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Roderick Michael Jackson with his son, Ricky Jackson Jr.

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100 years of blood, sliced by a bullet

LAFAYETTE, Ga. — "I'll kill him!" he threatened. But it was too late; the family's blood had already been shed.

Tim Jackson paced across a yard on Wesley Drive, a short loop of road in eastern LaFayette that connects country homes, a Baptist church and generations of relatives. A friend had just told Jackson his cousin, Roderick "Ricky" Jackson, had been shot.

Then Tim Jackson learned who pulled the trigger: another, more distant cousin named Broadrick Shropshire. And he heard Ricky Jackson wasn't going to survive.

Tim Jackson tasted bile. He leaned over, prepared to vomit. When he recovered, police say, he approached some of Shropshire's family and asked what happened. An officer told him to stay away, to stop bothering the witnesses.

Tim Jackson backed off. But he still tried to talk to the other Shropshires. An officer escorted him from the house, pulled crime scene tape across the yard. Jackson yelled, according to an incident report. Finally, Blake Shropshire, one of the shooter's relatives, approached him.

Police didn't hear what Blake Shropshire said; they just saw him walk away, saw Tim Jackson follow. They heard Jackson yell something and saw Blake Shropshire turn around, at the last second, just as Tim Jackson's fist pushed forward.

The two men fought until an officer fired a Taser, three darts digging into Tim Jackson's body. They put him in the back of a patrol car. Then they arrested Broadrick Shropshire, the shooter, charging him with the murder of Ricky Jackson.

That was in March 2014. This past May, a jury acquitted Broadrick Shropshire, who said he shot his distant cousin in self-defense.

The trial ended the case. But for some family members, it brought no closure to the saga.

When he sees a Shropshire in a store, Tim Jackson said, he leaves.

"I don't mess with them no more," he said.

Once, the Jacksons and the Shropshires were close. Attacking one side of the family meant attacking all of them. Funerals were like family reunions.

But at the trial, the two sides sat separately. Some Jacksons say they can't forgive any of the Shropshires. Other, older members of the family say the killing does not offset a bond that has run for decades — though the violent episode will forever create tension, they concede.

"It's not like I'm going to be at their house or [the Shropshires] at mine," said Joyce Montgomery, Ricky and Tim Jackson's grandmother. "I don't know if there will be any problems."

Vernon Shropshire, who doesn't live in the same part of LaFayette but understands both sides of the family, said the killing weakened the relationship.

Blake Shropshire declined to comment for this story, saying only that the Jacksons are the ones who can't seem to let go of the problem. Broadrick Shropshire also declined to comment. But his attorney, Albert Palmour, said Broadrick Shropshire and Ricky Jackson were close before the killing. His client is still suffering, two years later.

"He wished it had never happened," Palmour said. "It's going to bear on his mind, even though a jury and he felt like he was justified in what he did. It doesn't make you feel any better for taking someone's life."

FAMILY BUSINESS

The Jacksons and the Shropshires trace their line in the Naomi community of Walker County back more than a century, to the Stalling family. Ricky Jackson's great-great-grandfather was Will Stalling; Broadrick Shropshire's great-grandfather was Wesley Stalling, Will's brother.

Some Jacksons say their ancestors lived in the area since at least the mid-1800s, though property records in the Walker County Courthouse go back only to 1915, when Alf Stalling bought 59 acres for $885.

Broadrick Shropshire lives on 70 Wesley Drive, which dates back to property the Stallings bought in 1930. Ricky Jackson lived with his grandmother at 34 Jackson Drive, which she received from a Shropshire in 1975.

For generations, the Jacksons and the Shropshires lived next door to each other. They spent the night at each other's homes, played sports together, worked together and raised kids together.

"We go way back," said Cecil Jackson, Ricky Jackson's great-uncle. "We go back before Broadrick was even born. Or Ricky."

Though he lived in California until he was 5, Ricky Jackson spent most of his life with his dad's side of the family in Walker County. He attended LaFayette High School, where he joined Future Farmers of America, ran track and played basketball and football.

Ricky enrolled at Jacksonville State University in Alabama but didn't stay long, said his mother, Tonya Suttle. He ran into trouble, getting arrested after a fight at a fraternity house. He came home, and ran into more trouble.

In 2006, Ricky Jackson pleaded guilty to two counts of simple battery. Five years later, he was arrested on another battery charge when he allegedly slapped his children's mother's face, pulled her hair, pushed her into a wall and threw a lit cigarette at her. The victim told police Ricky Jackson was mad because he heard she kissed another man. She later asked officers to dismiss the charges.

In 2014, Suttle filed a motion for custody of Ricky's 5-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter. Suttle wrote he was not gainfully employed, showed little interest in adequately providing for his children and was suspected of drug addiction. The judge granted her custody.

Many of Ricky Jackson's problems, family members say, started when his own father died of a heart attack in 2008. He began to drink more. He became aimless.

"He had lost a friend, somebody he could go to, as a man," said Suttle. "The only male he ever had in his life. He was crushed."

That's about the time he became close with Broadrick Shropshire, a childhood friend of his father.

