A former gyro shop worker accused of shooting a man who tried to steal cocaine from him at the shop was indicted Wednesday on federal drug and gun charges.

Eric C. Howard, 37, of Madison, who already faces state charges for the shooting, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of possessing cocaine with intent to distribute and discharging a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

Howard faces up to 20 years in prison on the cocaine charge, with a mandatory minimum of 10 years on the gun charge. Under federal law, any penalty on the gun charge must be served consecutively to the penalty on the cocaine charge, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

A criminal complaint filed last week in Dane County Circuit Court states that on Sept. 25, Howard shot and injured a 34-year-old man who had come to Spartan Gyros, 2702 E. Washington Ave., to buy $1,300 worth of cocaine. The man described the amount to police as a “kilo,” but it was likely nowhere near that amount.

After Howard weighed the cocaine on a scale in a food preparation area at the takeout restaurant, the man tried to run out the door with it, but Howard shot him in the back when he nearly reached the door, the complaint states. The man told police he ran because he didn’t have the money to buy the cocaine, according to the complaint.

Howard told Madison police that he simply reacted and shot the man with a gun he had in his waistband after the man “bolted” for the door with the cocaine, the complaint states.

The complaint states that police searched the restaurant after the shooting and found a bag that contained about 28 grams of cocaine, along with bags of cocaine in much smaller amounts.

Howard was jailed on $75,000 bail after appearing in Dane County Circuit Court on Sept. 27. He is scheduled to be back in court on Thursday for a preliminary hearing.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not indicate when Howard would appear in federal court.

The owners of the shop condemned Howard’s actions in a statement on Facebook last week and called Howard a “temporary employee.”


Ed Treleven is the courts reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.