STAMFORD – A Stamford pastor and husband of a police commissioner was struck and killed on Wire Mill Road Wednesday afternoon by a Stamford Police patrol car that was responding to a call for service, according to a statement from the department.
The Rev. Tommie Jackson, 69, a pastor, urban planner, and longtime figure in city politics, was retrieving mail from his mailbox in front of his home on Wire Mill Road – a narrow, winding street in North Stamford that has no sidewalks – when he was hit, police said. Jackson’s wife, Dorye Jackson, is vice chair of the Stamford Police Commission.
“The pedestrian was rushed to Stamford Hospital where lifesaving measures were unsuccessful,” the police department statement reads. “No further details are available for release at this time. … Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the deceased.”
Because the incident involves a Stamford police officer, State Police will handle the investigation, according to the statement. A State Police report states that Jackson was struck by a patrol car driven by 24-year-old Officer Zachary Lockwood of Stamford.
Jackson worked for the last decade as assistant director of the Stamford Urban Redevelopment Commission, an agency that collaborates with governments, and private and nonprofit developers, to improve housing, transportation, infrastructure and neighborhoods.
Friends said Wednesday that Jackson was taking a few days from his job to move his office because it had been relocated from the Stamford Government Center on Washington Boulevard to Old Town Hall on Atlantic Street.
Jackson was pastor of Rehoboth Fellowship Church on Greenwich Avenue in Stamford.
Rich Lyons, who knows Jackson from his involvement with the Stamford Democratic Party, said he talked on the phone and texted Jackson throughout the day Wednesday, and last received a text from Jackson at 4:05 p.m. According to state police, the accident occurred at 4:10 p.m.
“Tommie was trying to help one of his parishioners who had a tree go through the roof of his house. I was helping him put people in place to try to keep repair costs down for the parishioner,” said Lyons, a former member of the Board of Representatives and Board of Education. “I must have talked to him just before this happened. It’s such a shock.”
Jackson was good to talk to, Lyons said.
“I had a great friendship with him. I went to his house of worship on Easter. He gave great sermons,” Lyons said. “We had conversations about trends in society, civility, people respecting each other, and politics. He had a vast network of people and experiences. He knew about the divine, and he knew the game of life. He loved politics.”
Jackson made political news in April, when he said that former city Rep. Susan Nabel, his friend, neighbor and fellow Democrat, had asked him to fill her District 20 seat until the next election because she was gravely ill. Nabel died May 1 at 75.
Jackson would have been the first Black city representative from District 20, a mostly White neighborhood. Though it is custom for resigning representatives to name their replacements without vetting by political parties, Jackson said the Democratic City Committee interfered in his case.
Jackson said he was vetted by the board’s deputy majority leader, city Rep. Eric Morson, and then learned that the Democratic City Committee was interviewing other candidates. He was not invited for an interview, Jackson said, even though he’d worked in Democratic politics for nearly 30 years, including campaigns for Gov. Ned Lamont, former Governor and Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy, and current Mayor Caroline Simmons.
Jackson told CT Examiner at the time that Morson told him that the two Democratic City Committee members from District 20, Jackie Heftman and Ros Nesin, didn’t want him.
Jackson said he believed members of the Democratic City Committee pressured Nabel to change her mind and name another North Stamford Democrat, Carl Weinberg, because Weinberg would reliably deliver votes for the party establishment on the Board of Representatives, which has a large faction of reform Democrats.
Jackson said then that he thought the issue was about a fractured city Democratic Party in which an established guard is fighting to maintain control as a more diverse faction is fighting to have its say.
“The elitism, colonialism, political patronage and exclusionary practices need to stop,” Jackson told CT Examiner in April. “We need a better way for people to participate in democracy. I feel that I’ve torn the bandage off a terrible sore that needs to be exposed, and that healing should take place.”
Lyons said Jackson was talking about challenging Weinberg, who must run to keep his District 20 seat in November.
“He was doing his due diligence. He knew how to get scrappy,” Lyons said. “He understood all the machinations of politics.”
Jackson also understood Stamford, former Mayor Mike Pavia said Wednesday.
Pavia said that, when he was running for mayor in 2009, even though he is a Republican and Jackson was a Democrat, Jackson invited him to speak at Faith Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church on Grove Street, where Jackson was pastor for many years.
“I spoke to his congregation, then he got on the pulpit and talked about all the things that need to be done in Stamford. He laid it all out,” Pavia said. “My head was spinning. He was saying things I hadn’t thought of. I said to myself, ‘How will I get all this done?’ But when I became mayor, he was there helping me. We worked closely together and got a lot of good things done.”
Pavia named Jackson assistant director of the Urban Redevelopment Commission when the position opened in 2013, Pavia’s final year in office. He thinks Jackson was not given the chance to show what he could do with the job, Pavia said.
“His talents and abilities were not fully recognized, and that bothers me. He could have taken over community development and done a great job with it but, in my opinion, he was totally ignored,” Pavia said. “He had a strong commitment to doing what’s right for the public. You should be recognized for your ability to help people, not be pushed aside, but I think that happened.”
He and Jackson remained friends after he left the mayor’s office, Pavia said.
“On my birthday, every Christmas, every Easter, Valentine’s Day – you name it – he would call me before 6 a.m. and wish me a happy holiday,” Pavia said. “I feel so bad that this happened to him. I loved the guy.”
This story has been updated