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Police reports revealed in Everette Jackson’s death

The Gem County Sheriff’s Office wrote in police reports obtained on Friday that Everette Jackson's body showed no bruising, wounds, ligatures or petechiae.

EMMETT, Idaho — Warning: This story contains graphic details and may be disturbing for some readers. 

When Everette Jackson’s body was found along the Payette River in Emmett on June 19, people on Facebook and other social media sites began speculating what could have happened in the moments before witnesses saw the 21-year-old float away.

Gem County Sheriff reports obtained by KTVB say that police located Jackson’s body after many days of searching with helicopters, drones, boats and cadaver dogs. Jackson’s body was eventually spotted caught on some brush floating on the side of the river.

When rescuers reached Jackson, they had to tie a rope around his torso to retrieve his body from the river due to the unsafe nature of the current, reports say.

Once Jackson was transported to Potter’s Funeral Home, police and the coroner observed no signs of injury, the reports say, but they did observe blood going from Jackson’s nose to his left ear that did not seem to be associated with a wound. They also observed no lumps or bumps on Jackson's head or any sign of petechiae, which is a sign of asphyxiation. 

“I did not observe any bruising, wounds, or ligatures,” the report said. 

Narratives from every responding officer, witness and notable volunteers were collected.

According to witness statements, there were five people floating the river that day including Jackson and his girlfriend, Graci Kolka.

Kolka told a police officer in her statement that the two were on separate tubes tied together when the current quickly became too swift and fast-moving.

Kolka is recorded in the reports as saying she and Jackson missed their point to exit the water near Washington Bridge, so they exited their tubes and began kicking to reach the side of the river in order to grab onto some trees.

Other witness reports say Kolka and Jackson were struggling to exit the river where they were observed missing the exit, and eventually floated downstream from view of the rest of the tubers. Jackson was not wearing a lifejacket.

Kolka told Everette to reach out and grab a branch. He did, she said, but water was getting in his face, so she told him to let go and reach out for a dock that was downstream.

A report written by Cpl. Tom Armstrong said Kolka told him Jackson did let go, reached out to the dock, but missed it. She said in the report the tube flipped over, spilling his shoes and phone into the river. Everett then went into the water, the police report said, and Kolka said her boyfriend started to flail around as he bobbed under and above the water.

In her witness statement, she wrote she screamed at Jackson, “Babe, keep your head out of the water!” But the two were drifting farther apart.

“Graci said she tried to reach for Everett and he went underwater again. Graci stated she swam back to shore, saying it was very deep and the water was moving very fast. Graci said she got to shore and began screaming Everett’s name,” the police report said.

16 responding officers arrived at the river where they observed Kolka frantically screaming and crying out for Jackson, they said in the report.

Search conditions were dangerous with rising water levels, rain, and swift-moving currents. The sheriff’s office called in help from Gulf Search and Rescue to be flown in overnight and assist with the search due to the dangers of the conditions.

According to the reports, Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue, Washington County Search and Rescue and Gem County Search and Rescue came together to search both sides of the river bank.

“Unfortunately on our search we found nothing,” a June 12 report said. “The conditions of the day were not that great, heavy rains at the time, with steady rain throughout. That, with the river flowing at a very high rate made searching very difficult.”

For three days conditions remained dangerous, reports said, and boat searchers were having issues with debris from the shoreline. Cadaver dogs arrived, and volunteers, citizens and the Cajun Navy came out to help locate the missing 21-year-old.

On June 19, witness Sam Howell told police he decided to take his boat out to fish on the river, keeping an eye out for Jackson the whole time. He was out looking for Jackson several times that week already, he said in reports, going upstream near the 7 Mile Slough boat ramp.

That is when he spotted bright pink swim shorts.

“Sam said that he observed what appeared to be a body in the water,” a report by Sgt. Chad Payne said. “Sam stated that he knew it was Mr. Jackson due to the clothing and general description.”

Credit: Gem County Sheriff

Jackson's presumed cause of death determination listed in the report is "suffocation by drowning." There were no strange objects in the area and nothing out of the ordinary seen when he was found, it said.

Jackson was visiting Idaho from where he resided in Raceland, Louisiana.

Benefits in Louisiana began after Jackson’s death to raise money for his family. Some fundraisers included lunches, crab boils and vigils. A Domino’s Pizza in Louisiana also contributed.

A GoFundMe organized by Jackson’s sister, Megan Jackson, has raised $18,914 of their $30,000 goal. The family is asking for assistance with memorial fees, legal fees and any additional fees they may be faced with.

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