Portage man sentenced to 9 months in jail 4 years probation for fatal shooting
A Portage man was sentenced Tuesday to nine months in jail with Huber privileges and four years of probation for fatally shooting his neighbor at an apartment building in May.
Calvin Eldridge, 49, appeared in Columbia County Circuit Court in the case of the shooting death of 54-year-old Victor Reynolds.
Eldridge, who has been in custody since the night of the shooting, also was sentenced to time served and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $4,800.
Eldridge was arrested on the evening of May 9 after shooting Reynolds in the leg in the hallway of a Village Road apartment building. Police were called at about 5 p.m. to respond to a fistfight, then to a shooting.
Portage police detectives described the incident as the final escalation in a feud between upstairs-downstairs neighbors involving complaints of loud music and slamming doors. Reynolds was taken from the scene by paramedics and Eldridge surrendered to police. Reynolds was transferred to a Madison hospital where he died the next day.
A recommendation had been offered by Assistant District Attorney Crystal Long and defense attorney Robert Jambois in which the most serious count of second-degree reckless homicide would be dismissed, while Eldridge entered guilty pleas to felony second-degree reckless endangerment and misdemeanor endangerment with use of a dangerous weapon. If the judge had accepted that agreement, Eldridge would have been given a withheld sentence and placed on four years of probation and time served without the additional jail time.
“What is wrong with the system?” said Reynolds’ ex-wife Vicky Webb at Tuesday’s hearing. “I’m a witness, there are other witnesses. What is wrong with you people? This isn’t the way it goes.”
Although Webb was not at the scene of the incident, she described the months leading up, in which she told the court that Eldridge had planned to kill Reynolds and she had seen Eldridge patting a gun in its holster, saying he was going to get Reynolds.
“You did everything you could to break that man so you could shoot him and you could say it was self-defense,” said Webb. “And it wasn’t.”
In a June 22 bond hearing, Jambois said Eldridge was undisputedly physically attacked by Reynolds. Jambois told the court that the apartment manager had claimed Reynolds had made statements about wanting to kill Eldridge.
“I’ve uncovered additional information from the apartment manager indicating that Victor Reynolds, the decedent in this matter had repeatedly threatened to kill my client,” said Jambois. “He said repeatedly to the apartment manager, ‘I’m going to kill that son of a bitch; he’s a dead man.’”
Jambois went on to tell the court that Reynolds told a downstairs neighbor that he would love to kill Eldridge and Eldridge’s son.
At the same hearing, District Attorney Jane Kohlwey pointed to testimony from witnesses who had seen Eldridge making violent threats with his gun in the preceding weeks. One tenant spoke to media after the shooting describing Eldridge as always carrying his gun and making threats and in once case pulling the gun out in the presence of neighborhood children.
“Mr. Eldridge was running around the neighborhood carrying 32 rounds of ammunition when he got into the fist fight with Mr. Reynolds,” said Kohlwey, pointing to an audio recording of the fight heard through a 911 call in which Reynolds can be heard saying, “Hit me one more time,” followed by a gunshot.
“We also have prior incidents where Mr. Eldridge is found brandishing his firearm whenever there’s a confrontation in the neighborhood,” said Kohlwey. “Just two weeks before this incident, he showed his weapon and threatened to shoot another neighbor and the apartment maintenance man because his daughter had been asked to stop bothering other children.”
In court Webb said that she was among a host of witnesses that went unquestioned following the shooting. Following Tuesday’s hearing Portage Detective Lt. Daniel Garrigan recalled that officers had contacted Webb. The evening of the shooting, according to Garrigan, detectives canvassed the neighborhood, speaking to everyone who was in the direct vicinity of the shooting.
Among interviews with neighbors, Garrigan said that they did receive information about Eldridge “making no secret he carried a gun,” but no reports of direct threats by Eldrige against Reynolds. The department had been generally aware of a dispute between the two men, with reports filed by Eldridge against Reynolds.
Jambois highlighted Reynolds’ past criminal record and that toxicology reports returned showing that Reynolds had a blood alcohol content of about 0.18 at the time of the fight, more than twice the legal limit for driving.
“My client didn’t bring a gun to a fistfight,” said Jambois. ”There is nothing wrong with using a gun in self-defense.”
When Voigt asked Eldridge if he had anything to say on his own behalf, Jambois spoke up again: “I will add one thing, that my client has repeatedly expressed deep remorse. He did not want Victor to die, he just wanted Victor to stop beating him.”
“We just can’t undo our history,” said Voigt, “none of us can. None of us can undo the facts.”
Voigt described the proposed sentencing agreement as an absolute compromise.
“The state has valued a felony conviction here as a permanent future prohibition of Mr. Eldridge owning a firearm,” said Voigt.
Following the hearing family and friends of Reynolds took minor consolation in Voigt adding jail time to the sentence, according to Victor Reynolds’ father Lawrence Reynolds.