A Northeast motel described by one Philadelphia prosecutor as the city’s “epicenter of human trafficking” turned into the OK Corral for a few minutes on March 31, 2014, as a showdown between two gunmen lit up the guest hallways and stairwells with flying lead.
According to testimony during the trial for one of the combatants earlier this month, the dispute was all about underage prostitution and mistaken identity. At the end of the three-day court proceeding, a jury convicted a Grays Ferry man of launching the lethal tirade.
No one was injured in the episode, but surveillance video posted on YouTube by Philadelphia police shortly after the event went viral. The clips showed Vincent Jackson, then 30, and another man racing around the Roosevelt Inn at Roosevelt Boulevard and Napfle Street with guns blazing and other patrons in the line of fire. The video helped detectives generate tips that led to Jackson’s arrest.
“There were a lot of other people in the hotel. It’s a miracle nobody got hit,” said Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Mitrick.
One prosecution witness testified that she was 15, working for Jackson and in the middle of a “date” shortly after midnight when she heard the shooting outside her room. Jackson had targeted another man who he suspected was a rival pimp.
After the commotion had subsided, the young hooker received a phone call. It was “Vince,” who instructed her to go to a trash bin outside a nearby U-Haul dealer and to retrieve a gun that he had dumped there. She found the weapon and delivered it to Jackson at his home on the 3100 block of Wharton St., she told the court.
When asked about her connection to Jackson, the teen said she had been turning tricks, perhaps eight per night, under his direction for months. Other girls did the same. In exchange, he supplied them with shelter, food and drugs.
“They thought he was taking care of them,” Mitrick said.
In an unusual move, Mitrick also called another prosecutor to the witness stand. The colleague told the court about the vicious cycle of prostitution, drugs and violence at the Roosevelt Inn, which has been a focus location of FBI investigations.
About a month after the shooting, the young prostitute got busted for marijuana and told authorities about Jackson’s activities. Police arrested Jackson and his suspected target separately in June 2014.
Ironically, Jackson had been shooting at the wrong man after all. Jackson was looking for a rival pimp who had dreadlocks, so when the dread-wearing Adonis Fountain showed up at the Roosevelt, Jackson went after him. Fountain happened to have a gun, too. Though he tried to flee initially, he returned fire when Jackson cornered him.
Fountain, then 19, of the 6300 block of Carnation St. in Germantown, served 14 months in jail with his case pending, pleaded guilty to carrying a gun without a license and was sentenced to time served up to 23 months.
Jackson’s jury deliberated about one hour before convicting him on Aug. 7 of aggravated assault, promoting prostitution, corrupting a minor and three gun offenses. Common Pleas Court Judge Rose Marie DeFino-Nastasi will sentence him on Sept. 13. Jackson faces up to 22 to 44 years in prison. ••