Theodore Edgecomb testifies he feared for his life when he killed Jason Cleereman

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- On Tuesday, Theodore Edgecomb took the stand to testify in his own defense, telling jurors he feared for his life when he killed Jason Cleereman in September of 2020.

Edgecomb told the jury that given the racial tensions in 2020, he feared for his life, as a Black man, when he was chased by Cleereman, a white man. Edgecomb says after he shot Cleereman he ran, scared no one would believe his story.

Edgecomb says he was riding his bike to get food on Brady Street, when a car hit him, he fell of his bike and landed on a parked car.

"As I was hit, a gentleman yelled out the window -- excuse my language, he says the N-word and 'get the F out of the street,'" Edgecomb told the jury.

Cleereman's wife, Evanjelina, previously testified she swerved to miss Edgecomb, and her husband only yelled 'what the heck.'

Edgecomb says he was furious and rode his bike after the car.

"[I] came up to the passenger window, just asked, 'hey, were you guys talking to me?' And he said 'yes, (N-word),' and I punched him," Edgecomb testified.

Video shows the punch and then shows Edgecomb ride away.

Another video shows the Cleereman car, driven by Evanjelina, follow Edgecomb.

"They were so close, in fact, I could feel the heat of the engine on my backside," Edgecomb testified, telling the jury the Cleeremans ran him off of the road.

Video shows Jason Cleereman get out of the car. Edgecomb says as Cleereman got closer, he yelled more racial slurs and threatened to kill him, so Edgecomb drew his gun.

Evanjelina Cleereman previously testified her husband did not yell anything when he got out of the car.

"What was your intent?" defense attorney B'Ivory LaMarr asked Edgecomb.

"I didn't have any intent, this gentleman took a large step and lunged toward me and I took a step back, the reaction, the firearm just went off," Edgecomb said.

Prosecutor Grant Huebner went after Edgecomb's version of events.

"Were you legally allowed to carry a firearm that night?" Huebner asked Edgecomb.

"No," Edgecomb responded.

Huebner pointed to other witnesses who testified Edgecomb raised the gun.

"If four other people see your hand go up with a gun and shoot him, you're telling me that's not correct, do I have that correct?" Huebner asked.

"Yes," Edgecomb responded.

Edgecomb says he went on the run for six months because he was scared and needed to find a lawyer.

"It was always the goal to turn myself in, but I didn't know if anyone would believe the narrative of a white man and his wife hunting me down to try and harm me," Edgecomb testified.

Huebner countered, saying Edgecomb ran and ditched the gun because he didn't want to get caught. And pointed out he already had lawyers.

"You had two open cases in criminal court, with court dates, and these were your attorneys, correct?" Huebner asked, referencing Edgecomb's two criminal cases that were pending at the time of the shooting. One has since been dismissed, the other is scheduled for plea and sentencing next month.

On Wednesday, the jury will get instructions and hear closing arguments.


MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Theodore Edgecomb took the stand in his defense on Tuesday, Jan. 25. He is the bicyclist charged with killing Milwaukee attorney -- Jason Cleereman -- in a 2020 road rage incident.

Edgecomb first answered questions from the defense to give jurors insight about his personal life. He's a father of five, with some college credits. On the night of the shooting, he had planned for sushi with his oldest daughter.

"I had daddy-daughter date night scheduled and planned with her, which I still owe her," Edgecomb said. 

Edgecomb explained to jurors that he ordered their food from an east side restaurant, and while waiting, he rode his bike to another business for some frozen yogurt. Realizing it'd likely be too much to carry, he headed back down Brady Street.

That's when Edgecomb says he heard a car horn, and saw two vehicles almost collide and braced for impact himself. He says one of the cars clipped his bike, knocking him into a parked car.

Edgecomb also explained to jurors that before this incident, he and other bikers he knew had been on edge about riding alone due to growing crime and racial tensions stemming from protests in the summer of 2020.

"As I was hit, he says the n-word, and 'get out of the street'. I couldn't fathom why this was happening," Edgecomb said. "I was infuriated. I can't lie. It brought back the trauma of when I was hit before and that's all I could think about because I was left hurt in the middle of the street before. And I'm like what if these individuals would've just -- I could have been killed."

Edgecomb said he then went after the vehicle, asked if the man -- now known as Jason Cleereman -- was talking to him.

Edgecomb says the man said yes, and the n-word again, and Edgecomb punched him.

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