A 56-year-old homeless veteran was hospitalized Friday evening with life-threatening injuries after an apparent assault that left him unconscious within blocks of the Springs Rescue Mission south of downtown, police said.
In June, Darrell Keith Jackson began working with Warriors in Recovery, a local nonprofit. The organization had helped him get a new ID card, a bank account and a suit, said Jeanette Falu-Bishop, its director. A full-time job and housing were next.
Sitting in UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central, Falu-Bishop described Jackson as kind, generous and determined to improve his life.
"Outside of being a vet, outside of being homeless, he was human," she said, her voice shaking as she spoke. "That's somebody's son. For somebody to do that - I don't understand how people can be so cruel."
Jackson's son was expected to arrive in Colorado Springs on Saturday, according to Falu-Bishop. She said he had kept his homelessness from his family.
"'He was like, 'I just want to make sure I have everything in order first. I don't want them to see me living like this.' And now they've got to see him like that," Falu-Bishop said, motioning toward the unconscious man lying in a hospital bed.
Police have little information about what led to Jackson's injuries. He was found unconscious in the area of West Las Vegas Street and South Sierra Madre Street on Thursday evening. Medical crews took him to a local hospital, and police officers went to the hospital after a medical evaluation seemed to show Jackson had been assaulted.
Police are asking for "any information pertaining to the events that caused Mr. Jackson's injuries," a release says.
Falu-Bishop said Jackson was originally from Philadelphia. He spent more than two decades in prison in Virginia before moving to Colorado in July 2016.
He doesn't have family in the state, she said.
She said he frequently referred to her as his little sister and made her his emergency contact after she helped him get the ID card. "He's become my brother," she said. "He really has."
Falu-Bishop said police told her they believe Jackson was assaulted near his tent, which she described as immaculately clean and organized.
Jackson had stayed at the Springs Rescue Mission previously, Falu-Bishop said, but hadn't returned after he said his ID was stolen there.
Falu-Bishop met Jackson after hearing about a homeless man who was cleaning up nearby trails.
"He wasn't used to people caring for him," she said. "He said, 'You know, Jeanette, thank you for not letting me be invisible.' "
He recently was involved in an altercation in the same area, she said. It was pouring rain, and someone had taken another man's tent. Jackson stood up for the man and got his things back, she said.
"He did care, and he was loving, and he was so apologetic for the things that he did in his past," she said, pausing to wipe tears from her face. "He would tell me, 'I feel like God is punishing me.' And I told him, 'God's not punishing you. You've already hit rock bottom. Now you have to build from there.'"
Jackson was the first homeless veteran aided by Warriors in Recovery, part of a new effort by the nonprofit.
Anyone with information about how Jackson was injured is asked to call Colorado Springs police at 444-7000. To remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 634-STOP (7867) or 1-800-222-8477.
Contact Ellie Mulder: 636-0198