The guy was coming to shoot up Jack Rabbit’s house in the middle of the night.
He’d already fired on other homes in the old east side neighborhood to scare residents he’d suspected of calling the cops on him.
It turned out the gunman was a drug dealer, and when neighbors had called the cops on him, or had gotten in his way, he retaliated by shooting up their houses.
Earlier that day, James “Jack Rabbit” Jackson — a retired Detroit cop — parked his car in front of the dealer’s house and pointed a video camera at him in a blatant effort to disrupt his business. It drove the guy away for the day.
Now he was coming back for Jackson. And Jackson was waiting for him.
A car turned from Jefferson onto Chalmers. It drew closer, then slowed when it reached Jackson’s house. The headlights panned the front of the home until they revealed the ex-cop sitting there on the otherwise dark porch, staring back.
He had a shotgun in his lap.
Jackson knows that, in Michigan, the law says that if your life’s is in danger, you have a right to use deadly force to defend yourself. That’s why he keeps a baseball bat stashed on his porch. That’s why he sat there late one night, waiting with that shotgun.
He had seen the old Chevy before, and knew the drug-dealing gunman was inside it. The car belonged to a guy in the dealer’s posse. But it didn’t stay long. Between the armed ex-cop and the video camera mounted above the porch, the dealer had few options. The Chevy backed out of the driveway and left the same way it came.
Jackson is the de facto leader of the neighborhood, like an unofficial sheriff. He’s 63, burly and slower-moving in his retirement. Everyone here knows him, and everyone here calls him Jack Rabbit, a nickname he has had for years. He’s president of the Jefferson-Chalmers Homeowners Association, president of the Jefferson-Chalmers Citizens District Council, and he’s on the Jefferson East Business Association’s board of directors. He plows snow from the wintertime streets and sidewalks with his truck. He’s the neighborhood lookout, and, through his homeowners association, he offers a monthly reward for local crime tips. He’s the one who urges everyone in his neighborhood to stay vigilant, the one who confronts criminals on the street and videotapes them.
“These guys are cowards,” Jackson says. “They’re not going to fight anyone that’s going to go toe-to-toe with them.”
The people who live here, like residents in dozens of similar Detroit neighborhoods with block clubs and associations, are battling to keep theirs from falling like so many others in the city. And guys like Jack Rabbit lead the charge.