Suspected gunman arrested, driver sought in fatal shooting of 7-year-old Pontiac girl

$10K reward offered for information regarding driver

Oakland County Sheriff's Office (WDIV)

PONTIAC, Mich. – The suspected shooter accused of firing several shots at a Pontiac family in the driveway of their home, fatally striking a 7-year-old girl, has been arrested, officials said Thursday.

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday announced that a suspected gunman has been arrested in the March 18 fatal shooting of Ariah Jackson, who was just arriving home from school with her mother, sister and cousins. The 7-year-old girl was shot in the back of the head, and the girl’s mother was also injured in the shooting, which is said to be gang-related.

The suspected gunman is believed to be the passenger of the vehicle involved in the drive-by shooting. Authorities said last week that the mother was driving her daughters and nieces home from school, and they had just arrived at home when an orange Chevrolet Blazer pulled up and fired at eight shots at them in the area of Wilson Avenue and Paddock Street.

The suspected gunman was reportedly arrested Wednesday night in the city of Troy. His identity has not yet been released, but police said they are seeking warrants on Thursday to charge the person with several felonies, including first-degree murder.

The sheriff’s office is still looking for the driver of the SUV, who is believed to be JaJuan Calvin McDonald, a 17-year-old resident of Pontiac. Officials say the teen is facing several charges, including first-degree murder and four counts of assault with intent to murder. A warrant for these charges was authorized on Thursday, officials said.

Authorities are offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of McDonald. Anonymous tips can be made to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-Speak Up.

A photo of the wanted teen can be found below.

Police are looking for JaJuan McDonald, 17, of Pontiac, who is wanted in connection with the fatal drive-by shooting of a 7-year-old girl on March 18, 2022. Photo provided by the Oakland County Sheriff's Office. (WDIV)

Here’s what happened

According to police, at about 4:50 p.m. on March 18, a mother was driving her daughters and nieces home from school, and they had just arrived at home when the orange SUV pulled up and fired eight shots at them.

The mother was struck with a grazing shot to the head, officials said. Her 7-year-old daughter, who was sitting in the backseat of the car, was shot once in the back of the head.

The 7-year-old victim, identified as Ariah Jackson, was taken to the hospital Friday and listed in critical condition. The girl was pronounced dead a short time later, according to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.

The mother reportedly declined treatment at the hospital and was released. Authorities say that three other girls, ages 6, 7 and 11, were riding in the vehicle at the time of the shooting, but they were not injured. One of the girls is Jackson’s sister, and the other two girls are their cousins.

The 30-year-old mother told deputies that she saw an orange SUV with two males inside drive by her car as she waited to pick up the children at the bus stop. Once the children got in the car, the mother drove them to her residence and pulled in the driveway, and that’s when the orange SUV approached and began firing, officials said.

The passenger of the SUV was reportedly dressed in black and fired rounds while hanging out the window. He was arrested Wednesday, March 23 and is expected to be arraigned on March 24. His identity has not been released, pending arraignment.

Investigators are still seeking the suspected driver involved in the shooting, JaJuan McDonald.

Specific details have not been released regarding a motive, but the sheriff’s office has called the shooting “gang-related.”

More: Death of 7-year-old girl sparks change in Pontiac community

“I am proud of our team and grateful for the assistance of ATF agents as they worked seamlessly to quickly identify the suspects in this horrific and senseless murder of an innocent child,” Sheriff Michael Bouchard said Thursday. “The wrong people are afraid in our community. We must make those that carry and use weapons illegally and perpetrate this violence the ones that are fearful of the certainty of long prison time. Children coming home from school should never be afraid. These suspects must be held accountable.”

A community meeting tonight in Pontiac to address a rise in gun violence; The meeting came days after seven-year-old Ariah Jackson was shot and killed while sitting in a parked car. The meeting was packed with residents wanting to know how they could make a difference what they could do themselves to end the type of senseless violence that took the life of a 7-year-old girl.

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.