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RACINE — A Kenosha man was fatally shot in Downtown Racine on Saturday after his friend asked a passing group for a cigarette, the man charged in the killing told investigators.

Bond was set at $100,000 on Tuesday for Christopher S. Brown, 23, of the 1300 block of Yout Street, who is accused in the shooting death of Dulonden E. Ratliff. Brown reportedly told police that the cigarette request sparked a fight between the two groups, during which the gun he was waving in the air discharged — hitting Ratliff, according to Brown’s criminal complaint.

“This case is clearly a senseless, violent, cowardly act,” Racine County District Attorney Rich Chiapete said during Brown’s initial appearance in court Tuesday.

He asked for $500,000 cash bond. Assistant State Public Defender Erin Larsen requested “a more reasonable bond, perhaps $10,000,” citing his lack of a felony record and full-time job at Subway on Monument Square. She said Brown has lived in Racine his entire life.

Prosecutors charged Brown with first-degree reckless homicide and two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety in Ratliff’s death. If convicted of all three felony charges, Brown could be sentenced to a maximum of 70 years in prison plus 30 years on extended supervision, if the sentences are stacked back-to-back.

Nearly a half-dozen of Ratliff’s family and friends attended Tuesday’s hearing.

“I really don’t have any comment on what’s going on,” Ratliff’s sister, Veronica Vargas, said after Brown’s initial appearance in court.

Family members of Brown couldn’t be reached for comment.

Racine police were called at 1:16 a.m. Saturday to a report of shots being fired in the 300 block of Main Street, in Downtown Racine. A man in a gray hooded sweatshirt was seen running northbound from the scene, toward State Street, according to police. That man later was identified as Brown.

Police found Ratliff, 21, lying in the street with a gunshot wound. The new father was pronounced dead at 2:04 a.m. Saturday.

His death marks the first homicide of the year in Racine.

Ratliff had a 4-month-old son, named Dulonden Jr., said Oksana Pohlson, 19, of Kenosha, who had dated Ratliff for about three years.

Ratliff had been in Racine with his sister Vargas and his friend. The trio had been hanging out at Envi, at 316 Main St., his sister has said. When they left, some men out on the street — whom she didn’t know — exchanged words with her brother’s friend, Vargas previously told The Journal Times. Suddenly, “one guy punched me in the eye and he shot my brother,” she has said.

She told police she heard a single gunshot during the fight, and then the group fled, according to Brown’s complaint. That’s when she saw her brother had been shot.

Ratliff’s friend told police that the group of men approached them as they were walking to their car and one shouted “what’s up?” One of the men took a swing at Ratliff and a fight ensued, during which a gun went off and the group fled, according to the complaint.

Brown told police that Ratliff’s friend asked the group for a cigarette, which led to the fight. He said he pulled a handgun from his waistband and began waving it in the air — before it went off, according to the complaint. Brown said the gun was sold the next day to a man named “Jose,” the complaint stated.

A 9mm shell casing, along with a live round, allegedly were found at the scene.

One of the other four men in Brown’s group told investigators that Brown was the shooter, the complaint stated. A second man in the group said he thought Brown had fired the gun.

During Brown’s initial appearance, Court Commissioner Alice Rudebusch ordered him not to have any contact with Ratliff’s family, friends and the men he was with that morning.

Brown’s preliminary hearing is April 10, the same day as Ratliff’s funeral.

“The case continues to be under investigation,” Chiapete said when asked if any of the men with Brown that morning also could be charged.

Correction: This story contained incorrect information about where Ratliff was shot. The error has been corrected.


Upcoming memorials

Family and friends of Dulonden Ratliff are holding a vigil in the 300 block of Main Street tonight at 6 p.m.

The Racine Interfaith Coalition is also holding a vigil there Thursday at 6 p.m.

Ratliff’s funeral is scheduled for April 10 at Kenosha Funeral Services & Crematory, 8226 Sheridan Road.

The visitation will be from 9 a.m. to noon, followed by the funeral service.

How to help

To help pay for his funeral, an online fundraising campaign has been started at www.gofundme.com. His fundraising site can be found if you search for “Dulonden Ratliff.”

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