Positively the Heartland: Ex-gang member gives back to youth through sports

Posted at 9:59 AM, May 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-11 10:59:37-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — At 16-years-old, Darnell Jackson was facing a first-degree murder charge.

“I grew up in the street, spent my entire life in the street. I know what gangs consist of, I know what that does. Just rough, really rough,” said Jackson.

Starting at a very young age, Jackson was involved with gangs, was in and out of detention centers and was shot in the head — not once, but twice.

That's where his relationship with Omaha Police Deputy Chief Ken Kanger began.

“I was in a gang unit and I also worked homicide so over the course of several years I’d run into him being involved with things he probably shouldn't have been involved in,” said Kanger.

But that's not where it ended.

In his twenties, Jackson decided a change had to be made.

“It wasn't until I found God that I was able to make that transition. I don't think it would have happened without him. Just couldn't have the strength to do it on my own,” said Jackson.

Years later, he ran into Kanger again.

That's when Jackson became involved with Operation N.E.T.S., an effort to get the police department engaged with the community through sports.

The two started a basketball team.

Jackson said coaching allows him to ensure his players don't make the same mistakes he did.

“This is my goal, this is my dream, if none of these kids had to ever be chased down, ran down by a gang unit, I'd say we're doing our job,” said Jackson.

The players said Jackson teaches them things on the court that they take with them even after the game ends.

“Even if you just miss or something, don't get your head down, keep it up,” said player Ramel Trosper.

Some refer to him as their second dad, but for one player it's just dad. Marcus Jackson said he's learned to keep pushing.

“Never give up and he said if I want to make it then I have to work hard,” said Marcus.

Kanger said he's proud of Jackson and how far he's come.

“That's what's really important. When you see folks make some change and grow and give back to the community and see if we do this together we can really make an impact,” said Kanger.

Jackson hopes the program can grow and said he wants to make a positive impact on as many kids as he can.

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