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Family of immigration attorney shot and killed responds to accused shooter's self-defense claims

Theodore Malcome Edgecomb (L) and the victim, Jason Cleereman (R)
Posted at 10:32 PM, Dec 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-21 23:32:03-05

MILWAUKEE — The family of the immigration attorney shot and killed in Milwaukee is responding to the alleged gunman's claims of self-defense.

Theodore Edgecomb, 31, is accused of fatally shooting Jason Cleereman on the Holton Street bridge in 2020.

"Mr. Edgecomb did not act in self-defense, and this is not a close case," the Cleereman family wrote in a statement released Tuesday.

Edgecomb was back in court Tuesday for a final hearing before his trial on Jan. 3. He faces a first-degree reckless homicide charge, as well as bail jumping charges.

Theodore Malcome Edgecomb (L) and the victim, Jason Cleereman (R)
Theodore Malcome Edgecomb (L) and the victim, Jason Cleereman (R)

"We hope everyone continues to keep an open mind and not try the case in the media and just wait till the facts come about," Edgecomb's attorney B'Ivory LaMarr said.

Prosecutors believe the shooting happened after an argument on the road, during which they say Edgecomb punched Cleereman in his car.

In court documents, defense attorneys write, "This case is a bout a man acting in self-defense when he was almost ran off the road by a larger and heavier male, with racial slurs being used, and once he retaliated with a punch and left he the scene on his bicycle, he was followed and pursued by this man who was not only intoxicated, using incendiary language and making death threats, but also one that was armed with a folding knife that was found on scene in his pocket."

They indicate Edgecomb still plans to take the stand and testify, and they will focus on surveillance video which shows the moments leading up to the shooting.

The Cleereman family writes, "Jason Cleereman committed his life and practice of law to equal justice under the law. For his wife, family and many friends to be forced to respond to disgraceful and outright lies that he was threatening or used racist language—when anyone who ever met Jason would laugh at the very idea of that —is beyond offensive."

At the time of the shooting, Edgecomb was out on bond and was not allowed to have a gun. He was arrested about six months later in Kentucky.

The defense team fought to limit what the jury could hear about alleged bail violations.

"The state's attempt here is to bootstrap his bail jumping charge to prejudice the jury by confusing them to try to continue a narrative that somehow Mr. Edgecomb would not be privileged to exercise self-defense because he would perhaps have an order that would deny him the right to have a firearm in the first place," LaMarr said.

The Cleereman family writes, "This is a clear case of Theodore Edgecomb's one-sided violence, armed murder and flight from justice, one that a controversial verdict in another county does not justify."

Jury selection is set to begin Jan. 3. The judge said he plans to bring in a pool of 45 to 50 jurors, which he says is a little more than usual.

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