To read up on part one of this cold case series, click here
To read up on part two of this cold case series, click here
By Esteban Ramirez
Special to The Runner
This Sunday marks seven years since 18-year-old Bianca Jackson was killed in a gang-related shooting, resulting in the only fatality at CSU Bakersfield.
A party hosted by now-defunct CSUB club Black Young Starz near Parking Lot F quickly became a chaotic scene when two gangs showed up, causing fights and then a deadly shooting.
This case has gone cold due to lack of information, which is not too uncommon in gang-related homicides.
“There are so many unsolved murders, senseless murders in this community,” said Wesley Davis, president and founder of the Wendale Davis Foundation. “It’s just unbelievable.”
It is a part of gang culture in Bakersfield, which has continued to grow over the years. As the investigation for Jackson’s case continues to this day, community leaders look for answers on how to stop gang violence.
It’s the old phrase people have heard for years, “snitches get stitches.”
Like many cultures, gang culture has its own language, symbols and beliefs, and members of this culture believe in that phrase. That belief leads to many gang-related shootings going unsolved.
“Gang members typically don’t tell on each other,” said Sgt. Ryan Kroeker, the Bakersfield Police Department’s Public Information Officer. “Even if it’s a member from a rival gang who sees someone shooting, they aren’t going to come and tell us a lot of the times because they don’t want to be viewed as someone who is snitching.”
Kroeker said it may not make sense to normal people, but that’s how it is in gang culture.
“That’s the difficult part of working gang-related homicides,” he said.
Brylin Hadrian, 25, said she understands it is all a part of that lifestyle.
“I’m sure it’s hard for her family, but I think it’s gang culture and something I’ve accepted about gang culture,” said Hadrian, who was with Jackson at the party.
Davis said fear plays a big role in the community.
“I can’t remember the last time they actually arrested someone for a gang-related shooting,” he said. “It is because no one is willing to come forward and testify.”
Davis said another aspect in the culture is the music some children listen to. He said certain hip-hop music glorifies the mistreatment of women as well as shooting people. He added youth are also growing up seeing relatives take weapons with them every morning.
All these different aspects may be factors which play a huge role in gang culture, leaving community leaders wondering how to solve the issue of gang violence.
Treating the problem
With dozens of homicides and gang-related shootings every year and hundreds since the 2010 shooting, some are asking for changes in the system.
Davis, who works with BPD to help gang members get out of the lifestyle, said they are losing the battle right now.
“One thing I continue to suggest is we go back to the drawing board and come up with a new plan of attack,” he said. “By in large, we are losing this battle and we are losing it badly.”
In 2014, there were 61 gang-related shootings in Bakersfield. In 2015, there were 67 shootings, and last year, there were 76 shootings. Thus far this year, there have been 39, and those are only the ones that have been reported, according to BPD.
The 76 shootings in 2016 are the most there have been in the past seven years.
A high percentage of the shootings happen south of California Avenue, north of East Brundage Lane, east of Chester Avenue and west of Washington Street.
This two-square mile area is responsible for 33 percent of the gang-related shootings in Bakersfield, according to police.
Additionally, they are happening mostly on Friday and Saturday nights.
Davis said police need to ramp-up enforcement in those areas and on those days, but also they need more street lights and surveillance.
“Let’s put some cameras on those poles and let’s overload that two-mile radius with police cruisers on Friday and Saturday nights,” he said. “Let’s do some prevention instead of some intervention.”
Davis added another problem is gang members may be arrested for certain crimes but they are back on the street in no time.
“It frustrates me to see these gang members,” he said. “These guys are on gang file. Me being at the BPD table, I’m in the loop, so I know. I’m like, ‘this guy was just incarcerated two months ago and now he’s back out on the street. How is this happening?’ That’s bothersome.”
Davis said he knows law enforcement can’t put every member in jail, hoping that solves the problem. However, having gang call-ins, which are sit-down discussions with local gangs, isn’t the solution either.
“Some of these guys are too far gone for the ‘hug a thug’ approach,” he said. “They don’t care about that. They aren’t listening. We have to throw the book at them. Innocent people’s lives are at stake.”
Senaiah Hidalgo, whose son Edward Hidalgo was shot and killed by local gang members in 2009, said the unity is the solution for the problem with gang violence.
“I think the solution is peace and everyone coming together and marching together,” said Hidalgo at the 10th annual Walk for Peace in Bakersfield.
Davis said the community, law enforcement, CSUB, Bakersfield College and the Kern High School District need to be proactive in reaching out to grade school children to ensure the next generation doesn’t go into the gang culture.
