By Susan Payne
The man who shot then 30-year-old Ryan Fischer, a gay professional dog walker in Hollywood in February of 2021, has been sentenced to 21 years in prison.
James Howard Jackson was sentenced as part of a plea deal by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Fischer was walking three dogs for singer Stefani Germanotta, famously known as Lady Gaga, when Jackson shot him during a struggle, and then along with an accomplice, grabbed two of the dogs, and taking off in a late-model white Nissan Altima four-door sedan, according to the Los Angeles Blade.
Authorities told the KTLA/Associated Press that the Lady Gaga connection was a coincidence and that the motive was the value of the French bulldogs, up to thousands of dollars.
“The plea agreement holds Mr. Jackson accountable for perpetrating a coldhearted violent act and provides justice for our victim,” the office said in a statement. Howard had been charged with attempted murder, conspiracy to commit a robbery and assault with a semiautomatic firearm, according to the Blade.
Fischer made his victim impact statement prior to Jackson’s sentencing. It read:
“Your honor, thank you for the opportunity to give my impact statement here in court, and for everything you, Michele Hanisee [Deputy LA District Attorney] and the DA’s office, and detectives and law enforcement have done to bring these cases to completion. It’s hard to believe that it’s nearing 2 years since I was taking Asia, Koji and Gustav out for an evening stroll when – in an instant – I suddenly found myself fighting with everything I had to protect those dogs from being stolen. But it wasn’t enough: I was beaten, strangled, shot and left to die bleeding out on a sidewalk and gasping for my life. And Koji and Gustav were gone.
In some ways that night and everything that followed: from hospital stays, lung collapse after lung collapse and eventual surgery and partial removal- physical therapy that I’m still in to get mobility and sensation fully restored in my shoulder, chest and hand, the media storm that made me terrified to even go back to my home or walk on the street, the loss of a career, friendships, sense of self and savings and then aimlessly traveling this country for over a year as I went into debt, contemplated suicide, and struggled – and continue to struggle – with my identity and how to move past such a life-changing, earth-shattering event…
Sometimes it feels like all that happened to someone else, and other times it feels like I never left that sidewalk. A part of me is still trying desperately to save those dogs knowing you were going to shoot me. I’m sure it feels the same for you, Mr. Jackson. I imagine you’re on that sidewalk sometimes too. You shot me and left me to die, and both of our lives have changed forever. A limbo neither of us asked to be in.
In my darkest hours, when I feel lost and abandoned and mourn a life and those dogs I sacrificed myself for, a life I’ve accepted – through a lot of therapy – I’ve accepted I’ll never see again, I try to focus on what I’ve gained:
- A deeper love for friends and family that have shown up and continue to show up even when I’m still such a mess. I love you and thank you.
- That, despite everything and the trauma I still work through in regards to them, I love dogs so much and look forward to continue bringing them back into my life.
- Gratitude for strangers that became family and have supported me in countless ways.
- And that I finally feel healthy enough to stop running from my problems.
- Forgiving myself for not being able to save those dogs that night and falling down again and again these last two years.
- Forgiving friends who didn’t and don’t know how to be there for me in the lengthy recovery process this continues to be.
- And forgiveness for you. It’s something I’m still working on but I do forgive you and everyone involved with the attack. You completely altered my life, and I know I can’t fully move forward from the night you shot me until I said those words to you.
My hope for you is the same for me: to live a life of purpose and grow from what happened that night. Moving forward, it’s going to be a hard road for both of us, and I know from prison it won’t be easy. But I do hope you find a calling there as I continue to search for my own and live life contributing to others. It’s the only way to heal from this experience.
I also wanted to give gratitude, to thank you for not killing – for not harming – the dogs after everything and the media storm. They were returned and returned to their mom. I don’t think I could have lived with myself if they died.
And, in general, I just wanted to say how guns have impacted my life and countless others and continue to harm our society. I look forward to contributing to a future that doesn’t destroy so many lives and so many people in this country. It doesn’t make sense to fear for your life at school, places of worship, clubs, or when you’re taking dogs out for an evening stroll.
Thank you all for your time today.”
Another accomplice, Harold White, pleaded no contest to a count of ex-convict in possession of a gun, and will be sentenced next year, according to the Blade. Jaylin White and Lafayette Whaley earlier this year and pleaded no contest to robbery, the Blade reported.