By Esteban Ramirez
Special to The Runner
It has been almost seven years since gunshots rang out at CSU Bakersfield, killing 18-year-old Bianca Janae Jackson.
“I just remember her brother Jose Jackson, Jr. running out back to the [hospital] lobby and screaming, ‘she is fucking dead,’” said Ridgeview High alumna and friend Nicole Guillen. “Police had to restrain him, and we all just kind of broke down.”
A small party, which quickly got out of hand, turned into the only homicide in CSUB’s 47-year history.
Jackson was neither a student at CSUB nor the target of the gunfire.
She was trying to leave the party when, Bakersfield police say, a gang attempted to shoot a rival gang and Jackson was struck by a stray bullet.
“She had her whole life ahead of her,” said Veronica Aguayo, Jackson’s mother, “and it was just taken from her.”
Her shooter still hasn’t been caught.
This case remains open but has since ran cold.
Dark October night
A small office Halloween party hosted by now-defunct CSUB club Black Young Starz was scheduled for the late hours of Oct. 21, 2010.
As Black Young Starz made final preparations for the party in the Administration East building and behind a water tower near Parking Lot F, Jackson and some of her closest friends were making their own plans.
She was originally planning on going to the movies with her best friend Krystal Gardea.
Meanwhile, her other friend, Brylin Hadrian, was coming back to Bakersfield from Sacramento State and made plans to go to the party at CSUB.
Hadrian was told about the party by another friend. She and other friends told Jackson.
At first, Jackson was hesitant about going but then she changed her mind.
Jackson went to the party with high school friend Victor Donis and a few other friends, and Hadrian met them later.
They weren’t the only ones who found out about the party. The event was scheduled to have around 40 people but word spread through social media and more than 100 showed up.
Despite the overcrowded attendance inside the Administration East building and at the small area behind the tower, the party continued.
Jackson and her friends made their way to CSUB just before 9 p.m.
Gardea said Jackson was excited about her costume for the Halloween party. She dressed as a pirate.
The party had a haunted house theme and there was dancing. Hadrian said no alcohol was served.
“It was good, clean fun,” she said.
Jackson and her friends were enjoying the party and dancing, but around 9 p.m. fights started breaking out.
University Police Chief Marty Williamson said a minor disturbance was reported just after 9 p.m., but campus police handled the situation. After UPD had left the scene for the first time, officers returned for a report of more disturbances.
Another fight reportedly started at 11:20 p.m., and campus police once again stopped it.
After that fight, Donis said he started feeling tension at the party, so he decided to leave.
He asked Jackson if she wanted to go or stay, and she decided to stay with Hadrian and their other friends.
As the party was winding down, Hadrian wanted to change shoes, so they went out to Hadrian’s car.
On their way back into the party, Hadrian noticed four men drive by in a Land Cruiser.
“All these fights started breaking out,” Hadrian said. “There was one fight and then another fight and then another fight. It was like madness.”
Chief Marty Williamson said UPD officers didn’t stop the party because they were waiting for a lieutenant to arrive on scene and manage the situation before dispersing the crowd.
Hadrian said they made their way to the parking lot, and Jackson told her she wanted to leave.
As they were standing by Hadrian’s car, the Land Cruiser drove by again.
“I just had this feeling in my gut, and I said to her, ‘I think someone has a gun,’” said Hadrian.
Just then, at 11:39 p.m., the gunfire started.
Three shots were fired.
Hadrian ducked as Jackson pushed her forward to run away and avoid the gunfire. Hadrian said Jackson said “dude,” so Hadrian looked back. Jackson was looking at the sky holding her stomach with both hands.
“I’m looking at her in shock but then I realized something happened to her,” Hadrian said.
Jackson was struck by one of the bullets as the shooter and his accomplices fled in the vehicle.
Jackson put her hand on the car and then onto Hadrian before slumping down to the ground.
