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Criminal charges against alleged looters, vandals in Dane County

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MADISON (WKOW) - The first criminal charges have been lodged against people accused of participating in looting and vandalism in Madison's State Street corridor and other parts of Dane County.

21-year old Mackenzee Jacobson of Janesville appeared for a court hearing Wednesday on a felony burglary charge. A criminal complaint says Jacobson told police officers he and his brother traveled to Madison to check out the ongoing protests. The complaint says early Tuesday morning, Jacobson stole a shirt and a parka from Fontana Sports on North Henry Street. Jacobson's bail was given a signature bond with a ban on being in the State Street area. "If there's some kind of a violation, we're going to have to talk about bail again and it will be that much harder to get a signature bond," Dane County Court Commissioner Jason Hanson said. "I don't want to go to court again, promise that," Jacobson said.

While Jacobson's been charged, surveillance video from the store over the past several days shows at least one occasion where two dozen people race into the retailer after the door and windows were smashed.

In connection to looting at a Sun Prairie Target store Monday, 40-year old Casimer Tipton and 31-year old Lavette Brown are charged with felony burglary. They are scheduled to appear in court for their initial hearings in two weeks. But as with the incidents at Fontana in Madison, they were not the only people to allegedly loot in Sun Prairie. A criminal complaint states surveillance video shows a woman breaking a glass window at Target. "20 - 40 people are lined up behind this female and enter the vestibule area after the window is broken," the complaint says.

Court records also indicate the scale of loss from the looting connected to the protests. "The entire store appeared to be ransacked," the complaint against Jacobson states about Fontana Sports. "(Owner) stated there was an estimated damage between $500,000 to $700,000 in items taken, damaged and otherwise not recoverable."

Betty Merten lives two blocks from Fontana Sports, uses a wheelchair and appreciates the store's inventory of quality essentials such as socks. She says seeing plywood where there were once windows at Fontana and dozens of other stores in the downtown shopping district is shocking. "It just breaks my heart," Merten says.

Merten fears the extent of the looting and vandalism damage could permanently set back a business district already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

"I'm afraid State Street might turn into a ghost town," she says.

A representative of Fontana Sports says the store is tentatively scheduled to reopen next week.

Assistant Madison City Attorney Marci Paulsen says she's yet to receive any referrals from police on potential citations for disorderly conduct and other infractions related to the protests.

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Tony Galli

Reporter, WKOW

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