Asked whether he believes it’s true that Cavalier Johnson didn’t know his brother was wanted for a shooting, the victim, Eddie Knox, expressed doubt, telling Wisconsin Right Now that the news quickly “ran through the family.”
The home at 2313 N. 41st St., where Acting Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson’s brother was arrested for shooting a man named Eddie Knox in the head after two months on the run from police, has a “Cavalier Johnson” for mayor sign planted prominently in its front yard. It’s the first thing you notice on this hardscrabble corner of Milwaukee, a residential neighborhood of sprawling, weathered duplexes with gated doors and menacing guard dogs, across the street from a liquor store.
We set out on a mission to gather as many facts as we could about the questions: What did Johnson know and when?
A neighbor described for us how the mayor’s mother, Denise Hardwick-Townsend, also called Denise Townsend, showed up at the scene when Allen Addison was arrested on March 29, and made a scene of her own, “screaming” from across the street, as a police SWAT team surrounded the home because Johnson’s brother wouldn’t come out for hours. Yet Johnson wants the public to believe he didn’t figure out his brother was arrested or had been wanted since January, until the next day, when he saw a post on social media. His spokesman won’t say which post.
Police sources confirmed Johnson’s mother showed up; they claim that Hardwick-Townsend mentioned her son was the mayor to police swarming the scene; the neighbor could not confirm that but didn’t hear everything that was said. Johnson’s spokesman did not respond to a question asking about it. The neighbor did hear Hardwick-Townsend yelling at Addison, who is her son and Johnson’s half-brother, to come out; the neighbor launched into a fiery defense of Johnson, saying she believes the media are “painting a negative picture” of Johnson because he’s black; he’s not responsible for his grown brother, she said.
To be sure, Johnson is not responsible for what his grown brother did during the shooting, and his life story, making it out of one of the state’s toughest zip codes, 53206, for a life of community service, is inspiring.
What the acting mayor is responsible for, however, is his own honesty and transparency when it comes to the difficult situation: A felon brother allegedly committing a serious drive-by shooting while the mayor campaigns for office by suddenly shifting to a tough-on-crime persona, emphasizing public safety. What did Johnson know, and when did he know it, during the two months his brother was on the lam, and what did he do with the information he had? Those things are relevant, but the media seem incredibly uninterested in digging into them. If Johnson did know about the warrant and shooting investigation, one certainly would have expected him to do everything in his power to bring his brother in.
Rank-and-file officers are suspicious that the Milwaukee Police Department, helmed by a Johnson ally who owes his job in part to Johnson’s support, did everything in its power to keep the story of Addison’s arrest quiet before Tuesday’s election, when Johnson will face former Ald. Bob Donovan, who has criticized his public safety record. It didn’t work, if so. Word, however, eventually leaked out to Wisconsin Right Now through sources.
A Two-Hour Standoff
Johnson wants the public to believe that he did not know, until the next day, that his brother was involved in a two-hour standoff with the police agency he helps fund with his mother screaming on a city street nearby.
Seven to eight officers initially showed up in unmarked vehicles and a K-9 shortly after 3 p.m. on March 29, 2022, looking like members of a special team, the neighbor said; they knocked for two hours before finally getting Addison out of the house, which Wisconsin Right Now has discovered has ties to the Cavalier Johnson family. “They banged on that door for a couple hours,” she said (the woman did not want her name printed.) Police used loudspeakers and had a large SWAT vehicle, she said. (We asked Johnson’s spokesman, Jeff Fleming, if he was concerned about the claims that Johnson’s mother brought up his title and name at the scene; he did not respond.) We learned from sources that police eventually obtained a search warrant for the residence. “She was definitely loud and screaming,” the neighbor told Wisconsin Right Now of the brothers’ mom.
On social media, Denise Townsend has posted a series of pro-BLM, anti-police comments. We’ve learned that the house has ties to a now-deceased close relative of Denise, Chevy Johnson, and Addison. Her daughter referred to the man as her uncle.
In short, it was quite a commotion; a big police operation.
Despite all of this uproar, the acting mayor of the city, who controls the funding for the Milwaukee Police Department and appoints the commissioners who select the chief, insisted in a statement given through Fleming that it took until Wednesday for word to trickle out to him, although he won’t say exactly where he saw the post. Certainly, it wasn’t in the media; the story did not break until Friday morning on WRN, where it was quickly picked up by the other major Milwaukee news outlets.
