Shooting investigation sought truth; man charged
A 31-year-old Marshall man has been charged in the March shooting incident in Stevens Point that led to the death of 21-year-old Deonta M. Lezine.
The charges came more than five months after the March 17 shooting and more than four months after Kyle C. Engen was arrested on a probation violation in Granby, Colo. The time between the incident and filing the charges gave Portage County officials an opportunity to gather the evidence needed, members of the Portage County District Attorney’s office said.
“It’s a significant event because of the impact it had on the community,” Portage County Assistant District Attorney David Knaapen said. “On the face of it, the public might think, ‘what does it take to move this forward?’ There’s more than a gun went off and (someone died).
“Our obligation is not just to charge individuals but look at the truth of the charges,” he said. “I hope the public can be reassured that we’ve done everything we can to bring this matter into court as quickly as possible and make sure our community is safe.”
Engen has been charged with second-degree intentional homicide, two counts of attempted second-degree intentional homicide and possession of a firearm as a felon for the March 17 shooting that led to Lezine’s death about a week later from his injuries. Engen also faces a repeat offender modifier with each charge.
Portage County District Attorney Louis Molepske said Engen remains in Dane County Jail to face his probation violation charges. His preliminary hearing and initial appearance related to the Stevens Point shooting are scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, in Circuit Court Branch 3.
Stevens Point Police and the Portage County District Attorney’s office held a press conference Thursday, Sept. 15, to address the charges and the work involved among multiple jurisdictions in apprehending Engen in the incident.
“This case spans more than one state,” Molepske said, including U.S. Marshals, Granby, Colo., Police, Stevens Point Police, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) campus law enforcement, as well as law enforcement in Marshall and locations outside of Dane County.
“It requires many agencies coming together … there’s a lot of people who need to be interviewed,” he said. “You don’t want to rush a case like this … (all agencies) did an excellent job.”
Second-degree and attempted second-degree homicide are class B felonies, which can carry a maximum of up to 60 years in prison, and possession of a firearm as a felon is a class G felony that carries a sentence of up to 10 years and/or up to $25,000 in fines. The repeater modifier clause would affect the sentencing if Engen is convicted of the exact charges.
Molepske reminded the community that Engen is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The District Attorney’s office continues working with Lezine’s family through various programs, he said.
Police responded at 7:48 p.m. March 17 to a report of gunshots fired in the 2700 block of Fifth Avenue, Stevens Point. Lezine was located at UWSP’s Berg Gymnasium where he received aid from campus staff and students. Officials praised the efforts of campus staff and students who were present in their aid to Lezine.
A 20-year-old man with Lezine that night also was shot, but the injury was not life-threatening, according to reports. He has cooperated with the investigation. Lezine, the other victim (who has not been identified) and Engen were not enrolled as students at UWSP, reports said.
The nearly six-month investigation included Wisconsin municipal law enforcement agencies, Colorado municipal law enforcement agencies and the U.S. Marshals; resulted in searches of homes and property to find evidence, including the alleged murder weapon; and included interviews with more than a dozen people.
According to the criminal complaint, Lezine and his roommate (the second victim) were meeting Engen to purchase marijuana. Lezine’s roommate said the two did not have enough money to purchase the amount of drugs they wanted and instead planned to steal the drugs; the plan was for Lezine to knock out Engen, according to the complaint.
Engen reportedly has claimed that the shooting was not intentional; his girlfriend, with whom he discussed the shooting according to the criminal complaint, said Engen reported at one point the shooting was accidental and at another instance said he shot in self-defense.
U.S. Marshals and local law enforcement in Colorado took Engen into custody April 21 in Granby, Colo., where he was held on a probation warrant out of Dane County. He was transported back to Dane County on May 7.
Engen currently is still being held on a probation and parole violation there, which resulted from a 2015 case for possession with intent to sell marijuana, in which he received three years’ probation. He will face sentencing for the probation revocation in October.
In 2008, Engen pleaded no contest to felony burglary charges in Dane County and received three years’ probation and was ordered to alcohol and drug treatment. The year before that, he was convicted of misdemeanor possession of marijuana, also in Dane County.