[update, 8/19/2009 — and if you thought this was weird before, you ain’t seen nothing, yet. Check out the comments, and watch for the update, later today. JR]
The End of Carl Jackson
Maybe the 911 call was not Carl Jackson’s worst mistake.
But it was his last one; it got him killed. He would have been smarter to run, instead.
It would have been smarter not getting involved with Michelle Rae Wilson in the first place; she had a history of not playing well with others, and getting away with it.
In 1996, Wilson was hit with two restraining orders when an ex-boyfriend’s wife accused her of repeated hangup calls to her home and workplace — over a four year period; it had been going on since 1992 — and the ex-boyfriend himself asked the court to have her told to stay away. She had been, he said, leaving harassing messages, over years, demanding “closure.” The court said yes, and the orders were issued.
Two orders — the ex-boyfriend asked for one, too. Harassment is a gross misdemeanor — up to a year in prison — and the second strike is a felony.
But Wilson was never prosecuted, and it all went away.
In 2004, two neighbors accused Wilson and another son of pouring sugar in their car’s gas tank; according to police records, one said that, “Michelle Wilson threatened to blow up her house and kill her. She taunted her to go outside.” She owed Wilson $60, and couldn’t pay. Vandalism is a crime; terroristic threats are a felony.
But Wilson was never prosecuted — SPPD Officer Kong just left a card at the house — and it all went away.
In 2007, Nakeshia Britton, a high school classmate of Wilson’s son Terrence, got another restraining order, claiming that Wilson, her son and others had followed Britton’s school bus home, after which Wilson and her son Terrence, “came up on the porch with broken beer bottles and a bat trying to hit me… and told Edna, my foster mom, to let me come out so they can kick my retarded ass.” She said that they tried to force their way in.
Assault is a crime — anywhere from a misdemeanor to a multi-year felony — but Wilson was never prosecuted, and it all went away.
Just as well she didn’t use the gun that time. For Nakeshia Britton and her baby, at least.
Whatever else you can say about Michelle Rae Wilson, she didn’t let go easy. No particular reason why she should, maybe. While accusations seemed to follow her, they were never — not ever — accompanied by criminal charges, much less convictions.
Michelle Rae Wilson seemed untouchable.
When she and Jackson broke up after a brief relationship, that hadn’t changed. Jackson’s new fiancee, Chillnail Hollingsworth, wasn’t the only person who Jackson had complained to about Wilson; he’d also told a mutual friend, Fred Reman, that Wilson was harassing him at work, and leaving numerous harassing messages on his cell phone.
So it’s perhaps understandable that, on a cold, dark January day in 2008, Jackson found himself inside her home at 690 Iglehart Avenue, on a quiet block in St. Paul.
What else could he do? Complain to the authorities? Others had been here and done that, and all that had happened was a few restraining orders, and a cop’s business card left on a porch.
Maybe he didn’t have a lot of faith in paper.
She wouldn’t let go, and he wanted her to let go. And he had good reason to try to get her to leave him alone, and maybe he could talk her out of it. Or maybe he could do more? Who knows?
Maybe he hit her, maybe not; maybe she hit him. When she went to the bedroom, he shouldn’t have stayed in the living room. He didn’t even have his winter coat off; he should have headed out the door and escaped into the night.
Instead, he got on the phone with 911. He hadn’t thought it through; he didn’t open the conversation with a cry for help, but with, “How you doing this evening?” like he was getting ready to go on a date.
“My ex-girlfriend is here beating me upside the head,” he said, “and I’m trying not to hit her. I’m trying to get out of the house.”
He asked for help. He explained that she had guns in the house, and that she had threatened to kill herself, and —
Then there was shouting, and six gunshots.
And it all went quiet. The only person in the conversation was the 911 operator.
Jackson had been shot at from a distance, six times, leaving shell cases scattered between the bedroom and the living room.
He had been hit three times. One bullet had entered the right side of his chest at a thirty-degree downward angle, breaking a rib, puncturing a lung, grazing the liver to end up under the skin of his back. Another downward shot, this one at a 45 degree angle, had entered his left shoulder and ended up in his right lower back.
