Who killed Bianca Jackson?

Part two: Chilling effects of a cold case

To read up on part 1 of this cold case series, click here

 

By Esteban Ramirez
Special to The Runner

One week from this Sunday will mark the seventh anniversary of the death of 18-year-old Bianca Jackson, who was shot and killed at CSU Bakersfield, making hers the only fatality on campus.

Her death was a result of a gang-related shooting during a Halloween party hosted by now-defunct CSUB club Black Young Starz on Oct. 21, 2010. Seven years later, this case remains unsolved.

Usage of social media to promote the event led to unwanted guests overcrowding the venue.

“It was the first time we saw an immediate need to respond to something that went out via social media,” said CSUB President Horace Mitchell.

CSUB needed to change event procedures, make changes to campus safety and catch up with the growth of social media to ensure an incident like this never happened again, according to Mitchell.

But as changes came to CSUB, no changes came in the status of the Bianca Jackson case.  

This case’s cold trail led family and friends to drift apart.



Chilling effects

Lives were forever changed that October night, and friends and family are still trying to recover following Bianca’s death.

“Your family is never the same,” said Veronica Aguayo, Jackson’s mother. “There’s always a missing piece.”

Aguayo was affected greatly by the shooting, as she was the one who allowed Bianca to go to the party.

“I feel guilty because if I would have said no, she would still be here,” she said.

Bianca’s father Jose Jackson said he didn’t blame Aguayo.

From left to right: Veronica Aguayo, Brittany Jackson, Robert Jackson, Bianca Jackson and Jose Jackson, Jr. take a family picture.
Photo courtesy of Veronica Aguayo.

“Her mother carries the burden herself because she did say she could go,” said Jose Jackson. “I didn’t say, ‘Hey, this is all your fault.’ We didn’t do all that, but I know there’s unspoken pain of what she feels.”

Bianca’s siblings have a tough time talking about the shooting, according to Aguayo.

Time doesn’t heal all wounds. The family has seen changes since 2010.

Aguayo said her daughter Brittany Jackson, who is two years older than Bianca and was attending CSUB at the time, chose to not finish her degree there because of what happened.

Aguayo said still to this day, Brittany has trouble visiting Bianca’s gravesite.

Jose Jackson said he thinks the death affected his youngest son Robert, 21, greatly by making him afraid of staying out late.

“He used to have nightmares of being shot down, and he just doesn’t like going out,” Jose Jackson said.

The effects of this case don’t just stop with the family.


 
Drifting apart

The shooting also left an indelible mark on Bianca’s friends.

Brylin Hadrian, 25, who was with her at the party, said she struggled to be around Bianca’s family because of survivor’s guilt — the feeling of having done something wrong by surviving a traumatic event when others did not.

“I’d feel like I cheated death because I was so close,” she said. “It would be hard for me to go through milestones in life and see her family because I would be thinking, ‘what if.’ What are they thinking? Are they disappointed that I couldn’t do something or that I didn’t push her out of the way? Do they look at me and get angry because I lived and not her?”

Ridgeview High School alumnus and friend Victor Donis, who gave Bianca a ride to the party and left before the shooting, said he blamed himself for what transpired.

“I put a lot of blame on myself, thinking it was my fault for bringing her there, and that she should have left when I was leaving,” Donis said.

Aguayo said she doesn’t blame any of her daughter’s friends, but it is a difficult situation.

“Everyone has to move on, but you also think about what she would have been doing,” she said. “You see all her friends growing up, and it’s hard. I know it’s not their fault.”

Ridgeview High alumna Krystal Gardea, Bianca’s best friend, said it got hard for her to be around the family.

“After everything that happened, I didn’t know how to confront those feelings,” Gardea said. “I didn’t keep in contact as much as I wished I would have. It’s something I still haven’t spoken up about or confronted. I don’t know if I can deal with that emotion or her family’s emotion.”

However, Jose Jackson said Bianca’s friends shouldn’t feel guilty for something nobody could have foreseen.

“Continue to live and do something in honor of your best friend Bianca. Make her proud,” he said.

Bianca’s death also affected the bond of her friends.

Ridgeview High alumna and Bianca’s friend Nicole Guillen said it kind of tore them apart.

“Some of us weren’t friends for awhile,” Guillen said. “It was hard on all of us.”

Gardea moved to Anaheim and Donis moved to San Jose because of the shooting.

“It affected us that much,” Donis said. “Everyone went their own ways.”  

Guillen said for nearly three years after the shooting, they stopped talking until Gardea brought them all together for Bianca’s 21st birthday. They had dinner, reconnected and reminisced over their good times with Bianca.


   
Dealing with the aftermath

After the shooting, the university held various discussions with students deemed responsible for the incident.

“We made sure that we talked to all those [students] to address the sense of blame that had been attached to them,” Mitchell said. “We were also concerned about the emotional well-being of our students as they were seen to be in the middle of this.”

Mitchell said he and CSUB officials also met with Jackson’s family following the shooting to answer any questions they had. Mitchell and CSUB staff members also attended the memorial service on Oct. 30, 2010.

Questions and concerns shrouded the campus in the days following the shooting.

Some of that questioning also had to do with Black Young Starz and its future on campus since it hosted the event.

However, CSUB wanted to show every student who was at the party that the university was there to hear them out and not judge or blame.

Black Young Starz was not punished for holding an event which got out of hand because of the other people involved.

University records show Black Young Starz was a club at CSUB until 2012, and though the club no longer exists, it is not because of the shooting.

“Student clubs come and go,” said Chief of Staff to the President Evelyn Young Spath. “Sometimes they don’t have ways to shift succession.”

