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Can a Black Man Claim Self-Defense In Wisconsin and Walk Free? Family of Man Who Killed White Attorney Hopes So, Especially with Surveillance Video

As the trial of Theodore Edgecomb, 31, nears in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Sonya Gordon stands by her son, saying he “defended himself.”

Edgecomb was arrested on March 4, 2021, and charged with first-degree intentional homicide for killing Jason Cleereman, a Milwaukee immigration attorney, on Sept. 22, 2020. Edgecomb and his supporters claim the shooting should be justified on a basis of self-defense.

Gordon says on the evening of Sept. 22, 2020, her son was spending time with his daughter before he took to his bicycle to get sushi for them to eat. At some point along his trip he encountered Evanjelina and Jason Cleereman.

According to a police report, Evanjelina was driving and Jason Cleereman was in the passenger seat. She says she had to swerve to miss Edgecomb on his bike who was riding eastbound in the westbound lane against oncoming traffic, and that’s when Jason Cleereman yelled at Edgecomb, “What the heck?”

Evanjelina told police when they stopped at a traffic light, Edgecomb pulled alongside them to ask, “Are you talking to me?” Evanjelina told police she replied, “yes,” and Edgecomb responded by punching Jason Cleereman in the face.

Newly released surveillance video shows what happened next. Edgecomb can be seen riding his bike turning a corner with the Cleeremans close behind him. As the Cleeremans’ SUV inches closer, Edgecomb veers onto the sidewalk. The 54-year-old Cleereman then gets out of the SUV and runs toward Edgecomb for a confrontation before he is seen hitting the ground.

The accused man’s defense team has filed court documets indicating Edgecomb says Cleereman called him the N-word and threatened his life before Edgecomb shot him in the forehead. The defense also says Jason Cleereman possessed a pocket knife at the time of the altercation and that he was under the influence of marijuana and alcohol. Edgecomb is expected to testify Cleereman reached for his pockets just prior to being shot by Edgecomb.

Edgecomb left the scene and wasn’t found until six months later near Louisville, Kentucky, during a traffic stop.

Gordon says as her son’s case gained more media attention he has been vilified and the depiction is not reflective of his character. “My son is not this monster that they’ve put him out to be,” she said.

Edgecomb’s attorney B’Ivory LaMarr told Atlanta Black Star in a statement, There has been substantial adverse publicity to Mr. Edgecomb which will not be addressed specifically beyond stating that we believe this to be a clear case of self-defense, and we look forward to and maintain confidence in our judicial system to establish the same.”

LaMarr and Edgecomb’s family wonder if in the wake of Kyle Rittenhouse’s highly publicized self-defense case, in which he was found not guilty by a jury, will Edgecomb, a Black man, receive the same outcome now that new surveillance video reveals more of what happened.

“We just got to let justice do what it does,” Edgecomb’s mother said of his case, which is scheduled to go to trial on Jan. 3.

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