Bicyclist's lawyers question lack of video from minutes before fatal shooting

·4 min read

Where's the rest of the video?

That's been the main thrust of the defense so far in the Theodore Edgecomb homicide trial over the shooting of Milwaukee immigration lawyer Jason Cleereman near Brady Street in 2020. Edgecomb has raised self-defense, but his lawyers have also implied police may have ignored evidence that might hurt the state's case.

Milwaukee police surveillance cameras the corner of Brady and Holton streets recorded Edgecomb riding his bicycle up the KIA Soul driven by Cleereman's wife, which was stopped for the light at Holton. Edgecomb stopped at the passenger door, leaned in, then slugged Cleereman through the open window.

More: Prosecutors raise stakes in lawyer's shooting trial, amend charge to intentional homicide

Video from another camera on the same pole shows Edgecomb riding north onto the Holton Street bridge, closely followed by the KIA. It stops, Cleereman exits and approaches Edgecomb, who has stopped near some stairs down to Swing Park. Edgecomb then shot Cleereman once in the face, and he fell at the top of stairs.

There is no video of what Edgecomb says led to the punch. According to his defense team, moments earlier and a few blocks east on Brady, Mrs. Cleereman had swerved around another westbound car that was waiting to park. The vehicle then backed into the lane and struck Edgecomb.

Edgecomb says Cleereman yelled a racial slur at him. That is what prompted him to pedal up to the Cleeremans and confront Jason Cleereman.

Edgecomb has said he punched Cleereman when Cleereman used a racial slur. Cleereman's friends say he would not use such language.

Edgecomb disappeared after the shooting and was arrested about six months later during a traffic stop in Kentucky He tried to use a fake name.

Prosecutors say that undermines the self-defense claim, but the question to the jury will be whether Edgecomb reasonably believed he was in danger of being killed or seriously harmed when Cleereman came at him on the bridge.

The defense plans to call the same expert witness who testified for Kyle Rittenhouse, who was acquitted in November of killing two people and wounding a third during 2020 protests in Kenosha. Rittenhouse testified he feared for his life when he shot the three people.

Edgecomb, 32, had been charged with first-degree reckless homicide. If the jury decided he acted in self defense, he would be not guilty. Last week, the state elevated the charge to first-degree intentional homicide. Now, the jury could find Edgecomb honestly believed he had no choice to use deadly force, but that his belief was not reasonable, which would leave him guilty of second-degree reckless homicide.

A Milwaukee police officer testified that she reviewed video from Casablanca, a restaurant on Brady. Minisha Howard said the video shows Edgecomb walking his bike east on the sidewalk around 7:37 p.m. About 10 minutes later, the same camera captured him riding east in the street, just before he stopped and punched Cleereman.

She said there was nothing else in the video between those points that showed Edgecomb. She said she and another officer looked for more possible surveillance cameras on homes or businesses about a block or two the east on Brady Street., but didn't find any.

On cross examination, Aneeq Ahmad asked if they searched for video as far east as Humboldt Boulevard, four blocks east of Holton. She said she had not, but that the owner of Casablanca showed her his phone which had access to a group of about 18 cameras in the Brady Street area, and that he had not seen any video of the Cleereman's car hitting Edgecomb on his bike.

Also Thursday, three men testified about seeing the shooting, which the jury saw for itself repeatedly on video. One of them, Rodtrell Cameron, appeared in orange jail clothing.

He was arrested last week on a material witness warrant, after the prosecution expressed concerns he was trying to avoid testifying.

Cameron was stopped in his Jeep right behind the Cleeremans' KIA when Edgecomb rode up and slugged Cleereman through the passenger window. He testified that after the punch, Edgecomb seemed to be trying to get away. The Cleeremans seemed to be chasing him and that Edgecomb fell from his bike when he tried to jump the curb on the bridge as the KIA closed in.

Milwaukee police released this photo when investigating the fatal shooting of Jason Cleereman in September 2020. Some family members later identified the suspect as Theodore Edgecomb, 32, who was arrested about six months later in Kentucky and is now on trial for homicide. He says he acted in self-defense against Cleereman.
Milwaukee police released this photo when investigating the fatal shooting of Jason Cleereman in September 2020. Some family members later identified the suspect as Theodore Edgecomb, 32, who was arrested about six months later in Kentucky and is now on trial for homicide. He says he acted in self-defense against Cleereman.

Cameron said Edgecomb seemed to stop by a railing at the top of some stairs, as Cleereman approached and got into a stance as thought he was preparing to fight. Cameron said Cleereman did not swing at Edgecomb before Edgecomb shot him in the head.

The prosecutor played Cameron's 911 call, in which he described the shooting as "cold blooded."

Cameron also said he never intended not to testify, but had been busy during the time detectives were trying to subpoena him. He said when appeared voluntarily to pick up the subpoena, he was arrested. He was released from his $25,000 bail after he concluded testifying.

More: Ins and outs of self-defense in Wisconsin

Contact Bruce Vielmetti at (414) 224-2187 or bvielmetti@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ProofHearsay.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Edgecomb defense questions lack of more video evidence

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