“The mayor had no knowledge of the shooting, the warrant, or the arrest before a social media post on Wednesday,” Johnson’s spokesman, Jeff Fleming, told Wisconsin Right Now, not answering a question that queried about which one.
“The only caveat I will add is that his office did receive the same notification all news media received on January 4th regarding the three different shootings that afternoon. There were no details beyond the age and sex of the victim and the statement that police were looking for an unknown suspect. The Mayor had no information from his mother or anyone else about this prior to the arrest.”
Johnson has demonstrated a pattern of misleading voters in campaign ads about his record relating to funding Milwaukee police. He has a long history of comments and votes seeking to slash the police budget, implying police are racists who kill and maim black people, opposing mandatory minimums, such as those for violent felons who carry guns, and the like, but has remade himself at election time into a supposed pro-public safety candidate (see a round-up of his record on public safety here).
If he’s not being honest about when he last saw his brother and when he knew he was wanted or learned of the arrest, it would raise a host of serious questions. The mayor’s spokesman paints him as clueless about the fact that, for two months, the Milwaukee Police Department was searching for his brother for allegedly shooting a man multiple times, including in the head, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. But if he’s telling the truth, it raises another question: Why didn’t MPD ask Johnson to help them find his brother? Why didn’t they release the suspect information to TV and other media when Addison was charged in January to help find him? Why didn’t they ask him to help them get Addison out of the house safely on March 29?
MPD won’t say whether the agency told Johnson it was looking for his brother. If the agency did not do so, it raises questions about how hard police were looking for the brother of the man who pushed the appointment of its chief.
These are all serious questions the media seem uninterested in exploring.
Is it plausible that the mayor learned about all of this hullabaloo through social media AFTER it all went down, as he claims? Or is the mayor lying? That’s up for you to decide, although, if he’s telling the truth, one certainly can’t accuse him of having his finger firmly on the pulse of the city or family.
We asked a series of other questions, including, “Has mayor Johnson had any contact with his brother in any way since the warrants were issued in January – and when and in what way and for what?”
Fleming wrote at one point, “I’m unlikely to have a chance to speak with the Mayor on this in the near term.” He added, “Actually, he just texted me – the last time he saw his brother was last November around Thanksgiving.”
The Victim: “It Spread Through the Family’
The man who was shot, allegedly by Addison, believes the news that Addison was wanted for the crime “spread through the family,” referring to Cavalier Johnson’s family. Johnson and Addison share a mother and multiple half-siblings.
Eddie Knox, who did home improvement work but can’t anymore because of his wounds, told Wisconsin Right Now in an exclusive interview that he told the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office in January 2022 that he’d learned Addison might be staying at the home of Cavalier’s mom on Wright St.
We tracked down Knox through the address listed in the criminal complaint, which gives his name as only “E.K.” We knocked on the window, and he came out, willing to talk. He said that no one, not even police, told him that Addison was arrested for shooting him; that he learned from TV news. Not a single other journalist attempted to talk to him.
He described the extensive injuries he sustained in the shooting; the criminal complaint describes how a man police say was Addison, already a felon child abuser, pulled up in a truck and opened fire without provocation at Knox, shooting him multiple times as he sat in a vehicle.
“I had to have my arm rebuilt,” he said. “They had to put a rod from here down to here with plates and screws and everything.” Standing right by the spot where he was shot in January, Knox said he suffered two broken shoulders. He was shot in the head, he said, revealing a dent where the bullet entered.
Knox said that he went to get some dog food, and pulled up on his street, when the shooter “pulled up along the side of me and called my name and started shooting.”
He says that he knew “it was Allen” because he had known the 37-year-old man since he was 18. “My son chased him down and got the license plate,” he said, adding that he picked Addison out of a photo lineup. However, the criminal complaint does not contain those details; it says that Addison could not identify Addison for sure because the windows were tinted, and that his son chased him, but it doesn’t mention him getting a license plate. It does say that police found casings in Addison’s truck and that a neighbor identified him as the driver right after the shooting. The complaint says the motive is tied up in Knox preventing Addison from beating up Addison’s girlfriend in a previous incident.
Knox said Addison also had a problem with his son because his son dated the mother of Addison’s children. Knox dates her sister.
Knox said he’s baffled how he survived the shooting, as were hospital personnel.
“I don’t know why he shot me,” he said.
He believes the police did a good job investigating, saying, “They have so many shootings a day now. They can’t really just focus on one shooting.”
Knox said police immediately tried to track Addison down because he was the suspect from day one.
“I don’t think they should have come down on the mayor like that, it’s not his fault. You can’t control your family. It’s a grown man,” said Knox.
