Holiday Hopes: Blake High shooting victim strives to succeed and feel safe again

Jackie Parker was shot in the legs by someone she's sure she doesn't know. The experience has made her want to stay inside.
Published December 10 2015
Updated December 10 2015

TAMPA

On the night the bullets pierced her legs as she ran, Jackie Parker was thinking about nothing more important than what movie to watch the next day.

The 16-year-old was sitting on a curb with two girlfriends on a Saturday six months ago.

She didn't see the gun, and she didn't feel the bullets strike her.

"It was a regular summer day," she said. "Life was good."

She had worked her shift at McDonald's, then walked with her friends to a corner store for snacks. They sat in front of Jackie's aunt's house in Sulphur Springs. As they ate their snacks, they talked about a party they had attended. Jackie had a bag of hot fries and a Faygo soda.

It was 10:45 p.m. when a dark car came speeding toward them with its headlights off. A tinted window rolled down and bullets sprayed at the girls. They ran to a porch as the car sped off. Jackie didn't know she was hit until her friend pointed to her leg.

"Blood was running down my leg," she said. "Dripping on the porch."

At the hospital, doctors said Jackie had been struck by three bullets. One went through her right leg and lodged in her left, where it should stay, doctors said.

The pain set in the next day. She couldn't walk for two weeks. Sometimes walking still hurts. This week, a cool front made her legs ache, keeping her home from Blake High School.

She doesn't hide the dark round scar on her left calf.

If someone asks about it, she tells her story, about what it felt like to get shot. A regular day that ended with her in the wrong place at the wrong time. She's a survivor. She's sure God kept her safe for a reason.

• • •

Jackie has never held a gun. She never saw anyone get shot. But two weeks before it happened to her, a boy she knew was hit in another drive-by shooting. Edward "E.J." Harris IV, 14, was killed as he was playing basketball, 2 miles from where she was shot.

No one has been charged in Jackie's shooting. She thinks it was probably a teen and not anyone she knew. Nothing personal. She isn't angry. But she is scared. This is the rest of her story.

Now Jackie said she wants to get a gun when she is older.

Why?

"Black cars. Cars with the lights out. Cars that speed up. Loud noises."

When she isn't at school or working, Jackie spends her time at the YMCA Teen Achievers program. She's a junior at Blake with plans to go to the University of South Florida and become an obstetrician. For now, she's tutored through the YMCA program, and she said senior program director Wayne Johnson is her mentor. Johnson works with more than 750 at-risk youth in the Tampa Bay region.

Jackie feels safe at the program. She doesn't always feel that way elsewhere.

"I don't even like to be outside," she said. "It's made me paranoid."

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