Scene of shooting

A Madison police officer investigates a shooting at Spartan Gyros, 2702 E. Washington Ave., on Monday. The business said the actions of the employee who allegedly committed the shooting "is in no way approved or allowed by our corporation in anyway."

M.P. KING, STATE JOURNAL

An East Side gyro shop where an employee allegedly shot a man Monday after a drug deal went bad is condemning the violence.

In a Facebook post Wednesday, Spartan Gyros said the actions of “temporary employee” Eric C. Howard, who allegedly shot a man as he fled the store at 2702 E. Washington Ave. after not paying for cocaine, are “in no way approved or allowed by our corporation in any way.”

Howard, 37, has been charged with first-degree reckless endangerment, possession of cocaine with intent to deliver and carrying a concealed weapon.

On Monday afternoon, a man went into Spartan Gyros, which adjoins a Capitol Petro gas station, to buy “a kilo” of cocaine, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday. When the man “bolted” toward the door without paying $1,300 for the cocaine, Howard shot him in the back, the complaint alleges.

“We condemn his action and do not approve of it. We are still investigating the matter legally and with the Madison police,” the company’s post said.

The company continued by saying it will work with its human resources department to check prospective employees’ backgrounds more stringently and encouraged people with cooking experience to apply at its new locations.

A man who answered the phone at Spartan Gyros on Thursday afternoon referred any questions to Giesen Law Offices, but added, “I personally, and a lot of workers who work here, never saw a kilo of cocaine as the police are saying, so until then, let’s see what the judge of course is.”

Police executed a search warrant Monday and found a bag of cocaine, a digital scale, two 9mm handguns and ammunition stashed in the shop, according to the complaint.

On the day of the shooting, a Facebook post from Spartan Gyros said it was closed because “unfortunately we got robbed today.”

Attorney Charles Giesen said the matter is still being investigated by the law firm.

He said the shop’s owner was out of the country at the time of the shooting, but did not know the owner’s name as his law partner Jessica Giesen was taking most of the responsibilities of the case.

Online state records name Kathy Phouthavong as the registered agent of the business, while city food inspection records have a contact person listed as Kathy Phoutovong, a different spelling of the last name.

Messages left for a Kathy Phouthavong on Thursday were not immediately returned.

Andrew Erlandson, an attorney representing Capitol Petro, said in an email that the gas station owns the building and Spartan Gyros has been renting space in it since June 2016.

He said employees at the gas station have not noticed suspicious activity occurring at the adjoining business.

Capitol Petroleum, which owns the Capitol Petro brand and other Madison area gas stations, is facing separate legal problems.

The state Department of Justice sued Capitol Petroleum and its owner Farooq Shahzad in June 2016 for allegedly selling synthetic marijuana at its stores. In 2015, nearly 40 pounds of synthetic marijuana was seized from the Capitol Petro next to Spartan Gyros and a CP Mart at 3505 E. Washington Ave.

Erlandson said Capitol Petroleum or Shahzad own no interest in Spartan Gyros, and the company’s management “monitors sales actively by employees at its locations to ensure that only authorized products are sold.”

Johnny Koremenos, a spokesman for the DOJ, said a judge ruled in the state’s favor this summer that Capitol Petroleum and Shahzad had violated the law by selling the product. But the number of offenses that have occurred and the amount of monetary penalties are to be determined later, leaving the case pending, he said.

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Logan Wroge has been a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal since 2015.