“We need to get involved as early as possible and address it,” he said. “We need to give them the help that they need.”
Continuing the investigation
It has been seven years, but BPD continues to look for more information and new leads about those responsible for the death of Jackson.
“We are still working,” Kroeker said. “It’s still not a closed case. Bianca, she is not forgotten. Her name is referred to regularly around here.”
Kroeker said BPD needs the community’s help to solve the case.
“No matter how much time and effort and everything goes into it, if we don’t get people to cooperate, we’re not going to be able to solve it,” he said.
Originally, the investigating detective on this case was Dennis Murphy, but now the detective is Chance Koerner.
Because the case is still open, Koerner is not able to discuss it, according to Kroeker. BPD Chief Lyle Martin was not available for an interview regarding this story.
But family and friends say they hope Koerner and BPD are able to bring the person responsible to justice.
“I hope that it is solved for her family’s sake,” said Brylin Hadrian, Jackson’s friend. “I’m sure this person watched the news and saw the look on her mom’s face and knew what he did. He has to live with that every day he is alive, and one day he’ll have to answer for that even if it’s not here on Earth.”
Jackson’s friend and CSUB alumna Ginger Booker, 25, said she feels BPD knows who did it, but it comes down to not having enough evidence.
Veronica Aguayo, Jackson’s mother, said she is hoping for awareness to come out of this case.
“Crime is getting really bad here in Bakersfield,” she said. “Every day, people are losing their lives. I just want the person who did this to her to be held accountable or take some kind of responsibility, even though it’s not going to bring her back.”
She added she doesn’t want this to happen to anyone else.
“You don’t want to wake up one day, and your life is destroyed by this,” she said.
Jackson’s friends say they want justice and for the family to feel better.
“I just want peace for her family,” said Krystal Gardea, Jackson’s best friend. “I just want them to be OK. I’m not saying I don’t want them to find the person responsible, but I lean more toward her family being better.”
“I want justice. That’s all we’ve ever wanted was justice,” said Victor Donis, 25, who went to the party with Jackson.
Kroeker said there is a $5,000 Secret Witness reward for any information which leads to an arrest and filing of a complaint against any suspects.
Anyone with any information on the case is asked to call BPD at 327-7111 or the Secret Witness line at 322-4040.
Remembering Bianca Jackson
Every Oct. 22, Bianca’s family honors her by visiting and bringing flowers to her gravesite. They also have a special family gathering on Sept. 26 to celebrate her birthday.
“She was just so loving and affectionate, and I miss her every day,” Aguayo said. “I miss her calling me mom, I miss seeing her smile and just hearing her voice.”
Bianca’s father Jose Jackson said she is still with him and his family.
“I really do believe we have an angel watching over us,” he said.
Jose Jackson said his daughter left an incredible mark on so many people in a short time.
He said she never wanted anyone to be sad, and would go out of her way to make them happy.
He still remembers when his sons did not want to get up early and go with him on a fishing trip, but Bianca overheard the conversation and decided to go with him.
He said on that trip they caught a lot of bluegills, but she wanted to catch something bigger. So her father put a bluegill on the line and moments later she reeled in a 25-pound catfish.
“I was so proud of her. That’s who she was and that’s how I remember her,” he said.
Aguayo said Bianca always helped around the house and helped take care of her younger brothers.
“Anything I ever asked her to do, she did it,” Aguayo said.
She said Bianca was unselfish. Aguayo remembers one time on Bianca’s birthday, they were also celebrating her cousin’s birthday. Bianca went out of her way to help with festivities for her cousin’s special day and was doing face painting for all the kids at the party.
“She was so selfless,” Aguayo said. “She would never say no or that she wouldn’t do this. She was just a good girl.”
Her friends still cherish the times they spent with her.
“I would just love being at her house and spending time with her,” Hadrian said. “It was just her and I, and she would tell me stories and we would just laugh for hours and hours.”
Booker shared in the sentiment.
“Her mom would just let everyone come over, so that was the house we can just [go to]. That was our little freedom being at her house,” she said.
Now, Bianca’s family is in talks with CSUB to try and have something done in her honor on campus.
Though she only lived for 18 years, Bianca’s impact was felt by many.
“She touched so many people’s lives and not one day goes by that I don’t miss her. I wish she was still here,” Donis said.
She still inspires her friends and family in their lives and careers to this day.
“She’s motivating me now to do things that I still want to do or go out and pursue the jobs that I want,” Gardea said. “She’s always in the back of my mind.”
Bianca Jackson raps with friends in the back of a school bus. Video courtesy of Stacey Reed.