Man who shot Lady Gaga's dog walker sentenced to 21 years in prison

Lady Gaga arrives for the 64th Annual Grammy Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas
Lady Gaga arrives for the 64th Annual Grammy Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas   -   Copyright  ANGELA WEISS/AFP
By Theo Farrant  & AP

The man who shot and wounded Lady Gaga’s dog walker while stealing her French bulldogs last year took a plea deal and was sentenced to 21 years in prison. 

The Lady Gaga connection was a coincidence, authorities have said. The motive was the value of the French bulldogs, a breed that can run into the thousands of dollars, and detectives do not believe the thieves knew the dogs belonged to the musician.

James Howard Jackson, one of three men and two accomplices who participated in the violent robbery and its aftermath, pleaded no contest to one count of attempted murder, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

The pop star's dog walker, Ryan Fischer, was seriously wounded in the attack and addressed the court Monday to give an impact statement, which he posted on Instagram.

“It's hard to believe that it's nearing two years since I was taking Asia, Koji and Gustav out for an evening stroll when — in an instant — I suddenly found myself fighting with everything I had to protect those dogs from being stolen. But it wasn't enough: I was beaten, strangled, shot and left to die bleeding out on a sidewalk and gasping for my life. And Koji and Gustav were gone.”

A recap of what happened

On 24 February 2021, Jackson and two other accomplices, Jaylin White, 19, and Lafayette Whaley, 27, drove around Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley "looking for French bulldogs". They found Fischer with the pop star's three pets. 

Jackson and White jumped out and attacked Fischer, prosecutors said previously. They hit and choked the dog walker, and Jackson pulled out a semiautomatic gun and fired, striking Fischer once before the trio fled with two of the dogs, named Gustav and Koji. 

A nearby doorbell camera recorded the dog walker screaming “Oh, my God! I’ve been shot!” and “Help me!” and “I’m bleeding out from my chest!”

Fischer later called the violence a “very close call with death” in social media posts. 

Chris Pizzello/Invision
The area on North Sierra Bonita Ave. where Lady Gaga's dog walker was shot and two of her French bulldogs stolen in Los AngelesChris Pizzello/Invision

In his statement on Monday, he said he is still healing physically and mentally from the shooting. Part of his lung had to be removed and he is still undergoing physical therapy.

Fischer also addressed Jackson directly in the statement, and said he forgives him and the others involved in the attack. “You completely altered my life, and I know I can't fully move forward from the night you shot me until I said those words to you.”

After the incident, Gaga offered a $500,000 reward to anyone who could return her two dogs - “no questions asked”.

The stolen dogs were returned several days later by an accomplice of Jackson, Jennifer McBride, who was also charged in the crime. Her case is ongoing.

"A coldhearted violent act"

AP Photo
Photo combination released by the U.S. Marshals Service shows James Howard JacksonAP Photo

In court, Jackson also admitted the allegation of inflicting great bodily injury and to a prior strike, the DA's office said Monday. The prosecutor's office did not immediately say what the prior strike was.

“The plea agreement holds Mr. Jackson accountable for perpetrating a coldhearted violent act and provides justice for our victim,” the office said in a statement. 

Jackson had been charged with attempted murder, conspiracy to commit a robbery and assault with a semiautomatic firearm.

Earlier this year in April, Jackson was mistakenly released from jail due to a clerical error. After US marshals launched a hunt for him, he was recaptured nearly five months later.

Jaylin White and Lafayette Whaley pleaded no contest to robbery earlier this year.