State Division of Criminal Investigation Agent Mark Wagner, center, appears in court with his attorneys Mark Steinle, left, and Daniel Sanders. Circuit Judge Chris Taylor ordered Wagner to stand trial on a charge of second-degree reckless endangerment for firing his gun during a traffic stop in February. (Ed Treleven / Wisconsin State Journal)
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A Wisconsin Department of Justice agent who wounded an unarmed Black man during a Madison traffic stop last year must stand trial over whether the shooting was justified.

Dane County Circuit Judge Chris Taylor ordered Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Mark Wagner to stand trial on one count of second-degree reckless endangerment following a preliminary hearing Thursday, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

Prosecutors allege Wagner, who is white, opened fire on Quadren Wilson during the traffic stop on Madison’s far east side in February 2022. Wilson’s family has said they believe race was a factor in the shooting.

This image provided by the Dane County, Wis., Sheriff’s Office shows Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Mark Wagner, who was charged Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, with reckless endangerment in the nonfatal shooting of an unarmed man as officers were carrying out an arrest warrant during a traffic stop in Madison, Wis. Dane County Circuit Judge Chris Taylor ordered Wagner to stand trial on one count of second-degree reckless endangerment following a preliminary hearing Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023. (Dane County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

According to the criminal complaint, Wagner was part of a law enforcement task force working to arrest Wilson for dealing fentanyl that led to an overdose death. The team intercepted Wilson and pinned his car between two Justice Department trucks.

Wagner approached Wilson’s car carrying a ballistic shield. Another agent, Nathan Peskie, was beside him with a rifle. Wagner told Dane County Sheriff’s detectives that he saw Wilson reach under the driver’s seat with his left hand and fidget with something with his right hand.

Wagner said he heard a gunshot and fired two shots from his pistol. Peskie fired five shots. Wilson was struck by bullet fragments that required surgery to remove, according to testimony at the preliminary hearing. Peskie hasn’t been charged with anything.

Wilson, it turned out, was unarmed.

Wagner’s attorney, Mark Steinle, argued during the hearing Thursday that Wagner’s use of force was justified because he believed a gunshot had been fired from inside the vehicle. Even though Wagner didn’t see a gun, his decision to fire was reasonable based on Wilson’s movements, Steinle said.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne countered that police can use deadly force only as a last resort.

Taylor, the judge, said she was bound by state law to bind Wagner over for trial because prosecutors made a plausible showing that a crime occurred.

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