Teen killed in Los Osos crash described as 'awesome kid'

clambert@thetribunenews.comJune 19, 2014 

The 18-year-old Los Osos man killed in a car crash Wednesday was remembered Thursday as a happy-go-lucky, hard-working, thoughtful teen.

Jackson Garland, a recent high school graduate who lived with his mother in Los Osos, died following a crash on South Bay Boulevard in Los Osos.

Alexander Gonzales, 22, of Paso Robles was arrested in connection with Garland’s death.

Gonzales was first taken to a local hospital for treatment following the crash and then booked into San Luis Obispo County Jail on Thursday on suspicion of felony driving under the influence and manslaughter, CHP Officer Richard Lee said. Bail was set at $100,000.

Garland was driving a Chevrolet Cavalier south on South Bay Boulevard near Turri Road at about 5:07 p.m. Wednesday when Gonzales crashed into him head-on, traveling north in the southbound lane. Gonzales’ Dodge Charger rolled and also struck a Ford Ranger. That driver was not injured.

The Los Osos teen was pronounced dead at the scene.

Garland graduated two weeks ago from San Luis Obispo High School.

“He walked across the stage with a big smile on his face,” said Principal Leslie O’Connor.

O’Connor described the teen — who had attended Laguna Middle School — as a hard-working young man who had his whole life ahead of him.

Kevin Greer, 17, went to high school with Garland, playing football and baseball together their freshman year.

“He was always caring and went out of his way to help people,” Greer said. “He was a good listener and gave good advice. He never said anything bad — he would just stay calm and listen to you. That is one thing that stood out to me when I first met him.”

Mike Mora, owner of Sabetta’s Pizza & Pasta in Morro Bay, where Garland worked part-time for the last 1½ years, echoed those comments.

“Even though he was 17 when he started with us, he acted like he was more mature than most of us,” Mora said.

Mora described Garland as an “awesome kid” who planned to take a year off before attending college.

Mora said Garland did not work Wednesday and he did not know where the teen was driving to when the crash occurred.

Garland worked Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings at the restaurant, handling deliveries, running the register, cleaning up — “whatever, he was just on it,” Mora said.

O’Connor said he first met Garland when the teen was a sophomore at San Luis Obispo High.

“He was sitting at lunch one day and asked if we could talk for a few minutes,” O’Connor said. “We sat on the ledge outside my office, and he wanted to talk about what we were trying to accomplish at the school. … We talked the entire lunch period. We were tight from there on.”

O’Connor watched Garland grow quickly over the years into a tall, strapping young man.

Garland always wore flip-flops to school — he even sported them as he walked across the stage during graduation practice. Occasionally, he would wear socks with them.

“I told him that was a fashion faux pas,” O’Connor said.

“Our family at San Luis Obispo High School is just reeling,” he added. “This hit home. It was so near everyone’s heart. We are trying to hold everyone together, but it is tough.”

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