The Madison Police Department suppressed news of a violent assault that occurred this summer.
Police, after initially denying that anything occurred, now confirm that two men were battered into unconsciousness in a fight on Madison's north side in the early morning hours of June 14; both were taken to the hospital.
"It was a severe beating, with baseball bats and what have you," says MPD Det. Tom Helgren, who's handling the case. One of the men ended up in a coma, and it was "a week or two" before he was able to talk. Helgren says the fight erupted between two groups of males, one black, the other Hispanic. Both of the injured men were Hispanic.
Back in June, Isthmus made inquiries into the incident, after hearing from a neighborhood resident who believed that one of the men may have died. Officer Howard Payne, filling in for vacationing police spokesperson Joel DeSpain, looked into the matter and found "no mention in the call log" of even a fight. But after being confronted with a case number obtained by Isthmus, the MPD acknowledged the incident.
It is at least the second serious violent crime that police have tried to keep secret from the Madison public.
As Isthmus reported ("Brutal Attack Kept Under Wraps," 8/5/08), police did not inform the media of an Aug. 5 beating of a man walking to work on the city's east side. The beating by a group of young people left the man with a shattered cheek, broken ribs, collapsed lung, and tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills.
Det. Helgren speculates that no information was released because "no on knew who the victims were at that time." But incident reports are commonly released without identifying victims by name.
Neighborhood resident Sonia Komisar has heard that shots were fired as part of this incident; Helgren says that's not so. A police report released to Isthmus says one witness "believed he may have seen someone with a gun." Komisar is troubled by the lack of public awareness.
"We have a false sense of security thinking this is a nice small city where nothing happens because people are left in the dark by the police and the media," she says. "It seems Madison's image is more important than keeping the public informed of what is going on."