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Shooting could rekindle town of Milton tavern demerit plan

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Neil Johnson
January 27, 2014

TOWN OF MILTON—In the wake of another apparent shooting at the Countryside Inn tavern, one town of Milton official is questioning if it's time the Milton Town Board make a decision on its pending tavern demerit system.

Police reported the shooting at the Countryside Inn happened outside the tavern early Sunday after a scuffle at about 2:10 a.m. It left a 28-year-old Madison man hospitalized in Madison with a gunshot injury to his lower leg, according to Rock County sheriff's reports.

The man told Madison police the shooting had happened near Milton. Madison investigators later determined the shooting happened at the Countryside Inn, police said.

It's the second shooting reported at the bar in eight months and the second time apparent violence has broken out at dance parties that Countryside Inn owner Rich Erdman hosts at his tavern at 1801 Highway 59 in rural Milton.

The first shooting happened outside the bar after a dance party June 22. It left a man with gunshot injuries to his torso, police said.

That shooting prompted the town last fall to consider a point demerit system that could lead to sanctions or even liquor license revocation for taverns that violate terms of their liquor licenses.

Town Supervisor Leonard Stalker on Monday told The Gazette the demerit system is still under legal review, but he said Sunday's apparent shooting could prompt the town to move faster to put demerit rules in place.

“It's probably something that's going to push the ordinance through a little faster,” Stalker said. “I'm sure the board will talk it over good.”

Stalker is troubled by violence at the tavern that seems to dovetail with Erdman's dance parties, which are hosted by promoters, have large cover charges, and draw in crowds from urban areas throughout the state.

“My feeling is that it's something he's brought on himself from the type of entertainment he's bringing in. To bring in all these people from other towns and big cities, Madison and Milwaukee, you don't know what's going to happen,” he said.

Erdman said the tavern was packed with patrons at his dance party Saturday night, which he said featured female dancers doing provocative, body-shaking dance moves as part of a “twerking” contest. He said he's paid $2,000 for more than a dozen security guards, and patrons seemed to be getting along fine.

Erdman questioned if the shooting even happened at his tavern, and claims police don't have evidence to prove it did.

The sheriff's office used a search warrant Sunday to collect evidence and review security camera footage at the bar. Erdman said the security footage from cameras inside and outside the tavern apparently showed no clear signs that there was a shooting outside either door of the tavern.

Erdman said no one noticed any scuffle in the tavern at bar time and he only heard about the apparent shooting Sunday morning, when police told him they were investigating it.

Erdman said there were five town of Milton and Rock County sheriff's officers who'd showed up by bar time Sunday, and one officer was helping to usher people out.

“Nobody, not the sheriff, none of my employees, heard nothing,” Erdman said. “At the time, nobody walked up and said somebody got shot. Now, the stories are changing.”

Recordings of 911 calls supplied to The Gazette by the Rock County 911 Communication Center seem to tell a different story.

One 911 call timestamped at about 2:20 a.m. Sunday came from a performer at the event who tells dispatchers he had been escorted downstairs at the tavern after performing.

The man, who is not identified in the call, describes in a panicked voice hearing footsteps in the bar above then what he believes are gunshots. He begs police, who a dispatcher says are already on scene, to respond.

Sheriff's Capt. Jude Maurer would not comment on details of the shooting, but he said a town of Milton officer had called the sheriff's office for backup for an altercation at bar time.

Maurer brushed off Erdman's claims the shooting may not have happened at the Countryside Inn.

“There is a bullet hole in the man's leg. He (the man) said it occurred at the Countryside,” Maurer said. “What I perceive is there is an intent (by Erdman) to dilute the significance of the facts that were presented to the sheriff's office about a shooting.”



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