A Florida family is in mourning after 3-year-old Cherish Jackson was shot and killed by her father just moments before he turned the gun on himself.
“Cherish ran out to the car crying, ‘Daddy, Daddy,’” one neighbor who witnessed the event told WEAR-TV. “She was all happy to see him.”
Cherish’s parents were separated and on Saturday afternoons Jackson would often pick his daughter up from her mother’s home and walk with her to a nearby store.
However, that afternoon Jackson, 22, walked about 100 yards with his daughter before he pulled out a gun and shot her twice in the head.
“I know he said something to Cherish right before he shot her because I saw her look up at him,” the neighbor, who asked to remain unidentified, told WEAR-TV. “That image of her looking at him is etched into my mind forever.”
Moments later, Jackson turned the gun on himself.
“Both bodies were laying in the street,” the neighbor said. “It was horrific.”
When Escambia County deputies arrived at the scene they pronounced Jackson dead. Cherish was still alive and transported to a nearby hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries the following day.
Neighbors told WEAR-TV Jackson had been over at Cherish’s mother’s home recently.
“He was just here on his daughter’s birthday,” the neighbor told the station. “He didn’t have a gun then. I think he came over with this already planned. Why else would you bring a gun?”
On Monday night, dozens of people gathered at a local park for a candlelight vigil where pink balloons — pink was Cherish’s favorite color — were released as “Amazing Grace” was sung.
“She fought hard to stay here with us,” Cherish’s mother, Casey Scott, said, according to the News Journal. “It just wasn’t meant for her to be.”
It is unclear why Jackson killed his daughter and himself.
“I’ve been holding my head high,” Scott said. “I know that my baby wouldn’t want us out here crying. Wouldn’t want us out here struggling. Wouldn’t want us out here breaking down. As you can see, she was a fighter.”
Heartbreaking. Our hearts go out to Cherish’s family.