Janesville man faces trial in Beloit photobomb shooting

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Frank Schultz
Monday, January 6, 2014

JANESVILLE—The defense is suggesting police arrested the wrong person after a shooting in the parking lot of the Eagles Club in Beloit on Dec. 22.

Despite that suggestion, Thamar K. Harper, 29, of Janesville was bound over for trial on a charge of attempted first-degree intentional homicide Monday in Rock County Court.

The shooting arose out of a dispute over the taking of a photograph during a “hip-hop party” at the club, Beloit police Detective Craig Johnson testified at the preliminary hearing Monday.

A witness told police Harper jumped in front of a group from Chicago as they were taking a group photo, Johnson testified.

The witness described Harper as having gold teeth and wearing bright yellow pants and a blue or black jacket with white stripes along the bottom and on the cuffs, Johnson said.

A fight broke out between Harper and the group, and club security workers broke it up, Johnson said.

As everyone went to their cars, the witness said, Harper pulled a handgun and fired into a Ford Explorer, shattering both driver's-side windows, Johnson testified.

The male victim, one of those in the group from Chicago, suffered two gunshots to the head, several to the chest and at least one in an arm, Johnson said.

The witness later picked Harper out of a photo lineup, Johnson said. The gun was not recovered, but a plastic case for a Walther PPK .380 caliber handgun was found in Harper's car, Johnson said.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Jason Daane, Johnson spoke of another man in Harper's car who wore a forest-green Pelle Pelle jacket.

Daane asked if the green jacket could have appeared to be black. Johnson said possibly, but the lot was well lighted.

Daane also elicited from Johnson the fact that the gun case—which has the gun serial number engraved on it—did not belong to Harper.

Johnson said he showed the witness both jackets, and the witness identified the blue jacket with the white stripes as that of the shooter.

But a police officer on the scene described the shooter as wearing the other jacket, Daane said, and Johnson agreed.

Daane objected to the bind-over, saying the evidence suggested his client was not involved. But Court Commissioner Stephen Meyer agreed with the prosecution that the evidence shows Harper probably committed a felony. A plea hearing is set for 4 p.m. Thursday.

Harper has filed a motion for a speedy trial, so the case must go to trial within 80 days of the plea hearing, Assistant District Attorney Mary Bricco said.

Harper appeared in court in orange jail garb with hands and feet manacled. He is being held at the Rock County Jail on a $50,000 cash bond.

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