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A 26-year-old Racine man is facing two decades in prison after allegedly discharging a firearm in a school zone at least five times.

Zachary Nelson was charged Monday in Racine County Circuit Court with one felony count each of discharging a firearm in a school zone and second degree recklessly endangering safety, and one misdemeanor each of mishandling a weapon as a violent crime in a school zone and disorderly conduct with use of a dangerous weapon. If convicted, he faces up to 21 years in prison and/or up to $61,000 in fines.

Discharging a firearm in a school zone

According to the criminal complaint, a man told police he arrived at Nelson’s residence at about 8:30 a.m. on June 3 near Roosevelt Elementary School and witnessed Nelson fire a gun. The man told officers Nelson was despondent over the loss of a relationship and that firing the gun could be a cry for help. He also told officers that Nelson suffers from mental health issues, and he was afraid Nelson might hurt himself.

A neighbor also reported hearing two shots followed a few seconds later by three more, the complaint continues. When they looked out their back door, they saw two men quickly moving back inside from the balcony, and one of them had what looked to be a gun in his hand.

When he was questioned by police, Nelson told them he’s an alcoholic and needs help. His behavior in the complaint is described as veering wildly from cooperative to combative, and he appeared to be intoxicated at the time of the incident.

Nelson was assigned a $3,500 cash bond, and online records from the Racine County Jail indicate Nelson is no longer in custody. He was ordered to not possess or consume alcohol and that he would be monitored by the Racine County Alternatives Program. He will next be in court on June 16 for his preliminary hearing.


Recap of charges against Nelson

Felonies:

  • Discharging a firearm in a school zone
  • Second degree recklessly endangering safety

Misdemeanors

  • Mishandling a weapon as a violent crime in a school zone
  • Disorderly conduct with use of a dangerous weapon

Class G felonies

Discharging a firearm in a school zone is a Class G felony. The penalties are described as “a fine not to exceed $25,000 or imprisonment not to exceed 10 years, or both” according to the Wisconsin State Legislature (Wis. Stat. § 939.50.). If the felony crime is in a school zone, the maximum term of imprisonment is increased by 5 years.

Other Class G felonies in Wisconsin besides discharging a firearm in a school zone include 3rd-degree sexual assault, 5th offense OWI; possession of one gram or less of cocaine; more than 1,000 grams but not more than 2,500 grams, or more than 20 plants containing tetrahydrocannabinols but not more than 50 plants containing tetrahydrocannabinols; and theft of property over $10,000.


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