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Stamford officer pleads not guilty in crash that killed beloved local pastor

Officer Zachary Lockwood made his first appearance in Milford Superior Court after the case was transferred from Stamford due to a potential conflict of interest with the prosecutor there.

Marissa Alter

Mar 23, 2024, 12:10 AM

Updated 116 days ago

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A Stamford police officer pleaded not guilty Friday in connection to a crash that killed a beloved local pastor. Officer Zachary Lockwood made his first appearance in Milford Superior Court after the case was transferred from Stamford due to a potential conflict of interest with the prosecutor there. Lockwood is charged with misconduct with a motor vehicle in the death of the Rev. Tommie Jackson, 69, who was hit by Lockwood as he responded to a call.
Jackson's family made the drive up I-95 to see Lockwood go before a judge. They were joined by their attorneys and dozens of supporters who packed the courtroom. Lockwood arrived with his family. At his previous hearing in Stamford, over 30 officers walked in with him to show their solidarity.
Jackson's loved ones held hands and prayed in front of the courthouse after the brief hearing. They're relying on their faith and each other to navigate life without him.
"We are here to advocate and fight for justice in the honor of my father and in his name and what he would want," Erin Jackson said.
It's now been almost eight months since Jackson was killed. On the afternoon of July 26, Lockwood was in a marked vehicle, heading to a car accident in the city when he drove into Jackson on Wire Mill Road. Jackson had just gone to his mailbox across the street and was walking back to his house at the time.
"The misconduct with a motor vehicle charge is looking at negligence only, and I think the evidence shows us this went above and beyond negligence," stated attorney Darnell Crosland, who represents the Jackson family.
Crosland called Lockwood's actions that day reckless and filed a motion to upgrade Lockwood's charge to second-degree manslaughter.
According to Lockwood's arrest warrant, Lockwood and another officer were dispatched to a crash without injuries that included a possible disturbance. They were told to use a "Code 1" response, meaning a non-emergency response with the flow of traffic and no lights or sirens, the warrant said. But Lockwood was recorded on his body camera saying he decided to go "Code 3," the most immediate emergency response with lights and sirens, according to the warrant.
"Oh damn, don't go Code 3, go Code 2," the other officer said, according to the warrant. Code 2 calls for lights and sirens only when going through intersections.
"This officer was given a directive to follow and on his body camera, talking to another officer he stated an expletive and said, 'F that, I'm going Code 3.' So, when you do that, you consciously disregard safety," Crosland stated.
"This person made a willful decision, a willful choice to ignore the nature of the call, so therefore, this does not feel like an accident," Erin Jackson added.
In Lockwood's warrant, state police concluded he was driving 65 mph at one point and 46 mph when he hit Jackson. The speed limit in that neighborhood is 25 mph. The warrant also said Lockwood had his lights on but was only using his sirens intermittently.
Crosland and attorney Michael Skiber, who also represents the Jackson family, also told the Milford State's Attorney they intend to file a motion for a change of venue. They pointed to Milford's lack of diversity and their concerns about a jury if this case goes to trial. One week ago, Trooper Brian North was found not guilty on all charges in a deadly use of force case.
"Seems like there is a bias already," said the Rev. Joseph Ford, of Faith Tabernacle Baptist Church. "The message we are receiving is if you are an officer and if you want to go free, have your trial moved to Milford."
Ford said Milford is 86% white with less than 2% of the population Black.
"I think that it was the unluck of the draw as far as we're concerned just because the racial makeup here doesn't comport with what we view as the opportunity to get justice," Skiber stated.
Skiber and Crosland want the case moved to the Fairfield Judicial District in Bridgeport, which has a more diverse population and is the judicial district next to Stamford, so it's closer for Jackson's loved ones.
"Why are they inconvenienced and why are they made to now have to come all the way to Milford when they live in Stamford?" Crosland asked.
Lockwood's attorney, Ray Hassett, told News 12 he couldn't comment on the case but called it a tragic accident. Lockwood is due back in court May 15.
Jackson was the pastor at Rehoboth Fellowship Church and before that, Faith Tabernacle. He was also the assistant director of the city's Urban Redevelopment Commission.


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