Ricky Jackson and Broadrick Shropshire both worked in Chattanooga around the time Jackson's dad died. They would meet somewhere downtown for a drink after hours. Soon they began to meet for drinks at Broadrick Shropshire's house. It was a convenient location, right across the yard from Ricky Jackson's grandmother.

"Maybe it made him feel closer to my dad in a way," his sister, Hadia Jackson, said of the men's relationship.

Ricky Jackson's family said he began to turn his life around in recent years. He had recently been hired by Roper Corp., a job for which he had to pass a drug test. He had also made plans with his mother to regain custody of his children. Adrian Careathers, a friend, said Ricky Jackson started to host cookouts for the neighborhood.

Still, family members on both sides were concerned about his relationship with Broadrick Shropshire. One day, Tim Jackson said, Ricky Jackson and Broadrick Shropshire got into an argument while visiting him. Tim Jackson said Broadrick Shropshire got mad when Ricky Jackson called him an old man.

This is how Tim Jackson recalls what happened next: Broadrick Shropshire pulled out a gun and pointed it at Ricky Jackson. Ricky started to laugh, and Broadrick Shropshire lowered the weapon. Ricky Jackson later told Tim Jackson that Broadrick Shropshire was always showing off his gun, but he was never serious.

Tim Jackson later told investigators a different version of that event, saying Shropshire didn't actually lower the gun; instead, Ricky Jackson slapped it out of his hand. Tim Jackson also told the police he was inside when this happened, while he told the Times Free Press he was in the yard, watching the whole argument.

Broadrick Shropshire's mother, Gwendolyn Shropshire, later told police she heard Ricky Jackson was out to hurt her son, though she wasn't sure why. Gwendolyn Shropshire's source, another man in town, backed up this story to investigators. But he said he didn't think anything of it.

He didn't believe Ricky Jackson and Broadrick Shropshire actually had problems.

AN ARGUMENT, THEN A GUNSHOT

When Ricky Jackson arrived at Broadrick Shropshire's house the day he died, he found Broadrick's aunt and Gwendolyn Shropshire's boyfriend present.

Survivors later told police Ricky Jackson and Broadrick Shropshire got drunk at the kitchen table and began to argue.

The Walker County Sheriff's Office investigative file does not clearly state why they were arguing. But Palmour, Broadrick Shropshire's attorney, said Jackson wanted to borrow Shropshire's car to meet a woman at a motel.

The witnesses said Ricky Jackson got so mad he tossed a glass of liquor in Broadrick Shropshire's face.

Broadrick Shropshire — 51 years old, 5 feet, 7 inches tall and about 160 pounds — stood up, removed his glasses and wiped his eyes.

Ricky Jackson, 30, stood up, too. He was 6 feet 4 and about 290 pounds.

The survivors give this account: Ricky Jackson started to move toward Broadrick Shropshire. The other man, Ross Harris, stepped between them. Ricky Jackson pushed Harris aside, saying he was going to beat up both men.

Broadrick Shropshire slipped away, into his bedroom. He wiped off his glasses and grabbed a revolver. He came back to the kitchen and told Ricky Jackson to leave. Ricky Jackson dared him to shoot.

"He's still coming at me and calling me names and stuff," Broadrick Shropshire later told investigators. "And Ross is trying to, Ross is trying to haul, hold, haul him off. And he's still coming at me.

"And I just, I just — POW.

"And he dropped dead."

The investigator asked Broadrick Shropshire about his relationship to the victim.

"I supply his drinking," he said.

He added: "He's like a son to me."

THE AFTERMATH

Investigators found Jackson in Broadrick Shropshire's kitchen, next to the island, between the dishwasher and the oven, with one gunshot to the forehead. Clutched in the fingers of his right hand, members of the sheriff's office found a knit cap.

He always kept that hat in his pocket, his mother said. Whenever he was ready to leave, to go back outside, she said, he would pull it out.

The hat's presence that night, for her, symbolized her son's intention when he was shot.

"I know beyond a shadow of a doubt my son was on his way out the door," she said.

This has become a rallying cry for some Jacksons, the ones who don't accept the jury's verdict. The ones who can't let go, can't forgive the Shropshires — Broadrick Shropshire, the witnesses, even the Shropshires who had nothing to do with the case.

Some Shropshires, meanwhile, see the Jacksons' outspoken questions as harassment. The case is done, and the Jacksons won't let them move on.

In March, one of Ricky Jackson's uncles died of a heart attack. Two years ago, some Jacksons say, all the Shropshires would have been at the funeral.

Instead, a single Shropshire showed up.

And even then, Hadia Jackson said, "We were like, 'Why would she even be here? My uncle wouldn't want her here.'"

Still, other Jacksons say the anger will fade with time. William Jackson said he saw Broadrick Shropshire's aunt at church last week. They hugged. He watched the trial unfold in May, and when a jury reached a verdict, so did he. There is no point in remaining angry at an entire side of the family, only one of whom pulled the trigger.

The older generation knows, he said: Let go of what you can't control.

"There are too many important things," he said. "We've got to worry about making it to heaven. You can't get that way by sitting back and judging folks and making grudges.

"We're too old for that."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or at tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.

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