An employee at an East Side gyros carryout shop, upset that a man tried to run off with “a kilo” of his cocaine without paying for it, shot the man in the back Monday, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday.
Eric C. Howard, 37, was charged with first-degree reckless endangerment after he admitted that he shot and injured a 34-year-old man who was supposed to buy the cocaine for $1,300, but instead “bolted” toward the door with it, according to the complaint, filed in Dane County Circuit Court.
The shooting happened Monday afternoon at Spartan Gyros, which adjoins the Capitol Petro gas station at 2702 E. Washington Ave.
Howard was also charged with possession of cocaine with intent to deliver and carrying a concealed weapon. He was jailed on $75,000 bail after appearing in court Wednesday. Howard will be back in court for a preliminary hearing on Oct. 5.
According to the complaint:
When police arrived after the shooting, Howard told an officer, “I shot him and he was trying to rob me.”
He initially said that he had kept the gun under the counter at Spartan and had never fired it before Monday, though he had handled it to “familiarize” himself with it.
Howard eventually told police that during the previous week, he had sold cocaine about a dozen times, in bags ranging in price from $100 to $1,300, the price of Monday’s intended sale.
Howard told police that the man who intended to buy the cocaine was holding it in his hands and had asked Howard whether he would be able to “cook” the cocaine. Howard said as he spoke with the man he had a 9mm semiautomatic handgun in his waistband, under his shirt.
Howard said the man “bolted” toward the front door, and that he simply reacted and shot the man, who was by then close to the door. Howard said he never saw the man with a weapon.
Asked by police what happened as he lay on the ground outside, the man said, “Dude shot me in the back” after he had “tried to take a kilo from the dude.”
The man admitted he was at the gas station to buy a kilo of cocaine but didn’t have the money. He said he made it to the door when he heard a bang and felt pain in his back. He told police he stumbled out to the parking lot when he realized he had been shot.
When he fell, he said, he feared that Howard was going to “finish me off and kill me.” He said he threw the bag of cocaine onto the ground, and Howard picked it up and went back into the store.
The man said the incident had started in a back room, where Howard had retrieved the cocaine from a cabinet or small refrigerator. He said Howard weighed the cocaine on a scale in front of him.
Police executed a search warrant later at Spartan, where a bag of cocaine was found inside of another bag, which also contained a document confirming that Howard was a patient of a local medical clinic. The bag was found stashed above a refrigerator in the food preparation area at Spartan.
Along with cocaine, police found a digital scale and two 9mm handguns and ammunition for the guns.
Nobody answered the phone at Spartan Gyros late Wednesday afternoon, but a worker at Capitol Petro said the adjoining business, which he said is separate, was open.
Spartan said on its Facebook page Wednesday afternoon that it was open. In a post on Monday, the business said it was closed because “we got robbed today.”