A beloved immigration attorney, Army veteran and father of two has been shot dead in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when a traffic dispute with a bicyclist turned deadly, according to reports.
Jason Cleereman, 54, was in the passenger seat as his wife, Evanjelina, was driving home Tuesday night when they encountered the cyclist, who was riding recklessly on the Holton Street bridge, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, citing the victim’s sister, Vanessa Maldonado.
Cleereman’s wife “got nervous” and thought she was going to strike him, Maldonado told the news outlet.
“At some point there were words exchanged between this guy and my brother,” she said.
The cyclist approached the car and punched Cleereman in the face and then gunned the attorney down when he stepped out of the vehicle, Maldonado said. The shooter then fled on a bike path, she added.
Police said the shooting occurred about 7:45 p.m. near the bustling Brady Street, where people sat outside and enjoyed food, drinks and an NBA playoff game during the mild evening,
“We’re all just really shocked and confused,” Maldonado told Fox 6 Now. “I have so much pain for my sister-in-law, her children, my niece and my nephew. I mean, that has to be the most painful thing to be going through right now.”
Evanjelina Cleereman called the shooting a “senseless act.”
She told Milwaukee’s WTMJ-TV that her husband was a kind man who worked tirelessly for the community as an immigration attorney.
“He was a very generous kind man with his time and attention very giving man,” Evanjelina said.
In his career, Cleereman had helped advocate for families navigating the immigration process, three members of the city’s Common Council said in a joint statement, according to the Journal Sentinel.
“Anyone who met Jason instantly knew how much he cared about his family, friends and the community,” José Pérez, Nik Kovac and JoCasta Zamarripa wrote.
“He worked tirelessly in service of others, left a positive impact on those around him, and will surely be missed,” they added.
Cleereman also helped organize a local farmers market, was a member of the South Side Organizing Center and a leader in the Walker Square Neighborhood Association, according to the outlet.
Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Pedro Colón called the slain lawyer “a great neighbor, lawyer and family man” in a Facebook post.
“All those of us practiced law with him experienced his passionate advocacy and dedication to his clients and the law,” Colón said.
Shaleigh Fitzpatrick, who said she had known Cleereman for more than 20 years, on Wednesday afternoon brought flowers to the bridge where he was killed.
“I came out here today because I just wanted to say my goodbyes. I spoke to him a few days ago and I’m pretty sad that that’s the last time I’m going to get to talk to him,” Fitzpatrick told WTMJ-TV.
Police said the homicide remains under investigation.
Cleereman was one of two people killed in Milwaukee on Tuesday night.
In a separate incident, 57-year-old Kirt Davis was also shot and killed along Greenfield Avenue in circumstances that remain under investigation, according to the station.
The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office said that 2020 is on track to be one of the deadliest in the city. If the homicide rate continues, it could see more than 200 homicides by the end of the year.