TAMPA (FOX 13) - Two teenagers could have gone to jail over the weekend for firing BBs into a crowd of homeless people. Instead, they ended up serving those same homeless people a warm meal.
Anthony Jackson, who runs the Action Jackson Foundation, was picking up hundreds of homeless people Sunday so they could participate in Operation Giving Thanks, which is when his organization surprises the less fortunate with a Thanksgiving meal.
Out of nowhere, Tampa police said two teens drove up an fired an Airsoft BB rifle into the crowd, hitting Jackson, a volunteer and at least two homeless people.
"I got hit in the back of my head, in the back of my arm and my back," Jackson said, adding at first he was afraid the gun was firing bullets. "When they sped off, we can't let that slide, we can't let it go. We had to go find out who did this and why they did this."
Jackson, who spent 20 years in the Army and was legally carrying a concealed gun, chased down the teens and held them until police arrived.
Once officers were there, he lectured the teens about what they'd done while his co-worker recorded with her cell phone.
"One bad decision could mess up the rest of your life," Jackson can be heard saying to the teens.
One of the teens admitted to Jackson he has a son.
"You're all that your son's got right now," Jackson responded. "I need you to start thinking about that. Because what if you shot me with that damn BB gun and I would have shot and killed you? Your son wouldn't have had no damn daddy right now. I could have killed you today, dude. I swear, I could have killed you today."
Jackson decided not to press charges. Instead, he had the teenagers volunteer the rest of their day to feed the homeless.
"Sending them to jail is not going to teach them anything. It actually may make the situation worse," Jackson told FOX 13. "They have their whole life ahead of them, so I decided, instead of sending them to jail, 'hey, they can pay their debts off to me and the homeless individuals by actually going back and serving them food for the day,' since we were out serving the homeless."
Volunteers at the hotel where the meal was being served said, by the end of the day, the teens were asking when they could come back.
"One even cried," said Paulette Westly, a volunteer with the Action Jackson Foundation. "That is our mission: Changing lives, one day at a time, whether it's the homeless or if it's someone that's doing something that was not of a good deed. So it makes us feel like we have accomplished something."
Jackson said his organization ended up feeding 500 homeless people Sunday, a day after serving another 500 in Jacksonville.
He hopes the teenagers learned a lesson that will last a lifetime.
"It's no hard feelings. The situation was intense, but at the same time, it's a teaching experience. It was a learning experience for myself, a learning experience for them," he said. "We got through it and, these guys, they got a friend in all of us."
Tampa police told FOX 13 they likely would have charged the teens with misdemeanors, but because Jackson withdrew his complaint, no charges are expected.