He might, possibly, have survived those two, despite the legendary — meaning “largely fictional” — special lethality of the no-longer-manufactured “Black Talon” bullets that had pierced his flesh.
But the other distant gunshot, the one to the forehead, also fired downward at 45 degrees, had gone far enough through his brain and was traveling fast enough to break his spine, and that would killed him all by itself.
No, it wouldn’t have taken one of those quarter-century old “Black Talon” bullets to kill him, not with a shot through the brain.
Any bullet streaking through his brain would have done it.
Jackson was dead before the Saint Paul police secured the scene, and long before SPPD K-9 Officer Robert Edwards managed to talk Wilson into coming outside and surrendering peacefully to Officers Breci and Rhoades.
It was the doggie cop who talked her out. While it’s not usual for K9 cops to talk perps out of a building, perhaps it’s understandable, in this case:
Officer Robert Edwards of the St. Paul Police Department, the man who talked Wilson out of the building, is the nephew of Michelle Rae Wilson.
He is also, by his own admission, the man who had provided her with the Glock pistol that killed Jackson, the one that he had given her when — despite her colorful history — she had applied for and had been issued a Minnesota Permit to Carry a Handgun by Bob Fletcher, Sheriff of Ramsey County, a permit she had held for around two years, even after the 2007 incident on Nakeshia Britton’s porch.
Michele Rae Wilson was a carry permit holder on the night that somebody in her home fired that Glock, putting three Black Talons into Carl Jackson.
She has been charged with Murder in the Second Degree in that case; she’s scheduled to go on trial this November.
And while there’s no need to have any sort of permit to keep a gun in the home, she won’t have her carry permit when she goes to court; it’s been taken away from her.
On April 16 of 2008, Sheriff Bob Fletcher and Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner filed a hundred-page petition (here’s Part 1; here’s Part 2) with District Judge Joanne Smith, requesting that the judge revoke what they called Wilson’s “conceal and carry permit”, and documenting, in great detail, each and every one of the incidents above. In detail. The petition had been written and researched by David Rossman — then a deputy assigned to Sheriff Fletcher’s gun permit unit.
Yes. The Ramsey County Sheriff’s office had access to Wilson’s documented history of restraining orders and the accusations of death threats, attempted assaults, and stalking that, even before the killing, argued that she was a danger to others.
But until she allegedly killed one ex-boyfriend with the gun that her cop nephew had provided to her, there’s no evidence whatsoever that they raised a finger other than to punch the keys on their computer to print out her permit.
It was three months and three days after she allegedly shot and murdered Carl Jackson that Sheriff Fletcher’s office applied to have the St. Paul cop’s aunt’s permit revoked.
It probably wouldn’t have mattered much; she was sitting in jail, unable to raise the $250,000 bond that the court had set.
And Carl Jackson was dead.
Part Two: Permits, Numbers and Other Games
In 2003, Minnesota changed its law as to how handgun carry permits — sometimes erroneously called “Conceal and Carry” permits — are issued.
Between 1974 and 2003, permit issuance was at the almost entirely unfettered discretion of police chiefs and sheriffs.
In 2003, that changed, with the passage of the Minnesota Citizens Personal Protection Act.
Since then, with a short interregnum when the law was overturned and passed again, permits are issued to any law-abiding US citizen or permanent legal US resident who takes a certified carry class, and then passes a background check. Right now, around 65,000 Minnesotans hold such permits, issued by their local sheriffs, which enables them to carry guns — openly or concealed — in most public places, although it didn’t change much about laws involving gun possession in the home.
But the sheriffs have been left with a serious responsibility, and that’s embedded in Minnesota Statute 624.714, which spells out that a sheriff can “deny the application on the grounds that there exists a substantial likelihood that the applicant is a danger to self or the public if authorized to carry a pistol under a permit.”
And they do.
Not often — the vast majority of people who apply have perfectly fine records — but it happens, about 1% of the time, statewide.
Given Michelle Rae Wilson’s history and the fact that Sheriff Fletcher issued her a carry permit, you might think that the Ramsey County Sheriff’s office is reluctant to deny a permit application.
You would be wrong. When it comes to carry permit applications, Bob Fletcher is the Prince of Denial.
