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Man who died after police pursuit in Monona identified

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Rodney J. Freeman, a 21-year-old Black man, was identified by the Dane County Medical Examiner’s (DCME) office today as the deceased individual discovered by a witness in a Monona pond Monday evening. 

While additional testing is underway, a forensic autopsy indicated that his death is “consistent with a drowning,” according to the July 1, 2020 release from DCME Director of Operations Barry E. Irmen.

Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Vincent Tranchida oversaw the autopsy. Wisconsin state agencies, including the State Patrol and Division of Criminal Investigations, are overseeing the investigation into Freeman’s death. 

The DCI  press release does not fill in much of the timeline between the crash on Saturday, June 27 and when Freeman’s body was discovered. 

Court records indicate the Dane County District Attorney’s office had filed three attempted homicide charges and one reckless injury charge against Freeman, and issued a warrant for his arrest, on June 26. It is not clear whether officers pursuing him Saturday knew of those charges.

Dane County Police, Fire and EMS scanner audio records, obtained by Madison365, offer a window into the actions taken from Saturday by the officers, as well as initial information from the foot chase.

According to the audio recordings, officers initially followed a dark-colored Chrysler sedan, “occupied by a couple black males,” after “they saw me and took off,” he said.

The officer, whose name and badge could not be identified through the audio recordings, stated over the radio that he found outstanding charges against the vehicle. He pursued the vehicle westbound on Femrite Drive.

At some point, the vehicle crashed, and a foot chase ensued. The officers in pursuit describe a, “male black, wearing jeans and a white T-shirt,” who was running northbound on Queens Way.

After some time, radio chatter reported telephone wires were down and a vehicle on fire at the intersection of Copps Avenue and Femrite Drive, about one mile from where Freeman’s body was found, near the 500 block of River Place Drive.

DCI stated yesterday in a news release that, “property located in the crashed vehicle has been identified as belonging to the subject found in the lagoon.”

Madison365 is reviewing the extensive audio records for any additional information.