Idaho law enforcement has released their report on the death of a college basketball player from Louisiana who was washed away in the current of one of the state’s rivers. While the official cause of death was revealed, the circumstances around his death are tragically still fuzzy.
On Sunday, June 19, the body of Everette Jackson was found mangled in some brush floating on the side of the Payette River, a little over a week after he went missing on Saturday, June 11 during a water tubing excursion, KTVB 7 reports.
A massive search and recovery effort was launched by the Gem County Sheriff’s Department and his family to find the Louisiana State University Eunice sophomore. However, he was found by a volunteer about two miles downstream from where he was last seen after he went out on the river casually to fish, a report from the Gem County Sheriff’s office revealed.
Sam Howell, a witness to the ordeal who had joined the S&R teams several times earlier in the week, said he was going upstream near the 7 Mile Slough boat ramp and spotted Jackson’s bright pink swim shorts.
Sgt. Chad Payne said, “Sam said that he observed what appeared to be a body in the water. Sam stated that he knew it was Mr. Jackson due to the clothing and general description.”
When the body of the 6-foot-7 man was located, the rescuers had to tie a rope around it to pull it out of the river — the waters were still too dangerous for anyone to go in to retrieve it.
Authorities took the Lafourche Parish native’s body to the Potter’s Funeral Home, where he was identified by the family.
A coroner was able to review his body for injuries. A police report noted there were none, but what seemed to be a stream of blood from his nose to his left ear was observed. Officials determined the bleeding was not consistent with one that would come from a wound.
The report stated the coroner found none of the signs associated with asphyxiation, saying, “I did not observe any bruising, wounds, or ligatures.”
The presumed cause of death determination of the 21-year-old athlete was listed in the report as “suffocation by drowning.” Officials said in the report, there were no objects in the area he was found that seemed strange or out of the ordinary.
After the family received the body, they were able to provide him with a proper funeral. Still unsure about the details, a GoFundMe that was set up for his homegoing has been updated and changed to amplify the family’s foremost concern.
“Now that Everette has been laid to rest,” Meagan Jackson, the crowdfund organizer wrote. “We are beginning to try to take the steps in moving forward and getting some answers that we still long for.”
She continued, “We are asking for continued support in getting legal advice/help, seeking guidance and therapy with grief, and picking up the pieces of our lives that have been broken since the tragic news.”
The family originally asked for $30,000 for support and has received a little under $20,000 from supporters.
“This has been a long, painful, and extremely costly … for our family. We are ready and hopeful for some relief. We are truly thankful for all of the support so far,” she concluded.
The family is exploring legal advice as information surrounding his death is still convoluted and based on the recollection of their relative’s girlfriend, Graci Kolka.
In a statement, she told law enforcement the two, traveling in their own tubes, were separated from the group after missing an exit point on the river near Washington Bridge.
A police report states both students got out of their tubes (Jackson without a lifejacket) and tried to kick their way to the riverbanks hoping to grab onto tree branches or roots near the edge. Witnesses have corroborated this version of events.
Kolka claims while Jackson did reach out to grab a branch to secure himself, water splashed in his face, and so she told him to release it and try to get to the dock that was downstream, a report written by Cpl. Tom Armstrong recorded.
He missed the dock.
The girlfriend said in her witness statement, she called out to Jackson as the two drifted farther apart, saying, “Babe, keep your head out of the water!”
She also told the officers that the tube flipped over, spilling Jackson’s shoes and phone, but it is unclear if this happened when they got out of the tubes or when they were inside them.
The report says that Jackson went into the water to get the items, according to one of her accounts to the police, and said she witnessed Jackson flailing around while his head bobbed under and above the river’s surface.
“Graci said she tried to reach for Everett and he went underwater again. Graci stated she swam back to shore, saying it was very deep and the water was moving very fast,” the report said. “Graci said she got to shore and began screaming Everett’s name.”
Sixteen responding officers arrived at the river after the initial dispatch. Once on the scene, the report notes, the cops observed Kolka screaming and crying, calling out for Jackson, who was lost to the current of the Payette.
Shortly thereafter, the family was contacted about the tragedy.
The community in his Louisiana home has rallied behind the family, holding vigils in honor of their native son and hometown hero.
His sister Monette Jackson spoke about how important he was to his friends, “He made friends with any and everybody, everywhere he went. He wasn’t a stranger to anybody. His friends called him ‘Slim.’”
Local station WWL-TV described how his friends and teammates at LSU Eunice gave insight into the person he was.
Best friend Zoie Hartman said, “He was the person I talked to. He was always there.”
“The genuine description of love, that was him,” Hartman continued. “He loved with everything he had, didn’t matter who you were, what you looked like, he loved you.”
Teammate Malik Criner said his friend was “goofy” and “outgoing.”
“He was just dancing every single day,” Criner recalled, saying he is going to miss “the FaceTime calls, the late-night rides, going to the gym late night and just calling him at random times. I’m going to miss him every day.”
In addition to the memorials, benefits, such as prepared lunches and crab boils sales, such as have been held in Louisiana to help the family raise money for the legal expenses and therapy.
A local Domino’s Pizza has also contributed an undisclosed amount to support the family during this time of bereavement.