BUSHWICK — Police are investigating the death of 79-year-old James Jackson, who was fatally shot in his Bushwick apartment early Sunday, as a homicide.
Authorities found Jackson with a bullet wound in his neck at 2:24 a.m. Sunday inside his first-floor apartment at 1091 Gates Ave. Initial reports said a stray bullet may have struck him, but authorities now believe Jackson was shot intentionally, sources said.
Police think Jackson may have been a small-time drug dealer who also sold untaxed cigarettes, sources said.
Jackson's blind girlfriend, Dianne Gayles, 68, found him slumped over a couch in the living room early Sunday morning, according to her son, Rob Gayles.
A neighbor, who declined to give his name, said he heard a woman's "loud, prolonged screaming" coming from the apartment Sunday morning.
Rob Gayles, 47, strongly denied that his mother's boyfriend was involved in anything illegal.
"The man was in his 70s," he said. "He didn't sell drugs."
Neighbors remembered Jackson as a friendly man who took care of his girlfriend.
"He would take her to church. He would make sure she was alright," said the neighbor.
Another resident, Lamont Lauderdale, 18, said Jackson loved to hang out on the building's stoop during the summer and talk to neighbors.
"He was a cool guy — quiet," Lauderdale said. "Everybody knew him."
Neighbors lit votive candles and wrote remembrances on paper bags taped to the lobby wall.
"R.I.P Best Friend. You're not here [any] more but you're still in my heart," wrote Johancel Jaquez.
Gayles said his mother was staying with close relatives, who could help take care of her.
"This [is] all devastating to her right now," he said. "She's been through a lot."