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Man charged with killing 3 in Wisconsin tavern shooting

TODD RICHMOND
·3-min read

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin man was charged Wednesday with killing three people and wounding three others in a weekend shooting at a crowded bar.

Prosecutors charged Rakayo Vinson, 24, of Kenosha, with three counts of first-degree intentional homicide and three counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide in the shooting early Sunday at Somers House Tavern in the village of Somers in Kenosha County. He would face life in prison if convicted on any of the counts.

Vinson got into a fight at the tavern during which his face was injured, according to the complaint. Surveillance video shows him walking out onto the bar’s patio, where he opened fire. He then jumped over the patio’s railing and ran away, firing as he fled.

Killed were 24-year-old Cedric Gaston; 26-year-old Atkeem Stevenson; and 22-year-old Kevin Donaldson, all of Kenosha. The video shows Vinson exchanging fire with Donaldson outside the tavern. Donaldson left in a car but later died at a hospital.

Justin Haymond, Jordan Momani and Kevin Serratos were wounded but survived, according to the criminal complaint. 

This Monday, April 19, 2021 booking photo provided by the Kenosha County Sheriff's Department shows Rakayo Alandis Vinson. Authorities say Vinson was apprehended in connection with a shooting at a busy tavern in southeastern Wisconsin early Sunday, April 18 that left multiple men dead and others injured. (Kenosha County Sheriff's Department via AP)
This Monday, April 19, 2021 booking photo provided by the Kenosha County Sheriff's Department shows Rakayo Alandis Vinson. Authorities say Vinson was apprehended in connection with a shooting at a busy tavern in southeastern Wisconsin early Sunday, April 18 that left multiple men dead and others injured. (Kenosha County Sheriff's Department via AP)

Vinson was arrested in Mount Pleasant after he stole a car from friends, who turned him in after he returned the vehicle, Sheriff David Beth. 

Vinson insisted for hours to detectives that he wasn't at the tavern before acknowledging he had been in a fight there and that he had been armed, according to the complaint. He said he blacked out “and (expletive) went down.” Detectives retrieved Vinson's wallet from the spot where he jumped from the patio.

During Vison's initial court appearance Wednesday, public defender Kristyne Watson argued for lowering his $4 million cash bond, saying there were questions about whether he was the shooter and whether the shooting was in self-defense.

“There certainly seems to be no dispute there was an assault on Mr. Vinson in the bar,” Watson said.

Kenosha County Court Commissioner Loren Keating declined to lower the bond, citing the seriousness of the charges.

“Nothing short of a tragedy is laid out here,” Keating said of the complaint. “This appears (to be) yet another example of senseless gun violence, which destroys lives, sadly.”

Vinson spoke only when asked a series of routine questions by the judge about the process, responding “Yes sir,” “That’s correct,” and “Most definitely.” 

Each charge carries sentence modifiers for being a repeat offender and using a dangerous weapon in a homicide or attempted homicide totaling up to 11 years on each count. The modifiers are based on Vinson’s conviction for unlawful use of a weapon in Kansas City, Missouri, in 2016, according to the criminal complaint. 

The judge set Vinson's next hearing for May 5.

Somers is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Milwaukee, not far from the Illinois-Wisconsin border. It's about 6 miles (9.6 kilometers) southeast of Kenosha, which saw unrest last summer after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, who is Black, during a domestic dispute. Prosecutors have charged Kyle Rittenhouse, a white 18-year-old from Antioch, Illinois, with killing two people during the protests. Rittenhouse has said he acted in self-defense.

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Associated Press writer Scott Bauer in Madison contributed to this report.