‘He would never hurt anyone’: Family of man killed by roommate says DA made a mistake not pressing charges

MADISON, Wis. – The family of the man killed by his roommate Monday night says Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne made a mistake in letting his alleged killer go free.

53-year-old Brian Swan was shot to death in the west side home he rented with seven other men late Monday. Shortly after, police arrested Doyle ‘Jay’ Reifert, Swan’s roommate.

My dad was very very funny,” said Swan’s daughter, Amanda Jarman.  “I always say he was the handsome funny guy in high school. He was very very caring. He had a very pure heart.”

Jarman admits her father struggled on and off with bouts of alcoholism but says he was a devoted father and grandfather.

He loved his grandkids,” Jarman said. “My oldest daughter Gwendolyn, she’s three – she just loved Grandpa Brian.”

Jarman says she and her family first learned of her father’s death around 3 A.M. Tuesday morning.

“She said he was murdered,” Jarman said. “He was shot. They have the guy in custody, all this stuff. That’s the only thing my family heard.”

Getting additional information became a challenge.

The DA, they answered our calls but wouldn’t give us any information,” she said. “They said they were in briefings, were in briefings, were in briefings until 3PM the next day. Almost 24 hours after he was shot before they would tell us anything. When they started to talk to us, she didn’t ask anything except if (my dad) was an alcoholic.”

Shortly before noon today, the Dane County District Attorney’s Office made the decision not to charge Reifert, who they say shot and killed Swan, but rather release him. Under Wisconsin Law, the DA argued, Reifert was protected under the Castle Doctrine. Despite he and Swan sharing a home, a release argued Swan was in his room without permission and presented himself in an aggressive manner.

If he’s declaring that he used self-defense, no way is that self-defense,” said Reifert’s roommate and landlord, who asked to go by only his first name, David. “Brian would never do anything that threatening. Jay’s a pretty big guy. He could have easily just closed the door, or called the police if that was it.”

David says Reifert had a history of having a short temper with his roommates. Several months back, he says Reifert became confrontational when asked about the thousands he owed in rent.

I said ‘Jay, you have to pay rent’,” David said. “I said it three times, you have to pay rent, you have to pay rent. He just went ballistic on me, just like that. He looked at me and said ‘I will spend the rest of my life dedicated to ruining your life’.”

In addition, David says Reifert had been open about his weapon possession in the past, saying he would shoot and kill anyone who came near their home during the 2020 protests against police violence. 

Jay knows this Castle Law,” David said. “I’m sure by heart. Instinctively or building up to this point, he’s thinking ‘I can shoot this guy. Maybe his temper, all this stuff accumulated in this second.”

Since Reifert’s release, David says he and other roommates have taken out temporary restraining orders or left the property entirely, in fear for their own lives.

We’re all terrified,” he said. “Some of them are going to find other places to go, because if they release him and he comes over hereWe all fear that when we’re all sleeping, he’ll come here and shoot us.”

It’s one thing to have your father pass away in his bed, surrounded by people who love him,” Jarman said. “But to have him be murdered by someone who isn’t sorry, (sighs).” 

Everybody here virtually would tell you, this guy should never ever be let out in public ever ever ever again,” David said. “Should never see the light of day. He is a threat to the world, to anyone. The whole Madison community, wherever he goes.”

The Dane County District Attorney’s Office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.