Appleton teen sentenced to 14 years in prison for Erb Park shooting


APPLETON – A 17-year-old Appleton boy will spend at least the next 13 years in prison for shooting another teen in Erb Park last summer.

As Outagamie County Circuit Court Judge Mark McGinnis handed down Cashmere Williams' sentence Friday morning, family members in the gallery became emotional, with some excusing themselves from the courtroom. Sobs rang out in the hallway.

Williams pleaded no contest in May to one count of attempted first-degree intentional homicide. A second charge of battery by prisoners, which Williams received after a fight with another prisoner in the Outagamie County jail in October, was dismissed but integrated, meaning the charge will not appear in Williams' record, but McGinnis was able to take it into account. to determine his sentence.

At Friday's sentencing hearing, Williams read a statement he had prepared for the judge, apologizing for his “bad decision” and telling McGinnis he would “accept whatever sentence you decide to give me”.

Williams became emotional while discussing the impacts of the shooting on others.

“I'm sorry for my bad choice, because there were a lot of children in the park and they are probably traumatized,” he said. “I now see the reason why kids shouldn't have guns, because we're always dealing with our emotions.”

McGinnis sentenced Williams to 14 years in prison followed by 16 years of extended supervision. Williams has already served 326 of those days in the Outagamie County Jail.

What happened in the Erb Park shooting

The shooting occurred around 4:30 p.m. on July 31, 2023, at Erb Park, 1800 N. Morrison St.

It was a hot summer Monday, as the pool began to empty for the evening, parents pulled into the parking lot to pick up their children, while others continued to enjoy the park's amenities like the basketball court , the playground and walking trails, Outagamie. said County Attorney Melinda Tempelis.

The police ordered the neighborhood to be confined. Tempelis said high school and college students who worked during the summer at Erb's pool had to try to integrate people into the pool locker room.

“Nobody knew where it came from, nobody knew what was going on,” Tempelis said.

One victim was taken to ThedaCare Neenah and treated for gunshot wounds to the arm and abdomen, according to a criminal complaint.

Later that evening, police arrested Williams, then 16, at his home. He had changed clothes and attempted to comb his hair after the shooting — but he appeared to be missing a few areas where clumps of longer hair remained, the complaint states.

The person who was shot told officers she was walking through Erb Park to meet her girlfriend and stopped at a fountain near the park's pavilion, where she saw Williams, whom he knew. Williams then approached him and pulled out a semi-automatic pistol, firing his weapon eight times, the complaint states.

The victim ran from the scene and only realized he had been shot when he “felt blood running down him,” the complaint states.

At Friday's sentencing hearing, attorneys said Williams shot the victim in retaliation for a fight the day before, also at Erb Park.

Williams' defense attorney, Timothy Hogan, played a video of part of the fight taken on someone's phone. The 18-second clip showed three people punching and kicking Williams, who was cowering in the grass. One of the people who beat Williams was identified as the victim in the shooting.

Lawyers said police were contacted after the July 30 fight but only obtained video footage of the incident later, after extracting it from a cellphone as part of the investigation into the shooting.

Hogan said Williams did not go to the park on July 31 with the intention of shooting the victim, but that he carried a gun in his waistband and his anger “took control” afterward. having seen the person who had beaten him.

Lawyers discuss mental health and rehabilitation needs

Much of the discussion at Williams' sentencing hearing focused on the teen's history of mental health and behavioral problems.

Williams' grandmother and mother both made statements on Williams' behalf, asking McGinnis to grant the teen some leniency. Others wrote letters to the judge before the hearing.

“He has some mental health issues, but overall he's a good kid. And that's all he is: a kid,” Williams' grandmother said. “He’s a kid with a big body.”

Tempelis and Hogan discussed information contained in the pre-sentence investigation report regarding Williams' history. They said Williams was exposed to violence as a child, that he lacked stability because his upbringing involved a lot of moving between states and schools, that he had a long-standing distrust of the authority and that he had a history of violent outbursts and school attendance problems. Williams stopped going to school altogether in 2022, Tempelis said.

Hogan said Williams had been hospitalized for mental health treatment six to seven times, the first time when he was 5 years old.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt about the need for treatment,” Tempelis said.

However, she continued, the priority of protecting the public should come before Williams' rehabilitation needs.

Tempelis recommended that McGinnis sentence Williams to 14 to 20 years in prison, followed by as long a period of extended supervision as the judge deemed necessary.

“He shot directly at the victim. Fortunately, the defendant was not good at shooting, otherwise he would have killed him,” Tempelis said.

Hogan said Williams deliberately aimed the shots lower in an attempt not to kill the victim.

He also pointed out that although Williams initially showed outbursts and aggression in the Outagamie County Jail, he had not had any incidents in eight months, since the October fight. This shows the maturity of the teenager, the lawyer said.

He also highlighted Williams' perseverance over the past few months to attend classes and earn her GED.

Hogan requested a sentence of eight years of initial custody followed by 10 years of extended supervision.

According to Hogan, this sentence would allow Williams to return to society in his mid-20s, when his brain would be almost fully developed and he would therefore be less impulsive.

Williams reiterated in his statement to McGinnis that he had been able to mature and learn to correct his reactive behavior over the past year in prison.

“I've changed since I've been here. Not because I want to leave but because I want to be a better person,” he said.

Cashmere Williams to begin sentence in Wisconsin Juvenile Prison for Boys

Because Williams is still a minor, he will begin serving his sentence at Lincoln Hills School, Wisconsin's juvenile prison for boys. For the next eight months, until his 18th birthday, Williams will have more resources than he will receive in an adult prison, including the opportunity for his family to participate in his programs, Hogan said.

“There is no doubt in my mind that you had a very poor childhood. Your childhood was filled with a lot of trauma. This trauma is not your fault. It is not the fault of any child,” he said. McGinnis told Williams before passing sentence.

McGinnis also said he believes Williams has “very serious and long-standing mental health issues” that he will likely have to deal with for the rest of his life.

Nonetheless, he said he agreed with Tempelis that Williams represents “an extreme risk” at his age.

Williams' sentence will allow him to be released from prison around age 30, McGinnis said. The judge told the teenager he thought he was “a good guy with a bright future” but needed to focus on his rehabilitation while he served his prison sentence.

Contact Kelli Arseneau at 920-213-3721 or [email protected]. Follow her on X, formerly Twitter, at @ArseneauKelli.

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