Nathan Jackson has never met his 4-year-old son, Navaun, but he is hoping for the chance this week as the toddler fights death from a gunshot wound to the head.
“I don’t know how to it feels to be a father because I’ve never had the opportunity to be there,” said Jackson during a phone interview Monday from Salinas Valley State Prison, where he is incarcerated. “It hurts me a lot because I feel like I owe my son for not being there.”
Jackson is asking Gov. Gavin Newsom to allow him to visit Navaun. Jackson is serving a nine-year sentence at the maximum-security facility for assault with a firearm, and has another conviction that makes it a second strike.
Navaun, who turned 4 in March, shot himself in the head Wednesday after finding a loaded gun under a pillow at his home in Oakland, according to his great-aunt, Jamilia Land.
The gun was owned by his mother’s boyfriend, Terrence Leavell Wilson. Wilson has been arrested and charged with three felonies for child abuse, possession of a gun by a felon and first-degree criminal firearm storage, according to court documents. Police said Wilson told them that he had illegally purchased the weapon in San Francisco about two weeks prior, and had slept with it loaded under his pillow the night before, forgetting to remove it in the morning. Navaun apparently found it while watching television alone in the bedroom.
Land said Navaun is on life support with no sign of brain activity. The bullet entered his forehead and surgeons removed part of his skull and brain, said Land. Doctors at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital will taper medication keeping him in a coma in coming days, she said.
“We would like to have Nathan able to be there through that process,” Land said. “We don’t have time to wait.”
Land said Jackson was allowed to use Skype to do a video call to the boy’s hospital room Wednesday. Monday, she held a press conference on the steps of the Capitol to ask Newsom for help.
Jackson said gun violence has hit his family before. Two of his brothers were fatally shot in 2010 and 2011, and his sister was murdered in Oakland last year. His mother’s uncle was also killed by gun violence, Land said.
“I’m hunted by tragedy, my family,” said Jackson, who grew up in east Oakland and was homeless at times.
“My whole life I grew up around gun violence,” he said. “I feel that where I’m from, a parent shouldn’t have to raise their child in an environment like that. Where I’m from, it’s easy to be killed but harder to survive.”
Jackson is currently cellmates with Maurice Price, the uncle of Navaun’s mother. Jackson said that family connection behind bars is helping him cope.
“I feel like I need him because he’s the [great] uncle of my son and we are trying to be in the process of being strong,” said Jackson. “Without him I feel like I can’t take it, I will break down.”
The governor’s office referred questions to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
“The department is aware of the request made by Mr. Jackson’s family, and we are thoroughly reviewing the circumstances of this very unfortunate situation. Ultimately, we are looking at all the case factors to ensure they meet CDCR’s policy, and maintain public safety. We are also evaluating other options of communication available to us to try to assist the family during this difficult time,” a CDCR spokeswoman said.
Jackson said he remains hopeful.
“It takes a toll on my heart. It hurts a lot for me to experience a son on life support and me having no control to be by his bedside,” he said. “All I can do is pray that they grant me the opportunity to see my son.”