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Cole Foster Anthony Delyea

Anthony Delyea, lawyer for Cole Foster, shows reporters a photo of Foster with stab wounds to the side of his head. Delyea said Foster fired shots in self-defense, from a gun he is licensed to carry, after he was stabbed repeatedly during an argument at Visions Night Club.

A Madison man was formally charged Thursday with reckless endangerment for firing a gun during a fight inside an East Side strip club last weekend, injuring four people.

But there was confusion in court over the number of charges that Cole W. Foster, 35, will ultimately face for the shooting, which happened early Sunday inside Visions Night Club, 3354 E. Washington Ave.

Foster’s lawyer, Anthony Delyea, said Foster was defending himself when he fired the shots at a man who had just stabbed Foster in the head repeatedly.

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Cole Foster in court

Cole Foster, left, who is charged with first-degree reckless endangerment for a shooting early Sunday at Visions Night Club, appears in court Thursday with his lawyer, Anthony Delyea.

“What happened here, judge, was Mr. Foster was attacked,” Delyea said. “He was stabbed in the head. He was bleeding profusely and rather than allow himself to be stabbed again he shot the person who had stabbed him.”

Delyea said the shooting was a “clear case of self-defense.” He told reporters after the hearing Foster has a concealed carry permit.

A criminal complaint filed Thursday presents an incomplete picture of events inside Visions, detailing gunshot wounds to only one of the “multiple individuals” the complaint states were shot. Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Hilton said one person who was shot remains hospitalized.

Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said police continue to investigate.

Another person who was at Visions at the time of the shooting, Spencer Jackson IV, 29, of Madison, was arrested late Wednesday on a tentative charge of disorderly conduct while armed, police said.

“Detectives from the violent crimes unit believe Jackson produced a gun during the disturbance at Visions but did not fire the weapon,” DeSpain said.

DeSpain said Thursday that it’s possible that police will arrest another person in connection with the incident.

Delyea, Foster’s lawyer, said in court that while witnesses told police there were multiple shots fired that injured four people, police only found two bullet casings, fired from Foster’s semi-automatic handgun. Delyea said that could indicate that other shots fired during the fracas were fired from a revolver, which does not expel bullet casings as shots are fired, and not from Foster’s gun.

“He didn’t fire four shots,” Delyea said. “He only shot at a person who had stabbed him in the head repeatedly.”

DeSpain said police will only say at this point that between two and five shots were fired inside the nightclub. He said it’s possible that any of the fired shots could have injured more than one person, possibly traveling through one person and striking another, or bouncing off surfaces.

Hilton, arguing for continuation of the $150,000 bail that was set for Foster on Tuesday, spoke at first as though Foster was charged with three counts of first-degree reckless endangerment instead of one, not realizing that the information she had on a sheet in front of her did not match the number of charges actually filed in the criminal complaint.

Hilton did not review the case personally or write the criminal complaint. She said it’s possible that the criminal complaint would be amended later to update the number of charges. District Attorney Ismael Ozanne was not immediately available for comment.

Court Commissioner Brian Asmus reduced Foster’s bail from $150,000 to $100,000. Foster, who remains in jail, will be back in court for a preliminary hearing on Dec. 19.

According to the complaint:

A woman who works at Visions told police that Foster was arguing with another man near the bar when she saw the other man brandish a small folding pocket knife in one of his hands. She said she then saw one of her co-workers try to pull the man away.

The man and Foster continued to argue, the woman told police, and she said she walked toward her co-worker to help out. Then she saw Foster brandish a gun and fire off four rapid shots at the other man.

The woman said she and her co-worker ran down a nearby staircase with the other man following behind. Once they were downstairs she noticed that the man was bleeding from an apparent gunshot wound.

She said she also remembered hearing Foster yelling that he had been stabbed in the head or face during his argument with the other man, but said she didn’t see Foster get stabbed.

The man sustained two wounds, on the right side of his abdomen and on his lower right back. A probable cause affidavit filed in court states that the man, who the affidavit identified as Dashwan M. Robert, had been shot once through his abdomen.

The affidavit also provides a slightly different account from the Visions worker about what she saw happen between Foster and Robert. In the affidavit, police wrote that the woman said she saw a disturbance between Robert and Foster, then heard Foster say he was stabbed by Robert. She said she saw Robert with bleeding cuts to his head and neck.

The woman said she then heard gunshots coming from where Foster was standing and saw Robert sustain a gunshot wound, the affidavit states.

Foster was driven to Meriter Hospital with stab wounds, and police were notified that he was there.

Delyea told reporters after Foster’s court appearance that it makes no sense to think that Foster was stabbed after he fired his gun.

“Cole Foster was stabbed in the head repeatedly before he defended himself, and I’m stating on his behalf that he fired two rounds,” Delyea said. “There were other people with firearms in that nightclub and somebody else fired the other shots.”

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Ed Treleven is the courts reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.