A 25-year-old Madison man was fatally shot early Saturday in his parked car on the city’s Far East Side, police said.

The city’s fourth homicide of the year occurred around 3:30 a.m. in a parking lot in the 900 block of Vernon Avenue, Police Chief Mike Koval said.

Witnesses told investigators that a man in his 20s came out from between two buildings and opened fire, Koval said. Semi-automatic shell casings were found at the scene, along with damage to several vehicles and an apartment door.

Authorities had not released the name of the victim. Koval said the man was a West Side resident with two young children.

The shooter fled the scene, but witnesses could not say whether he was on foot or in a vehicle, Koval said. As of Saturday night, police had not identified a suspect and no arrest had been made, Koval said.

Investigators found blood, but the victim was not at the scene, Koval said. Three people nearby took the victim from his vehicle and drove him to a local hospital where he died from his wounds.

Police recorded statements from the three people, but they are not considered persons of interest in the case, Koval said.

“They were obviously aiding someone who is in distress as good Samaritans would,” Koval said. “I appreciate the fact that he was not left in his car to die alone.”

Koval said he didn’t know if or how the three people knew the

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Madison Homicide

A member of the Madison Police Department is stationed outside the scene of a deadly shooting early Saturday in a parking lot on the 900 block of Vernon Avenue.

victim. Koval said he didn’t know for certain if the shooting was targeted but evidence was pointing to that conclusion.

“We’re trying to walk back all those events that might have led up to this shooting in the parking lot to understand or try to get a sense of what motive might there be for this,” Koval said.

Investigators will also view camera footage from the area to search for information, he said.

At about 10:15 p.m. Saturday, shots were apparently fired during a vigil for the victim but it did not appear that anyone was injured, police said.

Rising rates of

gun violence

While the number of homicides this year is following a similar path to last year, Koval said, the number of shots-fired calls has increased.

“We’ve clearly had more shots-fired calls to date this year over last year,” Koval said. “We’ve had more incidents where the shots fired occur that there are more people collaterally wounded or injured in some sense.”

Community and city support and programs for at-risk youth are vital to reducing disparities among residents and violence, he said.

“We by no means can assume that we have the long-term subject matter expertise to do the difficult work of preemption and prevention,” Koval said.

Public policy makers, including City Council members and the mayor, have important complementary goals, Koval said, and they have the access to resources and funding that can make violence prevention efforts effective.

One project the city and several local organizations are developing is a “rapid response” support program for victims and witnesses of crimes.

Ald. Amanda Hall, who represents the 3rd District where the shooting took place, said a lack of community involvement could be hindering the investigation.

“One of the things that’s holding back the investigation right now is that folks don’t trust the system,” Hall said. “They fear that if they provide information that leads to someone being brought up on charges that they will personally suffer retribution, and I think that that’s tragic.”

Hall said that city officials should increase efforts to earn the trust of all Madison residents so anyone would feel safe aiding in a police investigation.

Despite recent public disputes between Koval and Mayor Paul Soglin, and frictions in the “rapid response” program, Koval said he’s optimistic about reducing gun violence in the city.

“It’s clear to me that the public policy makers, those who have access to resources and funding, in conjuncture with the not-for-profit and private sectors and the mayor’s office, I think there’s a widespread spirit — a sense of urgency — and I’m encouraged by that,” Koval said.

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Shelley K. Mesch is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. She earned a degree in journalism from DePaul University.