In 2006, the year that Wilson applied for and got her permit, more than 9,500 people applied across the state of Minnesota, 690 of them in her own Ramsey County.
Of those close to ten thousand applications statewide, only 177 applicants were denied.
79 of those denials were in Ramsey County — almost half of the denials in Minnesota that year, and almost all of them based on the conclusion by Sheriff Fletcher that the applicant was “dangerous to self or others.”
While the rest of the state has a denial rate very close to 1%, the 2006 Bureau of Criminal Apprehension report on the sheriffs shows that the denial rate in Sheriff Fletcher’s Ramsey county was more than ten times that of the rest of the state, and his office spent more money per application on their permit issuance/denial program than any other department — $100,000 on personnel costs alone, that year.
Their expenditures were topped only by the much larger Hennepin County, where the HCSO processed almost three times as many permits for about the same total cost.
Whatever else can be said about the RCSO permit program, it doesn’t skimp on spending money, or devoting staff to it. At least one deputy, David Rossman, was assigned fulltime to permit investigation and processing — and the RCSO takes a very hard line in permit applicants, and spends whatever it has to check them out. Most of the time. It doesn’t take much to get denied in Ramsey County.
One happily married couple was turned down by the sheriff because police had been called to their home by a neighbor, years before, over a noise complaint, and while that call had resulted in no arrest nor any prosecution — not even a citation for noise — Sheriff Fletcher decided that that one, long-ago incident made them both “a danger to self or others.”
Another was denied for being the subject of a restraining order — just like Michelle Wilson. But unlike Michelle Wilson, he had gone to court and successfully fought the restraining order, demonstrated to the judge that he was the victim of harassment, and then successfully sued his harasser for filing a false complaint. Still, Sheriff Fletcher thought that single, disproven allegation made him dangerous.
Many have been denied for a single DUI conviction, often years and years past, despite having a squeaky-clean record ever since. Sheriff Fletcher thinks that a single, ancient DUI is clear and convincing evidence that that somebody is a danger to self or others, and has denied many applicants on that basis.
He says the applicants are still a danger; courts disagree.
Attorney Marc Berris has received “at least fifteen calls” from people who have been declared by Sheriff Fletcher to be a “danger to self or others” because of a single DUI, despite having had clean records both before and ever since. He’s been retained by many denied applicants and taken at least three such single-DUI cases to court and had those denials overturned, and prevailed in other excessively-aggressive permit denial appeals, so much so that he half-seriously says that the Ramsey County Sheriffs Office has become his single best-paying client. Why? Because Minnesota Statute 624.714 provides that when a permit denial is overturned, the court must issue a judgment against the denying sheriff for “reasonable costs, including attorneys fees,” and the RCSO has been paying a lot of Marc Berris’ fees, of late. Come Christmas, he might send them a t-shirt as a thank you.
It’s not just the single-DUI cases.
Others have been denied on the basis of a single arrest where no charges were ever brought. In one of Berris’ present cases, his thirty-year-old client was labeled as dangerous by Sheriff Fletcher for having been arrested as a fourteen-year old, after having gotten into a fight in his neighborhood. Sheriff Fletcher also doesn’t like his boyhood tattoo.
In the carry permit instructor community, the perhaps exaggerated story is that in Ramsey County, people get denied for a couple of speeding tickets.
Not Michelle Rae Wilson, the aunt of Saint Paul Police Department K9 officer Robert Edwards, the man who gave her the Glock pistol that she is accused of using to murder Carl Jackson.
She got hers.
And, according to the indictment, with the gun that her nephew had given her, on January 13, 2008, she shot Carl Jackson dead in her home.
Part Three: Questions, Questions, Questions, and Some Answers
The Wilson story raises a lot of questions; others it answers.
One is easy: her carry permit didn’t have anything to do with her ability to shoot and kill Carl Jackson, if in fact she did that. You don’t need a carry permit to possess a gun in your home, or to accept it as a gift from a relative, whether or not he’s a cop.
That’s easy. It’s as easy to figure out what would have happened if she had been, in any of her previous incidents, charged with and convicted of a violent felony: she would have been legally barred from so much as possessing a gun, anywhere, even in her own home.