“I watched the life drain from her eyes,” Hadrian said.
Once Jackson was on the ground, her head began turning side to side and her body was convulsing, Hadrian said.
Hadrian started yelling for help, and that’s when campus security arrived on scene.
They called 911 and an ambulance quickly took Jackson to Kern Medical Center.
While Hadrian was being held at CSUB to be questioned, she called Jackson’s family to notify them of what happened.
“I got a phone call from my son that she had been shot,” said Veronica Aguayo, Jackson’s mother. “After that, it was just shock. It’s hard to believe because you think they can be somewhere safe, but evidently, nowhere is safe.”
Family and friends hoped she would pull through, but the gunshot wound was deadly, piercing her lungs.
Jackson was pronounced dead at 12:20 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 22, 2010.
“It was really hard because you are not prepared for something like that,” Aguayo said. “We kept praying, ‘please be OK,’ and then to find out she wasn’t and we couldn’t even see her, it was so hard.”
CSUB President Horace Mitchell, who was at home at the time, was informed of the shooting and made his way onto campus.
“It was really unfortunate that she was killed,” Mitchell said. “The shooting was between rival gangs, and Bianca Jackson was an innocent victim caught in the crossfire.”
Who was Bianca Jackson?
The words “forever in our hearts” and “beloved daughter and sister” read on a gravestone at Greenlawn Southwest Mortuary on Panama Lane to honor and remember Bianca Jackson’s life.
But for family and friends, these words aren’t enough to describe who Bianca was.
“She was loving and outgoing,” Aguayo said.
“She was the funniest person I ever met,” Hadrian said. “I think about Kevin Hart in a woman’s body and that was her. Everything she did was funny.”
“She was more than my best friend,” Gardea said. “She always made me feel that everything is going to work out and that everything is possible. She was the light in my dark tunnels.”
Bianca was born Sept. 26, 1992 in San Diego.
She was the youngest daughter of Jose Jackson and Veronica Aguayo and was the sister of Brittany Jackson, Jose Jackson, Jr., and Robert Jackson.
They were a military family, moving constantly before finally settling in Bakersfield.
Aguayo said Bianca was a good daughter, who never gave her problems.
Jose Jackson said his daughter never wanted anyone to be sad and would go out of her way to make them happy.
Her gravestone also shows an image of Bianca and art, which she drew herself.
“She was a really good artist,” said Ginger Booker, CSUB alumna and Bianca’s friend. “She’d paint, she would draw and she would rap, too.”
Bianca made rap videos with friends and family and posted them on Myspace. She rapped with friends in the back of the school bus.
She took graphic design classes at the Regional Occupational Center while she was at Ridgeview High School.
Bianca graduated from Ridgeview High in June 2010 and was getting ready for the next chapter in her life — going off to cosmetology school.
Aguayo said her daughter was considering going to the Milan Institute of Cosmetology in Bakersfield but because she was not yet 18 years old, she was not able to register.
She never got a chance to apply after turning 18. On Oct. 30, 2010, a memorial service for Bianca was held at Kern Christian Center on Gosford Road. It was then when Jose Jackson saw the impact his daughter had in her short life.
He said they had to constantly move the venue of the service because so many of her friends were calling to attend.
Their initial expected attendance was 100, but over 1,500 people showed up to the service to pay their respects.
“It was just a testimony to the kind of young lady she was and who she was going to be,” he said. “She was going to touch a lot of people, and I was just amazed by how many people just turned out.”
In the wake of the deadly shooting, multiple officers from the Bakersfield Police Department worked the case.
BPD Sergeant and Public Information Officer Ryan Kroeker said officers interviewed everyone who had information regarding the case, including Hadrian. She was taken to the station for questioning, where she gave a statement.
Detectives showed her a lineup of possible suspects, but she couldn’t identify any person who was directly involved in the shooting.
Police continued to follow leads, looking for the people responsible for Jackson’s death, eventually telling Hadrian they thought it was gang-related.
