A witness told police he saw a Manchester restaurant manager fatally shoot a fry cook after an argument, arrest warrants for the suspect and his girlfriend show.
James Goolsby, 28, of Cleveland Avenue in Hartford, was arrested Tuesday and charged with the murder of Norris Jackson, a crime that police say may have been prompted in part by negative reviews of the restaurant.
After a court appearance Wednesday, Goolsby’s bail was kept at $1 million. His girlfriend, Leanne Robitaille, 23, who also worked at the restaurant, Bonchon Chicken, also was arrested Tuesday and charged with hindering prosecution. Robitaille’s bail remained at $100,000 after her arraignment in Superior Court in Manchester Wednesday.
Both are scheduled to return to court on Jan. 18 in Hartford.
There was an ongoing dispute between the couple and Jackson, and recent negative reviews of Bonchon Chicken on Yelp “could have been a culminating factor” in the fatal shooting, police spokesman Capt. Christopher Davis said Wednesday.
A witness told police Goolsby shot Jackson four times after an argument, the warrant says. The medical examiner said Jackson died of a gunshot wound to the neck and the manner of death was homicide.
On the run in Robitaille’s 2007 Mazda 3, the pair stopped at Goolsby’s stepfather’s house in East Hartford, police said. The stepfather said Goolsby told him he had shot a co-worker who was always disrespecting him and his girlfriend, the warrant says.
Goolsby also told his brother that he had shot a co-worker “because the dude got in his face,” police said. Goolsby was crying about what happened and said he had messed up his life, police said.
Hartford police said Robitaille turned herself in to city police officers. Hartford police and U.S. Marshals found Goolsby at a Wethersfield Avenue home Tuesday night, Deputy Chief Brian Foley said.
The restaurant at the bustling Plaza at Buckland Hills had just opened on Saturday when the shooting happened, at about 11:45 a.m., Davis said. An employee who witnessed the shooting said he heard Jackson say, “ ‘Yo, do that (expletive) again!’ and when he looked over he saw James’ arm out and something black in his hand,” the warrant says.
“He heard ‘a few pops’ and ‘saw a flash’ and then Norris ‘staggered and went down,’ ” the warrant said.
Jackson, 36, a father of seven, was pronounced dead at Hartford Hospital on Sunday.
Reviews of the restaurant have been mixed, with many positive comments and a few negative reviews, including two on Friday. Police said the negative review was part of the argument between Goolsby and Jackson that morning.
Jackson started the job at Bonchon over the summer, his mother, Barbara Turner said. He was apparently not happy, at times, on the job. Recent posts on his own Facebook page included a photo on Nov. 15 that shows him raising a middle finger while working at a grill and deep fryer station.
“They [expletive] with me at work,” he wrote in the post.
On Dec. 20, Jackson posted — “6 straight days all 12hr shifts. And I gotta due this [expletive] Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun….”
The Hartford native had been living with several of his children, his girlfriend and her three children in East Hartford, but recently moved back to the city, Turner said Monday. She decided to let surgeons harvest her son’s organs so that others would benefit, and posted on Facebook Tuesday that Jackson’s right kidney was donated to a 49-year-old man and saved his life.
“He’s making a difference in somebody’s life — my son lives on in other people,” Turner said.
Bonchon Chicken, an international fried chicken franchise based in South Korea, put out a brief statement over the weekend on its company Facebook page.
“We at Bonchon Franchise are deeply saddened by the tragic shooting in Manchester, CT today, and are deeply concerned about the family and friends who are suffering,” the post reads. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim and their family as we also respect their privacy during this ordeal.”
Police are asking anyone with information about the case to contact Det. Claire Hearn at 860-645-5549.
Courant staff writers Sandra Gomez-Aceves and Christine Dempsey contributed to this story.