But that didn’t happen. You can’t be convicted without being tried, after all, and she was apparently never even arrested. There’s a saying, “you may beat the charge, but you won’t beat the ride.” Michelle Wilson, it seems, up until January 2008, beat several rides.
Here’s another easy one: the whole notion of equal treatment under the law — as embodied in the Minnesota Citizens Personal Protection Act — appears not to operate in Bob Fletcher’s Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office. Have a shouting match with your spouse, and both of you will be denied carry permits as dangerous ten years later. Be the aunt of a Saint Paul cop and you apparently have to be indicted for murder before it will be revoked.
Equal protection under the law? Not in Ramsey County.
Still, while I freely admit to being other than Bob Fletcher’s biggest fan, but it’s simply not true that by issuing her a carry permit when he had denied people with much less compelling histories that he put the murder weapon in her hand.
No, the gun — a Glock Model 17 — was given to her by her nephew, the Saint Paul police officer. And he almost certainly didn’t put it in her hand; a new Glock is sold in a nice plastic box — maybe he gift-wrapped it, too.
Whether or not it was a murder weapon will be decided by a jury of Michelle Rae Wilson’s peers.
It’s still not completely clear to me how this aunt of a Saint Paul police officer managed to escape any criminal record until being charged with murder. Murder is almost never a beginner’s crime, and what there is on the record about Wilson’s behavior is suggestive of previous criminal behavior, of stalking and harassment, of at least one death threat and in the 2007 case, of an assault.
But it’s important to remember that the public record does not contain the whole story — the multiple requests for orders of protection and the 2004 police report contain only statements of the complainants, not Wilson’s responses or explanations. All stories have at least two sides, and it’s possible that all of the people, over the years, who complained to the police and the courts about Michelle Rae Wilson were lying, or leaving out important facts.
And it’s also possible that those could be the only troubling incidents in Wilson’s history — before the death of Carl Jackson, that is.
And despite the lack of any criminal arrest, prosecution, or conviction record in Deputy Rossman’s detailed dossier, it’s not impossible that each and every one of them was fully investigated by St. Paul law enforcement, despite her status as the aunt of a Saint Paul cop, and properly determined to be of a noncriminal nature, or that the St. Paul City Attorney and the Ramsey County Attorney made a good faith decision — well, several good faith decisions, actually — not to prosecute after those investigations.
After all, such investigations are not part of the public record. Yet.
Perhaps the Saint Paul Police Department, the Saint Paul City Attorney’s office, and the Ramsey County Attorney’s office will produce statements on these matters, clarifying what is, at best, a very puzzling situation.
Other things still puzzle me. I hadn’t before thought of David Rossman, Fletcher’s deputy, as being awfully thorough, or service-oriented. Yet, when he wrote up the application for revocation of Wilson’s permit, he didn’t just document the facts around the alleged murder, and her arrest and being held in jail in lieu of a quarter million dollar’s bond. No, he went to the trouble to point out the history of the restraining order against her, in excruciating detail, complete with exhibits, of episodes reaching back years before she had applied for her carry permit, and of the 2007 incident on Nakeshia Britton’s porch.
Why throw all that in? Was it just out of a sense of completeness, or was David Rossman quietly trying to put Wilson’s history into the public domain, knowing that the revocation application would become available to anyone who asked?
I wouldn’t want to guess. I do know that some time after he filed that application, he was transferred from Sheriff Fletcher’s gun permit unit to the Ramsey County Sheriff’s patrol unit. Was that a promotion in reward for thorough police work? Just a random rotation to a new set of duties? Or something else? I don’t know.
There’s a lot that I don’t know or understand about this. For more than a year, the Wilson revocation application has been available for the asking — when my friend Mark Okern asked for it, he was promptly given it, without any fuss whatsoever.
You can look at it, too, if you’d like.
Did nobody else bother to look? That’s another mystery. There were only three local press reports on the murder — all were brief and fragmentary. Not one mentions that Officer Edwards of the Saint Paul Police Department had given Wilson the Glock she allegedly used to kill Jackson, nor the previous restraining orders; the WCCO report says simply that she was charged with murder in connection with Jackson’s death, and only a couple of dozen words more.
