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Dane County D.A., Madison police chief offer differing takes on hit-and-run case

Dane County D.A., Madison police chief offer differing takes on hit-and-run case

600 block University Avenue (copy)

The Madison Police Department has arrested a 26-year-old man named Brendan J Oneil for the hit and run that took place on June 21 on University at Frances. 

Charges have yet to be filed against Brendan J. Oneil, the man who, on June 21, allegedly drove into a crowd on University Avenue in downtown Madison and ran over 24-year-old Alize Carter, sending her to the hospital. 

Oneil was arrested by police on the night of June 24 and released one hour later, after posting a $350 bail. The initial charge against Oneil was misdemeanor hit-and-run with the intent to injure. Police officers were criticized for using pepper spray to clear the scene of the hit-and-run. 

Carter has been left scarred both physically and emotionally by the event, according to a July 1 interview with WMTV. In the days following the hit-and-run, Madison protesters rallying against racism and police violence against Black people added Carter to their list of victims of injustice.  

Since then, protest leaders Marquon Clark, who goes by Sire Gq, and Devonere Johnson, who goes by Yeshua Musa, have been arrested. Musa’s physical arrest by several police officers on the Capitol Square was captured on video and he has been charged with extortion in federal and circuit court. He is being held in the Dane County Jail. 

Police arrest, release suspect in hit-and-run near Wando's

Sire was pulled over for speeding by several Madison police officers last week and has since been held in jail on a probation hold. He has been identified as a “person of interest” in the firebombing of the City County Building on June 23, but has not been charged with anything new.  

On June 27, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne told the Cap Times he couldn’t comment on whether a hate crime enhancer would be appropriate in the hit-and-run case, but he did say his office had not yet received a referral for charges from the Madison Police Department. 

“As it relates to Brendan J. Oneil, I can say at this time we have not received a referral from law enforcement,” Ozanne said. “As there was an arrest associated with Mr. Oneil, I believe we will receive a referral in the near future. Once we receive a referral we will review the reports in order to make a charging decision. I am unable to determine what if any charges will be issued without first reviewing all the reports and possibly requesting follow-up if needed.”  

On July 9, Ozanne informed the Cap Times that he still has not received a referral from police in the case. 

“We have not received the referral to date,” Ozanne said Thursday. 

Madison Police Department spokesman Joel DeSpain said on Friday that a report from the investigation into the hit-and-run would be sent to Ozanne’s office soon. 

“In terms of the criminal case against Oneil, I did check with the detective lieutenant overseeing the investigation, and he indicated our reports should soon be to the Dane County District Attorney who will make the ultimate charging decision,” DeSpain said.

On a conference call with Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway’s office and members of the media later Friday morning, interim Madison Police Chief Vic Wahl addressed the case, saying Oneil’s arrest served as a referral. 

“We’ve already made an arrest in that case, so the driver, the suspect in that case was arrested and booked into jail and that is how charges are referred for him,” Wahl said. “It’s now in the hands of the District Attorney’s office to make final charging decisions and then move forward with prosecution.” 

When asked on Friday afternoon if the District Attorney’s office is indeed mulling charges, or if it is waiting for further reports from MPD, Ozanne reiterated his earlier statement. 

“I have checked again, and I believe it will be here soon but as of this time and date we have not received it,” Ozanne said. 

Another Cap Times reporter reached out to Wahl later Friday for clarification. 

“So, a referral would be someone who’s not in custody,” Wahl explained. “But if we arrest somebody then that starts the process, that starts the prosecution process … Because of COVID, there’s not a rush for them to formally charge him or to have an initial appearance or anything like that.”

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