Almost two years after he was shot in the chest and left bleeding on a sidewalk because he refused to hand over Lady Gaga’s beloved French bulldogs, Ryan Fischer was in a Los Angeles courtroom Monday as the man who pulled the trigger was sentenced to 21 years in prison.
Fischer, 41, flew to California for the occasion and gave an emotional victims impact statement shortly after gunman James Howard Jackson, 20, pleaded no contest to attempted murder with great bodily injury and admitted to a prior strike. The last-minute plea deal led prosecutors to drop related robbery and weapons charges.
“I was beaten, strangled, shot and left to die, bleeding out on a sidewalk and gasping for my life,” Fischer told Jackson, describing the “earth-shattering event” he barely survived. “You shot me and left me to die, and both of our lives have changed forever.”
Fischer described his difficult days and nights since the attack, filled with “lung collapse after lung collapse,” ongoing physical therapy, rising debt and the “loss of career, friendships (and) sense of self.” Still, he showed grace toward his assailant.
“I do forgive you and everyone involved with the attack. You completely altered my life, and I know I can’t completely move on from the night you shot me until I said those words to you,” Fischer told Jackson before also thanking him for not harming or disposing of the dogs during the “media storm” that followed their abduction. “They were returned and returned to their mom. I don’t think I could have lived with myself if they died.”
Jackson, who was mistakenly freed from custody in April and finally recaptured in August, shot Fischer with a .40-caliber handgun at close range during a violent ambush on a sidewalk in Hollywood on the evening of February 24, 2021, prosecutors said. Jackson and his cohorts stalked and targeted Fischer after noticing he was walking three highly valuable French bulldogs.
The men had no idea the precious pets — Asia, Gustav, and Koji — belonged to Gaga, only that the dogs were a rare and coveted breed, Deputy District Attorney Michele Hanisee, who prosecuted the case, previously said.
Fischer fought back valiantly and took a bullet trying to save all three dogs. The dognappers managed to grab Gustav and Koji before fleeing the scene in a white Nissan Sentra.
In dramatic testimony during a secret grand jury proceeding last year, Fischer said he was “confused at first” when the dognappers ambushed him and demanded the three animals.
“They pointed down to the dogs, that they wanted the dogs, and I said, ‘No.’ And I started to scream for help and tried to fight back,” Fischer testified, according to a transcript obtained by Rolling Stone.
He said the man with the gun “threw” him into a concrete embankment and “began to choke me.” He hit the man with a bottle of champagne purchased at a nearby store, broke free, and tried to lunge for Koji.
“The dog screamed at me, and I reached for him, and then the guy, the man with the gun shot me as I was reaching,” Fischer testified, saying he collapsed on the ground as his assailants sped away.
“I immediately tried to call for help but realized I was bleeding out of my lung and that I was losing more and more air quickly,” Fischer testified.
The animal lover described using hand signals to tell Asia to stay hidden during the attack. After he was shot, the dog ran to his side. While gasping for breath, Fischer then “tried to project as much as possible in a calm manner to get people out of their houses to ask for help,” he testified.
Echoing what he told Rolling Stone in his first major interview after the near-death attack, Fischer said the bullet ripped through his upper right torso, “right next to my brachial plexus and the collar bone area,” before it exited out his back under his shoulder blade. “It went through my lung because I was reaching forward, trying to grab Koji,” he said.
Jackson’s sentencing Monday followed four months after fellow dognapper Jaylin White, 21, accepted his own surprise plea deal and was sentenced to four years in state prison.
Jackson and White were first arrested in the case in April 2021, along with the third alleged dognapper Lafayette Whaley, 28.
Two other co-defendants in the case – White’s dad Harold White and his alleged friend Jennifer McBride – were charged as accessories after the fact. According to the grand jury transcript obtained by Rolling Stone, White purportedly admitted to investigators that “there were some dogs in my backyard at some point.”
White also accepted a deal Monday but was not sentenced. He pleaded no contest to one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm in exchange for a sentence of 16 months in county jail.
McBride, meanwhile, is the woman who returned the dogs to police days after they were stolen. She claimed she randomly found Gaga’s dogs tied to a pole and reached out when she saw the offer of a reward for their return.