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Complaint: Dice game loss led to Penn Park shooting and attempted homicide charge

Complaint: Dice game loss led to Penn Park shooting and attempted homicide charge

Authorities issued an arrest warrant Friday for a man who is alleged by police to have shot another man at a South Side Madison park on Labor Day over a dice game.

A criminal complaint charged Von E. Johnson, 26, with attempted first-degree intentional homicide in the Sept. 6 shooting of a 64-year-old man in a restroom at Penn Park, 2101 Fisher St., critically injuring him.

Though the complaint lists an address for Johnson on Fiedler Lane in the town of Madison, he appears to have strong ties to Rockford, Illinois.

Von Johnson mugshot


A criminal complaint states witnesses told police Johnson had lost $1,600 in a dice game to the man and then followed the man into a park restroom. Four to five gunshots were then heard coming from inside the restroom, and Johnson then fled.

Three fired 40mm cartridge casings were found in or near the restroom, the complaint states.

A fatal shooting was also reported by police on Labor Day. The Penn Park shooting happened about 3:50 p.m., while another, at about 6:45 p.m., happened near Acewood Boulevard and Cottage Grove Road on Madison’s Far East Side.

A 20-year-old man, Nicholas Cooke of Madison, died in the second incident. No arrests have been made in that shooting. The two incidents were not related, police said.

According to the complaint in the Penn Park incident:

One witness said he was playing dice in the park shelter with the shooting victim and a few others, including a man later identified as Johnson. He said Johnson typically comes to Madison from Rockford. After the game ended, the shooting victim walked into the men’s restroom and was followed by Johnson. The witness then heard four to five gunshots and saw Johnson run from the restroom toward Dane Street.

Another witness, who had also been playing dice with the group, said the victim had won $1,600 from Johnson in the game. After the two went into the restroom, he said, the restroom door “crashed” open and he saw the victim fall into the group and simultaneously heard four gunshots.

A woman told police she noticed a black vehicle with an Illinois license plate in the parking lot near the shelter and then saw the group playing dice. She said a woman was in the vehicle and the man later identified as Johnson was in the shelter. As the witness walked back to her car, she saw Johnson return to the vehicle. She said he nearly ran her over as he drove out of the parking lot.

Another witness said she knows Johnson and said he often stays in the 2100 block of Fisher Street with a woman, identified in an unrelated police report from a July 26 incident as Johnson’s aunt. A vehicle described in the report was a 2010 black Ford Fusion with an Illinois plate. Johnson had been issued a traffic citation earlier this year while driving that vehicle, according to records.

The victim, who was described in the complaint as being in critical condition after surgery, told police on Thursday he knew Johnson from previous contacts.

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