The metro area has two major newspapers, with national reputations, as well as several weekly ones. It has more television stations than that, each with a news department, staffed with fulltime professional journalists.
But you haven’t heard this story from any of them, but from a balding, middle-aged science fiction writer, part time carry permit trainer, and Second Amendment activist — you know: just a guy who believes in all that stuff about truth, justice, and the American Way — aided by a few friends who have been willing to run some errands, make a few phone calls, and talk and think some things out.
Why are you only hearing it from us, and only reading about this here, and now?
There’s a lot of puzzlements in this.
I’ve got another one. The Ramsey County narrative appears to be that while or after beating Jackson, Wilson went to her bedroom to retrieve her Glock, and shot Jackson from a distance. How much distance? The medical examiner’s report characterizes them as “distant,” as opposed to, I suppose, “contact” or “close range.” Deputy Rossman’s report doesn’t go into that kind of detail.
Yet all three rounds entered Jackson’s body in a sharply downward direction — one at thirty degrees, the other two at a 45 degree angle. How did this 5’7″ woman supposedly manage that?
Maybe we’ll find out on November 2. Maybe sooner. Maybe never.
Because, in Ramsey County, there is special treatment for special people.
Part Four: Special Treatment for Special People at the RCSO
Give the devil his due: Sheriff Fletcher did the right thing in moving to revoke Wilson’s permit to carry according to the explicit procedures and substance of the Minnesota Citizens Personal Protection Act of 2003; he followed the law in enforcing it. In this case.
After the shooting, and while she was in jail.
Before then, she got a pass. It seems more than likely that the “pass” was based on “Who You Know.” And that’s corruption — a denial of equal treatment by the law to everyone else, and “special,” favorable treatment for a few.
It is also appears that Wilson received this “special person,” favorable treatment, long before she applied for the permit, and which may have affected her legal status to possess the firearm with which she shot Jackson.
Was it because the community in which she lived and acted that received less attention, care, and protection from law enforcement? Was it that her nephew is a cop? Both? Something else, as well? I don’t know.
I do know that there are special rules for special people in Ramsey County. That shouldn’t be news to you, either, with this coming on the heels of the Metropolitan Gang Strike Force debacle, whose problems were apparently centered in that same Ramsey County, under the nose of that same Sheriff Bob Fletcher, who not only turned a blind eye to them, but also helped create and perpetuate the culture that led to the Gang Strike Force disgrace, through the development of the personnel, through his Saint Paul cop buddy who he had put in charge, and kept in charge.
Let’s remember: Fletcher defended the Strike Force and his people — and, official table of organization aside, they were his people — vehemently and vociferously, and did his level best to keep that misbegotten unit going . . . and succeeded until the Hennepin County Sheriff, Richard Stanek, withdrew his people from the Strike Force. Because, it seems another Sheriffs Office had developed and allocated the personnel to the Gang Strike Force whose culture — call them “ethics,” if you will — would not only not allow them to participate, but also required them to attempt to expose the apparent corruption and not cover it up.
If it weren’t for Sheriff Stanek and Chris Omodt of his department — among others — the gang strike force would probably still be up to their old tricks, under the uncaring gaze of their defender, Sheriff Bob Fletcher. Same old wine; it would just be in a new package, but still the same thing.
That’s wrong. And surely you don’t think the last disgraceful episode of the Gang Strike Force has been played out in public, anymore than you’d think that Michelle Rae Wilson was the only cop’s relative getting special treatment from the RCSO.
Why would you think that it’s anything but special rules for special people there?
That’s not equal protection under the law. That’s not, as the saying goes, truth, justice and the American Way.
It’s wrong. And it gets people hurt, and maybe killed.
And it really must be put to a stop.
Author’s note: I’m grateful for the great help I’ve gotten in researching and writing this from Joseph Olson, David M. Gross, Marc Berris, Andrew Rothman, and Mark Okern. And from the staff at Ellegon, Inc.: Felicia G. Herman, and Judy Rosenberg. (I’m married to the former, and the latter is our older daughter.)
When Truth, Justice, and the American Way happens, it’s a team effort.
You could look it up.