Daughter honors father shot, killed in Grand Park with inaugural 5K

32-year-old facing charges in murder of 72-year-old Willie Jackson

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The daughter of a 72-year-old Jacksonville man shot and killed outside his house in Grand Park last October got the community together Saturday to honor his life.

“To be able to see the look on his face,” Brigitte Harris said when she had to identify her father’s body. “[I was] shocked that somebody would take his life like that. That is a memory that I will never forget.”

Willie Jackson was shot and killed Oct. 23, 2021, while outside his house on 14th Street in the Grand Park neighborhood.

Willie Jackson was honored with a 5K Saturday (WJXT)

Harris said her father was just walking to his backyard when he was shot twice, including once in the chest.

“He barely could walk,” Harris said. “For someone to be able to walk up on him and take his life like that, I never imagined that that would be a phone call that I would receive.”

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office made an arrest 12 hours later. Police say 32-year-old Keith Cooper is facing charges for Jackson’s murder.

Harris said she doesn’t know how her father and Cooper knew each other. She said the only thing she was told is they were neighbors.

“My faith has allowed me to be able to forgive the young man,” Harris said. “But do I forget? I don’t forget.”

On Saturday, though, Harris wanted to focus not on how her father died, but on how he lived.

She held the very first “Ditch the Weight & Guns Willie Fred Jackson Sr. 5K.”

Harris had plenty of stories to tell about her father, who was affectionately called “Bubba Slob.”

“He was funny. He was a helper. He was caring,” Harris said about her dad, who was also a track and field star at Raines High School. “He was encouraging, and he was a mentor.”

Harris was joined by City Councilman Reggie Gaffney, who said Saturday’s event was a new way to pay tribute to a well-loved man, while also calling for an end to gun violence.

“It needs to stop,” Gaffney said of “senseless” shootings and murders. “Not just this one. It’s just too many happening in Jacksonville.”

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