Three shootings in Madison on Saturday, including one which caused a lockdown of West Towne Mall, have Police Chief Mike Koval declaring that the city needs to face its gang problem. All three events have gang ties, the chief said.
Madison can no longer attribute its gang problem to imports from Chicago, Beloit or Milwaukee, the chief said at a news conference Sunday
“We’ve got to get a grip on this,” Koval said. “We’ve got plenty of homegrown gang issues right here, right in Camelot.”
On Sunday, Madison police were continuing to investigate three separate shooting-related calls within 24 hours on the city’s West and Southwest sides. One man was seriously hurt in one of the incidents.
First, there was an exchange of gunfire just after 5:30 p.m. in the parking lot on the Gammon Road side of West Towne Mall, prompting the lockdown.
Then, at 10:11 p.m., there was a shots-fired call from the 6800 block of Chelsea Street, one block west of Maple Grove Drive on the Southwest Side.
While officers were doing a preliminary canvass of the area, which turned up spent shell casings, they were diverted about 20 minutes later to a higher-priority case of a man shot in the 5800 block of Russett Road.
The 18-year-old victim sustained multiple gunshot wounds and was rushed to a local hospital, where he underwent several hours of surgery Sunday morning and was expected to survive, Koval said.
“We’re actually living on borrowed time that no innocent person has been injured by these errant rounds making their way through these kinds of densely populated areas,” Koval said.
The West Towne and Russett Road incidents did not involve strangers encountering strangers and engaging in gun violence, Koval stressed.
Preliminary investigations show that the people involved know each other, at least to some degree, he said.
Koval could not say for sure whether the West Towne and Russett Road incidents were related, but he said they have the same “common denominator” or “nexus.” Police are still exploring to what extent.
“It’s unknown where Chelsea fits into that grand scheme of things,” he added.
What he could say, however, is that everyone involved seems to have some gang affiliation.
“We’re confident that at the rate we’re going, we're going to get everybody that we want in this dragnet, so to speak,” Koval said.
Ald. Paul Skidmore, who represents the West Towne area, said he was not really surprised by the shots fired.
“They’ve been happening with such regularity, it seems, throughout the city that you just wonder, ‘Where’s the next location?’ ” he said.
“I’m pretty grateful that these guys are bad shots because there’s been a lot of shots fired over a long period of time and we’ve been very fortunate there hasn’t been any collateral damage or incidental damage ... because once that bullet leaves the gun it doesn’t care, it just keeps moving until it hits something,” Skidmore said.
The alderman said the West Towne incident hits close to home since his wife and sister had been shopping at the mall the week before.
“I find that extremely unsettling,” he said.
Police have been investigating around the clock since the shots were fired at West Towne.
Koval said gang intervention officers are working with neighborhood officers, who have provided names, addresses and cars “and understand the networking that is going on, and who’s angry with whom.”
Police have identified three suspects in the West Towne and Russett Road incidents and have recovered two guns from one of them.
“It’s two less guns in the hands of folks who make bad choices,” Koval said.
Koval would not identify the Russett Road suspects, saying it could compromise the investigation. The suspects are between 18 and 24 years old, he said. Nor would he release the name of the victim, citing security reasons and the integrity of the ongoing investigation. Koval declined to say whether the victim also fired shots.
“Gang violence is what the theme of this last 24 hours is,” Koval said.
No other people were reported injured in any of the incidents. But because a number of rounds were fired at each scene, victims could be taking “self-help measures” before seeking medical treatment, Koval said.
Police have asked local hospitals and urgent care clinics to notify them if anyone comes in with anything consistent with a gunshot wound.
Koval said gangs are now embedded in the community, with hundreds of people associating themselves either formally or informally. Some of the groups that have taken root in Madison are satellite chapters of well-known gangs from other cities, but others are based here, he said.
While it’s important to examine the root causes of the shootings, the chief said, “My gang is going to have to come down, and come down hard, in holding people accountable.”