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Friends remember Duluth shooting victim as a protector

Scott Allen Pennington died early Saturday after a shooting on First Street in downtown Duluth. (Photo courtesy of Emma Espejo)1 / 2
Jamal Tyshawn Jackson2 / 2

The victim of a fatal shooting in downtown Duluth early Saturday was “a big teddy bear” who “could talk to anybody,” friends said.

Scott Allen Pennington, 31, died on Saturday morning following the shooting on the 100 block of West First Street that was reported just before 1 a.m., Duluth police said.

Jamal JacksonJamal Tyshawn Jackson, 25, was booked into the St. Louis County Jail on Monday afternoon on suspicion of second-degree murder related to Pennington’s death.

Jackson was arrested in Hennepin County on an unrelated warrant on Sunday, Duluth police said in a news release, before being transferred to St. Louis County. He is being held without bail and is awaiting formal charges.

Jackson turned himself in at the Hennepin County Jail on Sunday morning, according to the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office.

A longtime friend of Pennington’s, Emma Espejo, 31, said she was in the Twin Cities at the time of the shooting, but heard from people who were there that the 6 foot, 7 inch Pennington had stepped in to try to stop a fight.

“Scott, being Scott, went to go break up the fight, and got caught in the crossfire,” she said. “The only way that I want him to be portrayed and the way that I want him to be known is as the beautiful, beautiful human being that he was.”

Another close friend, Sarah Edwards, 33, said she was at a table at Aces on First when the shooting occurred. “I just heard, like, a clap,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard a gunshot before.”

A friend went outside and came back to say that Pennington was the victim. She ran outside, and someone stopped her in the middle of the street and said, “‘You don’t want to see this,’ but I already had.”

She saw Pennington loaded into an ambulance and then went with a friend to notify Penningtons’ parents, and then to Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center, where he was taken. They got the word as they waited that Pennington had died, she said.

Edwards and Espejo were among a group of about seven women, all of whom got to know Pennington during their high school years and remained close to him and to each other. Several of them talked to the News Tribune on Tuesday, and frequently the word “protector” was used to describe him.

“He was really, really, nice and really, really even-tempered,” said Hayley Kersten, 31, now of Charleston, S.C. “You never felt awkward around him.”

Espejo met Pennington when both were going into their freshman year of high school, she at Proctor and he at Denfeld, Espejo said. They had remained close ever since. Pennington did not graduate from Denfeld but earned his GED, she said, and worked mostly in software, sales and marketing. He recently had returned to an office job after spending some time doing freelance work for his brother-in-law’s IT company.

He was ideally equipped for work involving people, she said.

“He was very, very, very charismatic, I mean the most charismatic individual you’ll ever meet,” Espejo said. “He could talk to anybody.”

Edwards called him “a very rare type of person that people aspire to be. He was so caring and sweet and funny and just so much fun to be around, like a big teddy bear, a big protector.”

Jackson’s criminal record shows only two convictions for petty misdemeanors, in 2011 and 2012.

Police said the investigation is continuing, and no other details were immediately available.

A celebration of life for Pennington will be held Saturday at 1 p.m. at Mr. D's Bar & Grill.