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He just wanted to be with his friends and help them if they needed it.

Mostly isolated for months by the pandemic, Jacob Lyle Rusk, 18, jumped at an invitation to meet up Friday night at Jack Carter Park, not far from the home he shared with his parents and his 11-year-old brother in Plano.

The moon was bright as he and his friends spent the cool evening, mostly talking about music under the trees near a playground and an outdoor pavilion.

Everyone loved Rusk, a 6-foot-2 “gentle giant,” as his 76-year-old grandmother Carolyn Narcy calls him. 

A center on his school’s football team before he was sidelined by a back injury, he could just as easily block an opponent on the field as he could draw a bow gently across the strings of a cello in his school’s orchestra. 

Rusk graduated from Plano Senior High School this spring after his classes were shifted online, according to Plano school district records. He was just starting out in his music career, writing and selling his own music and he was especially excited about recently signing a contract with a rapper, Narcy says. 

“He was very talented, so smart musically and he had the sweetest heart, always caring and loving,” she speaks haltingly as she describes her grandson. “He wanted to know how he could help when he came to visit me and he watched over his little brother. He’s the only kid I know [that] if he ever did anything wrong [he] would tell on himself.”

Rusk wanted to help his friends in case there was trouble, Narcy says, as Friday night turned into Saturday morning and a car drove up to their gathering in the park. She says one of Rusk’s girlfriend or former girlfriend, she wasn’t sure, told her daughter, Rusk’s mother, that words were exchanged and Rusk intervened by stepping in front of one of his friends just as the people in the car pulled out a gun. Shots rang out and Rusk was hit.

Frantic, his friends placed Rusk in their car and raced to the hospital, holding him in their arms as they tried to stop the bleeding, Narcy says. But it was too late. Her daughter received the phone call saying he died at the hospital.

“He wasn’t doing anything illegal. He was young and just hanging with some friends,” Narcy says. “That’s just like him to do what he could to try to help. He had no clue what was going to happen.”

Two men, Rudhra Ronakkumar Patel and Abdulrahman Qays Al Dulaimi, both 18, were arrested Sunday in connection with Rusk’s fatal shooting. An additional suspect, Michael Anthony Davis, 18, was arrested Tuesday. They are being held in the Collin County Detention Center in McKinney on murder charges.

The incident occurred about 2:20 a.m. Saturday. Officers were called to investigate the shooting at Jack Carter Park, near Independence Parkway and Legacy Drive, Plano Police spokesman David Tilley says. Before they arrived, they learned a teenager, who was later identified as Rusk, had been wounded and was at a hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

“The parties involved in the incident were known to each other and this was a targeted incident and there is no indication there is any danger to the general public,” according to a statement from police released Sunday. Tilley adds that he doesn’t know whether the victim and the men who were arrested knew each other.

Details about what led to the shooting have not been released as the investigation continues and Tilly says much of what is being shared online and on the NextDoor neighborhood app is not true.

“We do not want to speculate on anything and will only work on facts once they are discovered,” he says.

The killing of Rusk was the second homicide recorded this year in Plano. About a mile and a half from Jack Carter Park, 43-year-old Sarmistha Sen, a cancer researcher at UT Southwestern and mother of two young boys was murdered in a random attack in August during an early morning jog along Chisholm Trail

Last year, four homicides were recorded in Plano, according to the city’s police department website, which also reports an increase this year in aggravated assaults, most of which are domestic related, Tilley says.  

Still, Plano, which recently released a transparency page as a call for change in police policy has swept the nation, is regarded one of the nation’s safest cities. National Night Out, dedicated to building safer communities by getting to know your neighbors and your surroundings, will be held virtually Tuesday.

Tilley says Police Chief Ed Drain plans to release a video about the department and its efforts to keep crime low in Plano, where the chance of being a victim of a violent crime is about 1 out of 1,000 people and property crime occurs for about 11 out of 1,000.

Rusk’s memorial at Jack Carter Park. Courtesy of Annette Nevins.

At Jack Carter Park, a memorial is growing under the shade of an oak tree in the area where Rusk is believed to have been shot. A teddy bear with a note leans on the trunk and bouquets of flowers wrapped in cellophane rustle in the breeze.

Nearby, gleeful children run through the playground. Passersby walk their dogs. Two visitors to the park rest for a drink in the pavilion.

Rusk’s grandmother says she misses her grandson, who she remembers fondly as the little boy who grew up in Plano and loved to play soccer in her backyard.

“This is all so very sad,” she says. “It has hurt so many people, including our family but also the families of those who did the shooting and who were arrested. It has caused so much pain.”

Annette Nevins

Annette Bernhard Nevins is a Plano-based award-winning journalist who specializes in breaking news and features. She has held staff positions at several Texas newspapers, including The Dallas Morning News,...