Adviser of the club Keith Powell was laid off in 2011. A Public Records request was sent to CSUB for the reason of Powell’s termination. CSUB stated his position as director of the Educational Opportunity Program was eliminated for budget cut reasons.

Three emails and two phone calls were made to Powell for this story. They have gone unanswered.

Mitchell said nobody intended to do the wrong thing. Students were overwhelmed with how many people showed up, so after the tragedy, CSUB looked to just counsel and educate everyone for the future.



Changes come to CSUB

Event procedures, campus safety and social media usage all came under question at CSUB following the shooting, and the university had to address them immediately to ensure nothing like this would happen again.

Word of the party spread like wildfire through social media leading to an overcrowding of over 50 people at the venue and Bakersfield gang members showing up.

Because the event was scheduled to be a small party, CSUB Chief of Police Marty Williamson said the University Police Department didn’t think campus security was needed.

This was the first time social media became a subject of conversation when it came to educating the campus on promoting events.

Mitchell said it was important for students, clubs and organizations to understand the impact of social media and how information could go viral instantly.

The best way for them to educate the campus on this was through training, and it was spearheaded by the Office of Public Affairs and Communications.

Chief of Staff to the President Evelyn Young Spath said the university informed students about public and private settings so they could only invite the intended guests.

It wasn’t about restricting students but about being responsible on social media, according to Young Spath.

Director of Student Union EJ Callahan said the campus is a lot more aware of the importance of social media.

“Back then, I think [social media] was just on the verge of blowing up, and I don’t think a lot of people paid a whole lot of attention to it,” Callahan said. “I think now everyone is aware of the magnitude of social media.”

Procedures for club events were also in need of some change, and that came with the addition of 25Live and later RunnerSync.

These applications allow for clubs and organizations to connect and communicate with other students and clubs as well as promoting and scheduling events.

Young Spath said 25Live was being implemented back in October 2010 but wasn’t launched until after 2013.

Now, at the beginning of every academic year, student clubs and organizations must go through 25Live and RunnerSync training.

CSUB clubs and organizations have to fill out a form through 25Live if they wish to hold an event on campus.

In the form, they must state how many guests are going to attend, how many will be students, how many off-campus guests, and where the event is going to be.

The Halloween party where the shooting occurred was held at the Administration East building inside the Educational Opportunity Program office and behind a water tower near Parking Lot F, so the venues were too small. These forms help the campus gauge how big of a location will be needed to hold any event.

Mitchell said various people on campus, including Chief of Police Marty Williamson, must sign off on the event.

Additionally, Safety and Risk Management, Facilities and a member of the President’s Cabinet need to sign off on the requested event.

After the shooting, UPD needed to put more of a concerted effort on knowing which events were happening and where they were happening.

“I think the biggest lesson was that we are not immune to violence on this campus,” Williamson said. “I think it brought us into the reality that we are not immune to it and we need to be cognizant of it in everything we do in planning.”

Young Spath said they don’t want to restrict student life, but they need to think about everyone’s safety.

For certain events, such as Runner Nights, students can only invite other students who have a valid CSUB ID.

Mitchell said the shooting heightened the university’s awareness.

“For every activity on campus, we need to assess what is the level of security we need to protect the people who are here for that particular activity, whether they are students or members of our community,” he said.



Looking for answers

Years have come and gone but the trail for this case is still ice cold, leaving people close to Bianca wondering what could have prevented the situation and hoping for the answers they seek in this case.

Bianca’s mother Veronica Aguayo said she feels the party should have been stopped when UPD saw it was overcrowded and after the first fight.

The party wasn’t stopped.

According to Williamson, campus police was waiting for a lieutenant to arrive on scene and assess the situation before dispersing the crowd.

No one will know how things would’ve turned out if it was stopped, but now Bianca’s family is left with these questions, including why hasn’t the culprit been found yet?

“It feels like nothing is being done because there were so many people there,” Aguayo said. “There were people who saw and who know who was involved, but nobody will come forward.”

It’s almost seven years and Aguayo said she hasn’t been back to CSUB.

“It’s hard because you never hear CSUB say anything about it or help in the effort to try and keep it out there,” she said. “It’s like it is something that happened and was forgotten there.”

Wesley Davis, president and founder of The Wendale Davis Foundation, reached out to the family following the shooting.

Davis said he thinks CSUB should have stepped up and done something in honor of Bianca Jackson.

“If it were me, I would’ve moved for one of the places to be named after Bianca,” he said.

By not memorializing Bianca Jackson’s name at CSUB, Davis said it sends a message that she is to blame for what happened.

Jose Jackson said he is in discussions with CSUB about having a memorial put in place on campus to honor his daughter.  

“I don’t think that’s too much for CSUB to do,” he said.

Young Spath said the university is in talks with Jose Jackson but nothing has been confirmed at this time.

Aguayo said she feels people are forgetting about the case.

Bakersfield Police Department Sergeant and Public Information Officer Ryan Kroeker said a BPD homicide detective is assigned to the case.

The department received 34 homicide cases in 2016 and already 34 cases this year, but Kroeker says this case won’t be forgotten.

“We care about Bianca and we care about this case, but we need the community’s help to solve it,” he said.

As the investigation continues, the family waits and looks for answers to why it was her and who killed Bianca.

“You ask yourself those questions all the time,” Aguayo said. “What if they came home five minutes sooner? What if? It just tears you apart thinking about all the things that could have been done.”

BPD said there is a $5,000 Secret Witness reward for anyone with information which leads to an arrest and filing of a complaint against any suspects.

If anyone has any information regarding this case, they are asked to call BPD at 327-7111 or the Secret Witness line at 322-4040.

 


This is part two of a three-part series regarding this cold case. Lookout for the final part regarding where the case is at today and the growth of gang violence in Bakersfield. 

 

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