“We know about a lot of people who were there we believe [that] are affiliated with a street gang,” Kroeker said.
Kroeker said BPD believes they know which gangs were involved but doesn’t want to release their names so the gangs don’t get any more notoriety.
Hadrian said former detective and current district attorney investigator Dennis Murphy told her the gangs, which were thought to be responsible, were the Eastside Crips and Country Boy Crips.
Murphy declined to be interviewed for this story.
Wesley Davis, president and founder of The Wendale Davis Foundation, who reached out to the family following the shooting and works with BPD on gang outreach, said he also has heard those were the gangs involved.
Just hours following the shooting, BPD was able to identify two men suspected of being involved through various witness interviews.
BPD arrested Christopher Lee Miller and Jonathan Darnell Bell on Friday, Oct. 22, 2010 on obstruction charges. They were booked on murder charges the following day.
Witnesses told BPD that they thought Miller and Bell were involved in the shooting, but two days later Miller and Bell were released due to insufficient evidence.
Two other people were brought in for questioning that Monday when Bell and Miller were released.
At the time, 20-year-old Jamal Phillips and 17-year-old Marlon Burch were questioned but then later released.
Jose Jackson said other gang members visited him following the shooting, asking if the family wanted them to look into who was responsible.
They returned and gave him two names: Jamal Phillips and Marlon Burch.
They said they didn’t know who the driver was, according to Jose Jackson.
Jose Jackson, who never had been a part of any gang, visited Phillips and Burch at their homes. He said he tried to talk to Phillips, who was with his grandmother at the time, but he wouldn’t come out of the house.
Jose Jackson called the police, but an officer told him to leave and give the information to the investigating detective.
He talked to Murphy, but Jose Jackson said he was told BPD had to release Phillips and Burch because they didn’t have an eyewitness who was willing to testify.
Jose Jackson, who was in the Army for 24 years, said he feels the system has not worked out in his daughter’s case.
“I feel the process has failed, but I still have to obey the law and be here for my family and not be up for double murder,” he said.
Kroeker said BPD didn’t have enough evidence on either man for the district attorney to prosecute them.
Court records show Phillips was convicted for participating in a street gang back in August 2009.
Burch was a juvenile during the shooting so any priors are not available on the court’s records.
However, since the shooting, he has had multiple felonies and misdemeanors.
He has been convicted seven times, including five times for disorderly conduct.
On Aug. 10, 2017, he was arrested for violating parole. Interview requests were sent to Burch on Aug. 13 and Sept. 5, but he declined to be interviewed both times.
He was released from the downtown jail on Sept. 25.
Case runs cold
BPD continued questioning people suspected of being involved or people who may know who was involved, but lack of information kept the case from being solved.
It remains open, but this is now considered a cold case.
Kroeker said some people did come forward to say everything they knew but not everyone did.
“The fact that other people who aren’t responsible for it… refuse to tell us anything, is difficult because Ms. Jackson was innocent,” Kroeker said. “She didn’t deserve this.”
For over six years now, this case hasn’t seen any new leads.
Hadrian said about a year after the shooting she tried to call the detective on the case with more information she remembered, but she never got a response.
Aguayo said the last time BPD had reached out to her regarding the incident was in early 2011.
Jose Jackson said it hurts they didn’t receive any help from CSUB.
“They didn’t take any responsibility for it, which was very difficult for us to understand,” he said.
He said he wished they brought more awareness about what happened.
After the shooting, CSUB changed its procedures for holding events, promoting events on social media and campus security.
Mitchell said CSUB is still there for the family if they have any questions or want to talk about what happened.
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 one of a three-part series regarding this cold case. Lookout for the upcoming part to find out how this one incident has affected family and friends and also affected events at CSUB.
Bianca Jackson raps in the back of a bus with her friends. Video courtesy of Stacey Reed.