Police confirmed at 3:40 p.m. Thursday that it is a rural Portage man who died in a shooting on Thursday morning near the Portage Subway restaurant.
David Johnson, 21, died after the shooting at about 9 a.m. Thursday, said Detective Lt. Mark Hahn of the Portage Police Department.
The suspect in the shooting was identified as Jordan Scott, 19, of rural Rio.
Both are employees of the Subway restaurant at 2931 New Pinery Road, Hahn said.
Scott was taken into custody at 9:56 a.m. in Columbus, according to Hahn.
The 911 call came at 9:06 a.m.
“The victim was found in the parking lot behind Subway where the employees park,” Portage Police Chief Ken Manthey said.
Manthey said an autopsy of the victim will be conducted in Madison; the county medical examiner responded to the scene, as well as the Wisconsin State Patrol.
911 call and response
Manthey said they received a 911 call from a witness at Allstate Financial Services near Subway that multiple shots were fired at about 9 a.m.
Manthey said EMS from Divine Savior Healthcare responded quickly to the scene.
“They tried all life-saving measures ... but were unsuccessful,” Manthey said.
Witnesses said a red Ford Focus left the scene going north on Highway 51.
Sheriff Dennis Richards with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that the suspect was arrested in Columbus and taken to the Columbia County Jail.
“There is no danger to the public now,” Richards said.
The search for the suspect
Richards said deputies in Columbia and Marquette Counties responded immediately to search for the suspect and that neighboring counties were notified to look for the vehicle.
“Dispatch got out a statewide (alert) right away after getting surrounding counties notified,” Richards said. “Immediately all of us set up to try to locate vehicles matching that description.”
Columbus Police Officer Kelly Towne, with Officer Eric Nofsigner, who has been in training for two weeks, recognized the homicide suspect’s vehicle and license plate and spotted it on Highway 73 near 151 on the South end of town.
“They got behind the vehicle; it turned onto Heritage Drive then Enerpac Way and the officers affected a traffic stop. The suspect got out of his vehicle, raised his hands and was taken into custody without incident,” said Columbus Police Lt. Dennis Weiner.
“He didn’t accelerate, they got behind him, he turned down a dead end street and the lights were activated.”
The suspect is a Columbia County resident, according to Weiner, and both the streets are new and dead ends. The arrest took place within seconds and the suspect did not say anything, he said.
“Zero aggressiveness, zero wrestling. He exited the vehicle, raised his hands ... zero resistance,” Weiner said. The whole area is surrounded by farm land, he said, and “we don’t want a chase.”
The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office was called when the suspect was in custody at 10:04 a.m. Thursday.
The vehicle and the suspect were turned over to the sheriff’s office. A warrant to search the car is being worked on by the sheriff’s office.
The Columbus Police Department has 11 sworn officers, Weiner said, and the arresting Officer Towne has been with the department for nine and a half years.
“It’s not a common occurrence for a department our size, however, we train for it all the time,” he said. “It’s not something we commonly deal with but it’s a sad sign of the times.”
A possible motive
Cheryl Thompson, whose daughter had worked until recently at the Subway at 2931 New Pinery Road, said a friend called her daughter shortly after the incident, and the daughter came to the Portage Subway to be with the other employees.
What the daughter was told, Thompson said, was that “one employee shot another employee.”
She said both the victim and the alleged shooter were employees of Subway, and that the two had “rifts amongst each other,” though she said she didn’t know the nature of their dispute. She said their conflict had resulted in both being “written up” at work.
Thompson said she came to the scene, separately from her daughter, because she is a student minister, studying for the ministry online at Lexington Theological Seminary.
“It’s my calling,” she said. “When I see tragedy, I know how to help people find their peace.”
By the time she arrived, however, another clergy member, the Rev. Bob Turner of River of Life Church in Portage, was sitting with Subway employees and their family and friends on the concrete round picnic tables in front of the restaurant.
Thompson said she had previously lived in southern California, where fatal shootings were so common they garnered little attention from the public.
Portage, she said, is not such a place.
“You could never think that this would happen in this town,” she said.
Ashley Kerrigan of Portage was standing near the Pets of Portage store, which is located near the back parking lot of Subway, where the victim’s body lay until it was removed by Angela Hinze, Columbia County medical examiner.
Kerrigan said she had sought urgent-care treatment at Columbus Community Hospital, and was on her way home when she saw, on Highway 151 near Columbus, several squad cars from the Columbus Police Department and the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.
She said she heard, via a cellular phone police scanner, that the suspected shooter had been taken into custody at Columbus, which prompted her to drive to the Subway on New Pinery Road to find out what happened. She said she did not know neither the victim nor the suspected shooter.
Several employees told the Daily Register they did not wish to speak at this time.
Portage Schools response
Portage Community School District Administrator Charles Poches said early Thursday afternoon that, on the advice of the Portage Police Department, the district put into effect, at about 9 a.m., a security measure at all schools, whereby students were not allowed outside any Portage School District building. The buildings were not under a lockdown, he said.
Until Poches was notified, at about 10:10 a.m., that the suspect was in custody, schoolchildren held their recesses indoors and classes that would normally have been held outdoors were held in the gym or classrooms.
“There was never any danger for students or staff,” he said.
Families of Portage students have or will receive information about the security measures via the district’s mass notification system.
Asked whether either the victim or the accused shooter was a current or former Portage student, Poches declined to comment, saying such comment would be “premature.”
This is the type of violence that doesn’t happen here, according to Manthey.
“This isn’t supposed to happen in Portage,” Manthey said.
Keep checking portagedailyregister.com for details.
— Julie Cutsforth, Craig Spychalla and Jason Maddux contributed to this story.