‘Violent crime cannot be tolerated’: Two dead in Madison after Fourth of July weekend shootings

MADISON, Wis. — The Fourth of July weekend in Madison was marked by two separate deadly shootings on the east and southwest sides, leaving a 31-year-old woman and 23-year-old man dead.

Police said Tuesday they arrested one person in Indiana on an unrelated charge, whom they’re identifying as “of interest” in the woman’s death on the east side. They believe the victim knew the shooter, and are investigating the shooting as a domestic violence incident.

Police haven’t said yet if they’ve arrested anyone in the man’s shooting, after the victim was found shot at the BP gas station on Verona Road. He later died of his injuries in a shooting where police said he was in a vehicle when he was attacked. No victims, suspects, or other people of interest have been identified yet in either shooting.

City and community leaders called attention to the violent uptick in a press conference Tuesday, in a story that’s become familiar after 2020 saw a record high of 10 homicides in the city.

“This is not Madison. This is not who we are,” Madison police chief Shon Barnes said. “Violent crime cannot be tolerated in Madison, and those persons who wish to use firearms–be they legal or illegal–to harm others will be brought to justice.”

Violence in Madison

After ten homicides in 2020, the past weekend’s deaths mark the second and third deadly shootings in Madison this year. The first happened in April, in a shooting at the BP gas station on S. Park Street.

In the first quarter of 2021, police responded to 58 shots-fired calls, up from 31 calls during that time period in 2020 and 24 in 2019. Overall last year, there was a steep increase in gunshot calls from past years, and Barnes said Tuesday that recovered shell casings to date in Madison were up by 45% when compared to the same time period last year.

In the last Fourth of July weekend in Madison, police responded to 10 shots-fired calls, but no one was hurt in any shootings.

A deadly weekend nationwide

Across the country, the holiday weekend was a deadly one–albeit less so than in 2020; hundreds were killed or injured in shootings nationwide.

The latest reports record at least 233 killed and 618 people injured in more than 500 shootings across the country according to the Gun Violence Archive. That’s a decrease from 314 deaths to gun violence the previous year.

Long term solutions: advocates urge resources, funding

Focused Interruption, an independent group that responds to incidents where police have been called in the aftermath of Madison violence, called for better resources and a more holistic approach to violence.

“We can’t lock people up, lock our way up out of this,” co-founder Aaron Hicks told News 3 Now. “That’s not going to change the narrative. We have to start investing in people again.”

Hicks had helped respond in both shooting incidents over the weekend, one of them happening in his own community.

“A lot of people talk about these communities without ever having lived in them,” he explained. The community where the young man was killed–I live right in that community.”

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(Left to right) Jerome Dillard, Aaron Hicks, and Anthony Cooper work to respond to and prevent violence in the Madison area through Focused Interruption, an independent organization using a holistic approach to violence

That’s why CEO Anthony Cooper is urging more complete funding for programs, resources, and opportunities that will enable people to be introduced to alternatives to violence–which he says starts with being able to hire more people to work in their own communities to address root issues.

“It takes an entire community to be able to change it,” Cooper said. “Those are the leaders that will be changing this community as a whole.”

Violence prevention in Madison, Dane County

First put on hold during the pandemic, Madison and Dane County have relaunched their Violence Prevention Coalition aimed at using a public health and data-driven approach to reduce violence in the area.

The goals of Public Health Madison Dane County’s violence prevention unit and 5-year roadmap are fivefold:

  • Use data to analyze, monitor and communicate violence patterns and trends
  • Convene a coalition to support youth, children and their families
  • Use evidence-based violence prevention programs to support neighborhoods
  • Healing and intervention for those impacted by violence
  • Community collaboration

Correction: This article originally stated there was a 45% increase in shots-fired calls. That is incorrect; there was a 45% increase in recovered shell casings at shots-fired calls.