Ds Scholarship

scholarship honors 18-year-old killed in Park Place Mall shooting

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) – A Tucson family laid an 18-year-old to rest on Saturday, following a tragic shooting.

Loved ones say Darne Jackson was so much more than a headline. Jackson’s mother, Anne Marie Varela, says he was courageous and funny, with big dreams for his future.

“We will never see our son graduate, we will never see him off to boot camp,” said Varela during Jackson’s funeral service. “We will never see him marry the love of his life; Andrea. We will never see him look into the eyes of his own baby.”

There were more people than chairs at Jackson’s funeral service. Varela says it goes to show how many lives he touched.

“The cruel way in which he died is not a reflection of how he lived,” she said. “Darne was a pivotal part of our every day life. He was a great brother to his seven siblings. He was the humor in our family, he got all of his dad’s jokes.”

On Feb. 1, Jackson was shot outside Park Place Mall. He died in the hospital shortly after. According to investigators, the suspect, 23-year-old Rico Roman, met with Jackson and two girls in a parking garage. Tucson Police say an argument turned physical and the suspect shot Jackson and fled. Roman turned himself in the next day and was charged with first-degree murder.

Hug your babies,” Varela said through tears. “You don’t know when they are going to leave us. Darne was only 18.”

Varela says her son was a bright light in a dark world.

Jackson’s service was held at Heart of the Horse Ranch. It was like a second home to him, where he found peace and new path.

“We are here to help, that’s what we do,” said David Lavin, who owns Heart of the Horse. “Horses, in my experience, are unable to lie. They are a direct reflection of your personal state. The thing that a lot of folks lack is a sense of connection to self and others. So, horses require you to be fully honest with yourself. They connect with you when you acknowledge what you’re feeling.”

Lavin is a licensed counselor. In 2014, he started a scholarship program that provides free equestrian therapy to people recovering from trauma who wouldn’t otherwise have access to professional help. Jackson was one of the first recipients.

“He took to it and flew,” Varela said. “It was the most beautiful thing.”

“[Eventually,] he started working here and riding horses, teaching kids how to ride,” Lavin said.

Lavin has started a new scholarship for at-risk youth. It’s called ‘Ride like Darne.’

“Because the way Darne rode was fearless,” said Lavin. “He was just a natural, he was just an incredible human being and an incredible horseman. I’m heartbroken, I’m devastated, I’m beyond distraught that he is gone. I feel like the only way to honor his memory is to help other people who could turn into Darnes.”

Many tears were shed during the service, but there was a laughter, too. Family and friends took turns sharing memories of the young man who lived life to the fullest.

“The imprint he left on this earth can never be taken from us,” said Varela. “We love you more than you can ever know our sweet baby boy.”

In lieu of flowers, Jackson’s family is asking people to give to the Ride Like Darne scholarship. An anonymous donor has agreed to match every contribution up to $10,000. Donations can be sent to heartofthehorseaz@gmail.com. Use ‘Ride Like Darne’ in the memo.

Copyright 2022 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.

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