A Family’s Heartbreak, a Community’s Resolve
On the day of his death, 14-year-old Clive Jackson Jr. was waiting for a bus to go to the mall, having turned down a ride from his father.
Out of school early, Junior -- as everyone called him -- wanted to take the bus with two friends.
Junior was a basketball player. He hoped to play for the NBA. First, he intended to attend UCLA, his mother’s alma mater. He was already saving money for college textbooks. He got mostly A’s at Crenshaw High School. He wore suits to church. He was not a gang member.
On Nov. 21, Junior stood with his two friends in front of Magees Donut Shop on South Western Avenue near Vernon Avenue when he was approached by another teenager. Authorities say it was Antwaine Butler, 17, a member of the Rollin’ 40s Crips. An exchange of words led to a scuffle. Losing the fight in front of two gang cohorts, Butler pulled out a handgun and shot Junior in the chest and head, police say.
Police have an arrest warrant out for Butler and are seeking to interview his fellow gang members.
In the weeks since Junior’s death, he has become a poster child against gang violence. In a news conference announcing a crackdown on gangs earlier this week, Mayor James K. Hahn stood at the lectern flanked by Junior’s family.
“Let the death of Clive Jackson be a call to action,” Hahn said as Junior’s parents wept.
Junior’s father, Clive Jackson Sr., was at the carwash less than two blocks away when Junior was gunned down. Shooting at the bus stop, someone said. Jackson raced over. He found his son lying with his face covered.
“My heart stopped,” said Jackson, 42, general manager and executive chef for a catering company. “I’m lost, really. What kind of world are we living in?”
Junior intended to go to the mall to get T-shirts for a Thanksgiving vacation trip to New Orleans that his father had planned.
Usually Jackson dropped his son off wherever he wanted to go. Why didn’t he insist this time? he asked himself over and over.
“It should be fine for a kid to hop on the bus without worrying that he is going to get killed,” Jackson said.
Before Jackson remarried earlier this fall, he brought Junior with him to the bank to withdraw money for the engagement ring.
Junior, after all, would be the best man at the wedding. Jackson told Junior to put the money in his pocket. At the jeweler’s, he and his son picked out a ring and Junior plunked down all the cash. His father gently scolded him, “You have to count it first,” he told him.
It was, Jackson thought, an indication of Junior’s trusting nature. Here was his son, whose heroes were Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, assuming that the world was honest and good.
Junior was born and raised in the same South Los Angeles neighborhood where he was killed. He attended Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School and Audubon Middle School.
“He was always calm; he knew to avoid trouble,” said his half sister, Monique Smith.
Junior spent most of his week with Monique and their mother, Sharon Smith, 42, an operations manager at a bank in Gardena.
But he adored his new stepbrother, 5-year-old Blair. He and Blair played baseball, which was Blair’s sport, and basketball, which was clearly Junior’s game -- he was a member of Crenshaw’s freshman basketball team.
In the days after Junior’s death, Jackson and his new wife tried to explain to Blair what happened. Whenever anyone called their Baldwin Hills home, Blair would pick up the phone.
“Did you know Junior died?” Blair would ask. Then he’d say, “Junior is not going to ride his bike anymore. Junior is not going to wear his nice clothes anymore. Junior is not coming back.”
At Sharon Smith’s home, the grief is also still fresh.
“He was my life, he was not just my son but a best friend,” she said.
Smith and her son watched basketball games together and shopped together.
When they strolled in Beverly Hills, Junior admired the shoes in Gucci. She told him she wouldn’t purchase shoes that expensive for him until his feet had stopped growing.
He had no beef with that. She did, however, get him shirts and a hat at Burberry’s.
Junior liked to talk about college with his mother, who -- like his father -- emigrated from Jamaica. He liked to hear about her days at UCLA, where she’d won a scholarship. Because she went to UCLA, Junior also hoped to go to school there.
Monique Smith, 23, said she hopes that in death her brother will make the difference he planned to make in life.
“He cared about the neighborhood,” she said. “He had so many plans. He knew what he wanted and knew what he had to do to get there. He was so gifted.”
Junior’s parents took great pains to keep their teenager safe. Since age 11, Junior had a cellular phone and he would call his parents, letting them know about basketball practices, games and whenever he was heading to a friend’s house.
“We are responsible parents,” Jackson said. “We did everything possible, but still it didn’t work.”