One of the most shocking and high-profile dognapping cases in recent years reached its conclusion this week: James Howard Jackson, who shot dog walker Ryan Fischer last year and stole two French bulldogs belonging to pop star Lady Gaga, was sentenced to 21 years in prison.
According to Retuers, Jackson pleaded no contest and admitted to “inflicting great bodily injury” on Fischer, who spoke out against the defendant during the court hearing.
“The plea agreement holds Mr. Jackson accountable for perpetrating a cold-hearted, violent act and provides justice for our victim,” the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said.
“You shot me and left me to die, and both of our lives have changed forever,” Fischer said in court, according to Rolling Stone. “I do forgive you. With the attack, you completely altered my life. I know I can’t completely move on from the night you shot me until I said those words to you.”
Fischer also opened up about the impact the shooting had on his life, describing the lung collapses and personal turmoil that led him to contemplating suicide.
The shooting and theft occurred last February. Fischer was walking Lady Gaga’s three pet French bulldogs — Koji, Asia, and Gustav — when Jackson approached him with a semi-automatic handgun and shot him.
He then reportedly fled in a white van with Koji and Gustav, while Asia was able to run away and was later picked up by police.
Lady Gaga was reportedly filming House of Gucci in Rome at the time, but offered a $500,000 return for her dogs.
Fischer was hospitalized from his injuries and had “a very close call with death,” but he pulled through and expressed hope the dogs would be found.
“I cradled Asia as best I could, thanked her for all the incredible adventures we’d been on together, apologized that I couldn’t defend her brothers, and then resolved that I would still try to save them… and myself,” he wrote in an Instagram post.
Later, the dogs were recovered, unharmed, two days after the theft. A woman named Jennifer McBride handed the dogs over to the police, and was later found to be an associate of the dognappers and was charged with being an accessory after the fact.
The individuals charged in the theft reportedly did not know the dogs belonged to Lady Gaga. French bulldogs are a valuable breed, which makes them a prized target for dognappers.
Four other suspects have been charged or are facing charges related to the case, according to Reuters. Jaylin White and Lafayette Whaley pleaded no contest to second-degree robbery and received four and six year sentences, respectively. Co-defendent Harold White also pleaded no contest to a weapons charge and will be sentenced next year. McBride’s case is pending.
Lady Gaga has not released a statement on the matter, but Fischer released his testimony in an Instagram post, and thanked the supporters who “carried [him] through the darkest times to find the light again.”
This was surely a heartbreaking ordeal, but we’re glad justice has been served. We hope this verdict brings some peace to Ryan Fischer who suffered so much in the shooting.
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