jackson's police record, Stacy's claims that she was abused by him, and the observation that "she appeared at that time particularly amenable to probation and his safety seemed to be protected"--she was given the deal of a lifetime.
Belois departed radically from sentencing guidelines, which recommend 86 months in prison for first degree assault, with penalties ranging up to 20 years in prison and a $30,000 fine. She handed down a sentence of 36 days in the workhouse, minus the six days already served in jail, with the remainder of a year spent on home monitoring. She would be on probation for 10 years and would have to submit to psychological counseling.
Nee didn't file any motions in opposition to the arrangement. "In some cases, if it's clear to me that a victim is in immediate danger if this person doesn't go to prison, I would argue vehemently for prison." But in this case, she says, she didn't see that. "Did 86 months seem to be appropriate? It would seem so. She almost killed him." But one of the considerations weighed by Nee and Belois was the fact that Jackson didn't want his wife to go to prison.
"People around me were saying they didn't think it was a good idea for me to send the mother of my child to prison for seven years," says Jackson. His own grandmother told him she once tried to kill her husband. They went on to pick up the pieces, she said, and he should do the same thing with Stacy. "Instead of people rallying around me saying this is wrong, some of my family members and the whole court system kind of said it was OK for her to do that. It's not OK for me to hit her, or holler at her or slap her. But when she hits me, tries to cut me with a knife, almost kills me, that's OK."
Judge Belois said during sentencing that Stacy would have to toe the line: "Perhaps the hardest part of this sentence is going to be during the period you are on probation, you are to have no contact with Terrance Jackson. You are to initiate no contact with him except such contact as is approved by the Family Court....
"It is a miracle of bad aim and extremely good luck that you didn't kill him. If you had killed him you would be looking at not how many days you were going to be in the workhouse but how many years you were going to be in Shakopee.... You set yourself up in a position where you have done something that is about the third or fourth most serious crime in the state. You had other options that you had previously used. You could have left, withdrew.... If I thought for a minute that you were going to be back here I never would have done this. Now, I have a great deal of confidence in your ability to learn from this experience. I do not think you fully appreciate how completely I intend to interfere with your living of your life as a consequence for this offense. The probation office will know your whereabouts. The probation office will have the right to demand your participation in every kind of program designed to help you finish the growing up that you apparently have not yet accomplished."
Before long Terrance and Stacy were together again. He says she began coming around his house while she was still on home-monitoring. He claims he called her probation officer time after time to complain, but "he never did a thing." (Probation officials say they can't comment.) And then, of course, there was the matter of their son, TJ, who was living with his mother. They were constantly tussling over when Jackson could visit and for how long. Pretty soon they were living together again, in a northeast Minneapolis townhouse.
"I look at it like this," says Jackson, "I was very weak at that point. I think that except for my infancy as a child, the weakest time in my whole entire life was right after that incident happened. I was mentally and physically inept. And I was in a daze from drugs and alcohol and from the shock itself. From the physical pain." Jackson had taken to drinking since the shooting, especially when the codeine ran out. "When I got shot I was pretty much drug-free," he says. "I might have dabbled in cocaine or marijuana or alcohol a couple times a month. But I had this pain, this ugly, ugly pain. I started drinking Jack Daniels. Eventually, I would say, a good quart a day. Then Jack Daniels wouldn't be enough. I started smoking some weed with that. Then one day a friend came over, had some crack cocaine. I tried that and I didn't feel nothing."
He went on that way for almost a year, until Valentine's Day 1994--his third wedding anniversary--when he landed in the hospital with an overdose. Jackson went straight to treatment after that. He says he's been clean ever since.
Once he collapsed after a rehearsal at the Guthrie theater due to an intestinal blockage brought on by scar tissue from the shooting. And he was battling depression. One doctor prescribed Lithium, but it made Jackson groggy, so he stopped taking it. According to one longtime friend, "He's just kind of distant. He pushed everybody away. I went probably about 10 or 11 months without talking to him. He's a very talented man. But since [the shooting] he's been like a turtle going into a shell."
In 1995, Jackson's grandfather died. He decided to move in with his grandmother--to take care of her, and to get away from Stacy for a while. It was tense at home, just like old times. Cedric Sanford helped him move. "She wasn't there," he recalls, "and [Terry] was trying to get his stuff packed and get out of there. We started packing the truck and she pulled up. She freaked out because she didn't want him to leave her. Then she was dumping his stuff in the yard. She went from pleading that she didn't want him to go to 'get out take everything' back to 'why are you doing this to me?' It was a weird situation. We took the first load and came back and she had packed up everything that was supposed to be his and had it sitting in the living room. And she was as nice as pie."
Jackson went upstairs to make sure he had everything. Then something happened. Sanford heard Terry and Stacy arguing. "He was coming down the steps," says Sanford, "when a computer stand came flying down. It was big enough to hit him and hurt."
Jackson went to the doctor the next day for back pain. Later on he filed a police report, and Stacy Jackson was charged with fifth degree assault and disorderly conduct. But because he was violating a restraining order by living with her, the state dropped the charges. Her probation, meanwhile, was apparently not reviewed for the alleged assault or for having contact with Jackson. In fact, since last fall, she's been living with her parents in Virginia on "inactive probation," meaning that she does not have to check in with officials.
Jackson says he is in the process of divorcing his wife. He is working with an attorney, looking into the possibility of filing suit against the Minneapolis Police Department for failing to intervene after Stacy tried to stab him. If they can make a strong case that the officers violated a policy, says attorney Jeff Thone, "then we've got something."
Before Stacy moved away, the couple had another child, a girl born in August of last year. Jackson says he's supposed to have custody of both his children for the summer. He's planning to go pick them up in the next month or so, but adds that Stacy has also discussed moving back to town.
He still talks about getting back together, which worries his friends. According to Chazz Smith, "He said she's trying to get him to come down and build a house. My wife and I made a bet. I bet her he was going to go. That's why I'm trying to stay with him every day. I told him to call me if he feels the urge to do drugs or go back to her. She's like a drug to him. That's why I'm glad a buddy is going down to get his babies with him. There are a lot of people watching him now. As long as it stays like that, I think it might be OK." CP
Mary Ellen Egan contributed to research for this story.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.