Police seek suspect in March 17 shooting
The Stevens Point Police Department responded to a report of gunshots at approximately 7:48 p.m. Thursday, March 17, in the 2700 block of Fifth Avenue. It was later confirmed a gunshot was fired, wounding a 21-year-old Stevens Point man.
“There were two locations involved. We learned early in the investigation that the incident occurred on the 2700 block of Fifth Avenue and that people involved, one person specifically, was located a short time later at the Berg Gym,” said Stevens Point Police Chief Martin Skibba.
Authorities believe the victim, Deonta M. Lezine, was shot during a possible drug deal gone wrong. The severely wounded Lezine then made his way to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) campus where he found aid from campus staff who called emergency services.
Kyle C. Engen, Stevens Point, is wanted by authorities for questioning in the incident.
Engen, 31, is approximately six feet tall, 155 pounds with blond hair and brown eyes. He also has the number “420” crudely tattooed on his right arm. He is believed to be in possession of a handgun and driving a maroon or purple Lexus SUV.
This incident is being investigated as an attempted homicide, although the victim remains in critical condition.
Engen’s whereabouts are currently unknown, and Stevens Point detectives are following up on leads in the Dane County area with assistance from the Dane County Sheriff’s Department. An arrest warrant has been issued.
While searching for Engen Saturday, March 19, Stevens Point detectives, with assistance from law enforcement in Dane County, executed a search warrant in the village of Marshall, Dane County, to collect evidence related to this incident.
“We ended up with information Saturday morning that took us down to Dane County, where with the assistance of a multitude of law enforcement agencies, served a search warrant. Unfortunately, the person we were looking for at that time was not there, and because of that we wound up putting out more information (to the public) because we recognized that clearly he now knows we are looking for him,” said Skibba. “Unfortunately, there are times people are not predictable and to err on the side of safety, information was put out about who, where and when we were looking.”
Authorities confirmed a second shooting victim of the March 17 incident late Sunday, March 20, afternoon. A 20-year-old male who was with Lezine at the time of the incident was struck by a bullet and suffered non-life threatening injuries.
The male left the scene and sought medical attention on his own in the Racine area, presumably because he was frightened, authorities said. However, the man returned to Stevens Point to check on his friend, Lezine, and when he learned of his critical condition, he turned himself in to the police and is fully cooperating with the investigation.
Lezine remains in critical condition. The name of the hospital is not being released out of respect for the family’s privacy.
Authorities said Thursday after the shooting the public was not in any danger.
Skibba said the Police Department firmly believes the shooting was an isolated incident and the public is still in no danger.
Authorities said there was an immediate demand, from parents and media, for the specific details about the shooting, which was understandable. However, the police had a duty to build a proper case and publicly releasing they had a suspect too early might tip the suspect off to the investigation.
“Understandably with the prior horrific incidents that have happened on (other) campus environments, it’s clearly understandable that parents would feel very anxious about getting information,” said Skibba. “So, I can definitely appreciate the anxiety of a parent who is not here and wants to quickly check and confirm facts – and they may have particular beliefs or thoughts about law enforcement in general – but what I can tell you is that when we indicated our belief it was an isolated incident, that we believed no one is in immediate harm’s way, understand we have employees that go to school there, we have employees’ children who go to that university.
“So, if we truly felt there was any community in danger at that time, we would not have said what we said,” he said. “And again, there’s some information, because of the investigation, we did not release, nor are we releasing at this time, to indicate our belief in support of it.”
The safety and security of the community is paramount to his department’s operations and part of that responsibility includes properly building investigations, Skibba said.
Neither of the victims nor the suspect are currently enrolled at UWSP.
Skibba said the only reason the university was brought into the investigation was because that’s where Lezine had sought help.
“This was not a random act. After consulting with the Police Department and Protective Services during the course of the investigation, UW-Stevens Point had no indication campus was at risk as a result of this incident,” said UWSP Chancellor Bernie Patterson.
“While the shooting occurred off campus, in the 2700 block of Fifth Avenue, the victim was found at the Health Enhancement Center. Students and custodial staff in the center immediately recognized the medical emergency, rendered assistance and called 911. We applaud their efforts and those of others throughout the night,” Patterson said.
“The safety of our students, faculty and staff is our top priority. Campus leaders, including Student Affairs and Protective Services, monitored the situation continually. Residential Living staff participated in meetings in the early morning to address student questions and provide accurate information,” he said.
If anyone has any information about the incident or the whereabouts of Engen, Skibba said to call the Stevens Point Police Department at 715-346-1500. If he is observed, do not approach and call 911.