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Could Nathan Potter's murder have been prevented?

CREATED Oct 10, 2011

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MILWAUKEE- 19-year-old Nathan Potter was a good kid with a bright future. That according to those who knew him best. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee film student was walking home to his Riverwest apartment in July 2009 when he was shot and killed. To understand why many believe it never had to happen, you need to go back to the minutes before Potter was killed.

July 6th was a warm summer night. About 12:20 a.m. several folks on North Dousman Street noticed two men hanging out, hiding in the bushes. They appeared to be holding something behind their backs. There had been a shooting in this same area the night before and the neighborhood was on alert. When the men were sighted and appeared to be up to no good, neighbors began to call police. One 9-1-1 caller said, "I see them hiding in the bushes and the alley. I know there was a shooting here last night. Can you send a squad?" The caller was told a squad would be dispatched.

The neighbor waited and watched. The sketchy characters remained on the scene. The police never showed up. The neighbor was so concerned that he actually called back a second time. Again he was told that police would be on the way. Ten minutes turned into twenty minutes. Twenty turned into thirty. And thirty became forty. Still no police.

As Nathan Potter walked to his apartment into the 2500 block of North Dousman, Potter strolled right into Derek Thomas and Sean Jackson. Thomas would later tell authorities that the two were looking for someone to rob because Jackson needed money and had a gun. Potter had his iPod fired up, earplugs in his ears, and was actually singing as he walked down the street.

Thomas and Jackson emerged from the shadows and killed Potter in a botched robbery. Potter was able to call 9-1-1. So were others who heard the fatal gunshot. It was only after the shooting that police showed up. Potter was already dead.

Nathan Potter's parents are angry and heart-broken. "My son is dead because Chief Ed Flynn and his people are not doing their job," Denise Potter told me recently. "Why do I pay taxes? What is more important than our safety and security? I would say nothing is more important."

After the shooting, witnesses who called 9-1-1 prior to Potter's death, were able to definitively identify Thomas and Jackson as the men who were casing the neighborhood 40 minutes before the fatal shooting. They identified the men in a police lineup. They identified the men in a deposition. They identified the men in open court. Make no mistake, these men who killed Nathan Potter were called in to police 40 minutes before he was killed. All to no avail. If police had showed up at 12:20am would Nathan Potter still be alive? Maybe!

"My son should not have died," Denise Potter told me recently.

And father John Potter says he will fight for a change until he is no longer here. "Things have got to change. Chief Flynn has got to get this figured out."

We put in numerous requests to talk to Chief Flynn. He has refused to discuss police response time with us.