On the eve of Father’s Day, the family of Richard Jackson celebrated not just the memory of the father of six but also the recent conviction of the man who killed him four years age over what Philadelphia prosecutors said was a “stupid dispute.”
A young woman Jackson considered his stepdaughter had just given birth to a child fathered by Marcus Burns. It was Jackson’s fatherly instinct in telling Burns to stop selling drugs that touched off a fight at a family barbecue that led to his shooting death hours later on July 15, 2018.
“We’re talking about an incident in which a 40-year-old man, out of care for the child of a woman who is essentially his daughter, tells the father of that child ― a man in his 20s ― ‘You got to get a real job. You got to stop dealing drugs. You’re a father now. Be a man,’ ” District Attorney Larry Krasner said.
“And what comes of that is a beating, a black eye, then being shot to death in his own home ― through the heart ― when he answered the door.”
According to prosecutors, Burns’ brother Daryl, 28, took offense to the “get a job” advice Jackson gave his younger brother at the barbecue in Grays Ferry and fought him there. Later that day, Daryl Burns went to Jackson’s home in West Passyunk and fatally shot him. Daryl Burns eluded capture for more than a year. He was arrested in July 2019, and a jury last month convicted him of first-degree murder and related crimes. On Aug. 18, Burns is scheduled to be sentenced to a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole by Common Pleas Court Judge Diana L. Anhalt.
Krasner praised the witnesses who came forward to help investigators close the case.
“They have made it clear that there is accountability for anyone who picks up a gun and points it at another human being,” he said.
Jackson’s death was one of 353 homicides in Philadelphia in 2018. But his family remembered him as much more than a statistic: a devoted dad, skilled construction worker, confidant, and friend.
Vitia Wilson, Jackson’s companion of 13 years, said he was not only a father to his and her six children, including a son who cannot walk, but to other children in their West Passyunk neighborhood.
“One thing he would always say that I will never forget is, ‘I might can’t save them all, Tia, but I’m going to try to save one,’ ” Wilson said.
“That was his motto with everything,” she added. “All he wanted was a family. All he wanted is what was best for his family. And if he could help somebody on the outside, he would do so.”
Wilson’s daughter, whom Jackson had helped raise since the age of 5, is the mother of Marcus Burns’ son.
Sheresse Jackson, Richard Jackson’s sister said: “You could count on Richard to be at every event he was invited to .... Richard was the community uncle, brother, friend, and a great neighbor. I miss my brother, and I am at ease that justice has been done for my brother.”
According to witnesses who were present at the family barbecue in the 1500 block of South Bambrey Street, after Daryl Burns attacked Jackson, he and Marcus were asked to leave.
Jackson told one witness that he was going home to take a shower and calm down. Later that evening, another cooperating witness observed Burns walk up to Jackson’s front door located in the 2000 block of Norwood Street, bang on it, and shoot Jackson point-blank in the chest after he opened it.
“Burns calmly returned the handgun to the waistband of his pants and left the area,” according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Investigators used surveillance footage obtained from several locations, in conjunction with witness’ accounts, to identify Burns, the office said.
“Our office needs the public to know that resources are available to ensure your safety, and we urge you to come forward with any information that can assist law enforcement in solving violent crimes. We cannot do this alone,” Krasner said.
“This is a heartbreaking case,” said Assistant District Attorney Robert Wainwright, who tried the case against Burns. “The dispute began in a moment when the victim was trying to do a very good thing,” he said. “It was an honor to try this case when ... your victim is as good of a person as Richard Jackson was.”
In Jackson’s memory, Krasner asked: “Can we have a Father’s Day without killing, is that possible? Can we do that in this city? I sincerely hope so.”