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Initial report inconclusive on cause of Jackson’s death

Brian Hartz

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Vincent Jackson, seen here visiting U.S. troops in Afghanistan, was an advocate for veterans and military families. Public domain photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner on Thursday released an initial case summary regarding the death of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who retired from pro football in 2016 but remained highly active and visible in Tampa and St. Petersburg as a businessman and philanthropist.

Jackson, 38, was found dead around 11:30 a.m. Monday in a room at the Homewood Suites in Brandon, but the report indicates that he could have been dead for up to two days prior. The case summary does not specify his manner and cause of death — autopsy results could take weeks, even months, to arrive, according to Michelle Van Dyke, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office — but it does provide additional insights into the timeline of the three-time Pro Bowler’s final days.

The case summary also raises questions about the hotel’s policies — specifically, why did hotel staff, who visited Jackson’s room on Feb. 13 and 14 and found him unresponsive, in the same position, on both occasions, wait two days to call 911? And were they made aware that sheriff’s deputies had visited Jackson at the hotel to perform a wellness check on Feb. 12?

“On the dates of 02/13 and 02/14,” the report reads, “hotel staff entered the secured hotel room and located the [deceased] seated on the couch, slouched over. They assumed he was sleeping and left the room. On the morning [of] 02/15 hotel staff once again went into the secured room and were concerned when they found the [deceased] in the same position. 911 was activated at [11:37 a.m.].”

A Friday morning call to Homewood Suites General Manager Justin Blanchard went to voicemail and has not yet been returned.

Jackson’s body, the report states, had no visible signs of injury except for a “small laceration” on the “left great toe.” It says that in addition to alcohol, Jackson was a user of smokeless tobacco, but he had no known history of other drug use. Jackson was twice charged for driving under the influence, in 2006 and 2009, and in 2010 he received a citation for driving with a suspended license.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, speaking to a local radio station earlier this week, said Jackson’s family believes Jackson’s death could have been a result of alcoholism and symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain condition — common in football players who’ve sustained multiple concussions — that leads to cognitive decline and mental health problems. However, the former Buc’s mother, Sherry Jackson, had little to say when reached for comment about the medical examiner’s report.

“We are not making a statement at this time,” she told the Catalyst.

Van Dyke, in a statement emailed to the Catalyst, cautioned the public about jumping to conclusions regarding Jackson’s cause of death.

“When an autopsy is warranted,” Van Dyke wrote, “it is not unusual for it to take a considerable length of time before a final report can be issued, depending on what additional forensic tests and toxicology screenings may be ordered, and the complexity of the research into the circumstances of the death by medical examiner investigators. There cannot be a rush to judgment in determining cause and manner of death. At this time, there is no timeframe for the completion of the autopsy report for Mr. Jackson, though the medical examiner anticipates it may take several months. Cause and manner of death in this specific case are pending further study.”

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