Man found dead in retention pond was charged with 3 counts of attempted homicide day before vehicle chase that led to his death

MADISON, Wis. — The man who was found dead in a Monona retention pond on Monday was charged with three counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide the day before an officer-involved high-speed chase led to his death.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation announced Monday that it had started an investigation into an officer-involved death. DCI’s investigation is ongoing.

Early Saturday morning officers with the Monona Police Department spotted a vehicle that was reportedly connected to violent crimes in Madison. The suspect vehicle sped past officers before crashing into a tree. Police said at least one person exited the vehicle and ran off. Officers attempted a K-9 search but did not find the man.

Around 5:45 p.m. Monday a body was found in a retention pond in the 500 block of River Place in Monona.

The victim was later identified as 21-year-old Rodney J. Freeman. The Dane County Medical Examiner said Freeman’s death was consistent with a drowning. The medical examiner’s office said more testing is still underway.

The criminal complaint charging Freeman with three counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide and one count of first-degree reckless injury was filed with the Dane County Circuit Court on Friday, the day before Freeman drowned in the pond.

The charges against Freeman were tied to an April 1 shooting in the 100 block of North Patterson Street that left two people injured, including an innocent bystander and a passenger in the car that was being targeted.

The shooting followed a car chase down East Washington Avenue that eventually ended near Reynolds Park, across from Breese Stevens Field.

The driver of the car believes they were being targeted and chased by the shooter because of a fight at East Towne Mall back in October of 2018.

“We kinda beat them up pretty bad in the mall,” the driver told one officer during the subsequent investigation.

Investigators had confirmed Freeman was involved in the fight at the mall and confirmed through video surveillance that the car involved in the shooting and chase was registered to Freeman’s mother.

On April 9 a police officer on a routine patrol near First Street saw the vehicle, a black Toyota Camry with paint scratches and a missing hubcap on the front passenger side, drive past him. The officer said he recognized the video from surveillance images and proceeded to follow the vehicle.

On April 15 police searched the Camry where they found a silver .380 caliber pistol magazine wrapped up in grey sweatpants. Officers also found an Arkansas ID for Freeman in the car’s middle console. In addition to the ID and the pistol magazine, officers found a denim jacket and a traffic citation, both of which had Freeman’s name on them.

It’s unclear whether or not the Camry was the vehicle that Monona police pursued during the car chase that ultimately led to Freeman’s death, but officials did say that they found items in the car that belonged to Freeman.