But he believes multiple members of the family knew quickly that Addison was wanted for the shooting.
“Two weeks out of the hospital, I heard he (Addison) was by his mother’s house. I told the district attorney, the district attorney…sent the cops over there to investigate,” he said.
Does he believe Johnson is telling the truth when he says he didn’t know his brother was wanted until seeing it on social media after his March 29 arrest?
“I can’t accept that part because if the mother knew her son was wanted, I think it would spread through the family,” Knox said. “I assume she (the mother) did know because the police came there to investigate. That’s the address they had. I am quite sure they made a few attempts going back to that house. I am quite sure she knew, and I am quite sure it was through the family because the kids knew.”
Asked which kids he meant, he said the three teenage children of Addison. “They talk to my kids. They’re all related. They just talked between each other and said that he was wanted. Ever since the day it happened. The kids knew who shot me. They was here and, they found out who shot me. It ran through the family that he shot me.”
Knox laughed and rolled his eyes when asked about Johnson’s denial.
About the mother, he said, “Yeah, c’mon, she gotta know. C’mon. If she told anyone, I don’t know.” Of Johnson, he repeated, “I think he probably did know.” But he can’t say for sure.
He noted, “If he’s acting mayor, I’m quite sure he knows what goes on at the police department.”
Social media posts show that Johnson is close to his mother and brother. His mother has posted photos with her son, the mayor, and a photo of Johnson with Addison. One of the only posts visible on Addison’s Facebook page is a birthday shout-out to Johnson in November 2021. “Happy Birthday Brother,” Addison wrote, along with a photo of him with Cavalier and another person. “…your (sic) the one I look up too (sic) Lil bro. Love you unconditionally…” Johnson replied, “Thanks, bro. Love you…”
Johnson has posted glowing tributes to his mom on Facebook, writing, “How did a friendly, mild mannered boy make it up from 53206, off to college, and commit to public service? Discipline instilled in him by his momma.”
The Milwaukee Police Department is run by a Johnson ally, Chief Jeffrey Norman. Johnson, then-Common Council president, pushed his appointment as chief. The pair holds press conferences together, recently touting the thousands of municipal tickets cops were writing to combat reckless driving (they didn’t mentioned that 7,200 were lost in the system).
We asked MPD:
1, Did police tell Cavalier Johnson or anyone in the mayor’s office about the arrest? When?
2, Did they seek his help in locating his brother during the last two months when he was wanted on serious felony warrants? Why or why not?
3, Did police tell Cavalier Johnson or anyone in the mayor’s office that his brother was wanted on a warrant? When?
4, How did police locate Addison, and where was he arrested?
We received this response from Efrain Cornejo, MPD spokesman: “MPD will not discuss investigative steps about any case whether it involves an elected official or a member of our community. Ultimately, MPD respects and appreciates all the sources that provide information that lead to successful apprehension and prosecution of offenders. We do not discuss which particular source shared information for the safety of that individual. You are welcome to submit an open records request to obtain records at [email protected]. You can also direct questions to Mayor Johnson’s Office that may pertain to him.”
We submitted an open records request to both MPD and the mayor’s office. They are pending.
Norman’s silence isn’t doing much to dispel concerns about MPD’s transparency on this matter. Even cops who are usually in the know came up short on knowledge of the Addison arrest, although word filtered through the ranks of retired officers eventually. Multiple jail sources told us an assistant chief demanded that Addison be released from the city lockup and sent to the county jail, where he was quickly arraigned, bail set at $25,000. They described this as unusual. The police blotter shows that Addison was arrested on March 29; the county jail booking database says he was in that facility by March 31, when word finally spread. Wisconsin Right Now was first to break the story of Addison’s arrest, doing so on Friday, April 1. Within hours all of the local media had joined in.
Thus, one would think Norman’s MPD would be bending over backwards to be transparent about the arrest and investigation into the brother of his political ally.
The MPD has done the opposite, releasing only vague statements. The department would not even release the address where Addison was arrested. We were told to check the police blotter and waited two hours at district one before receiving it. That’s how we learned the address of the arrest was 2313 N. 41st St.
But whose house is that?
A Tie to the Johnson Clan
We found ties between that address and Johnson’s family circle. His family is complicated, to be sure; he has nine siblings. At least some, including Addison, are half-siblings. He has four brothers with the same mother, Denise Hardwick-Townsend.
A check of online records shows that a Marvin C. Hardwick once lived there. City records show the house is owned by a woman named Cassandra Patterson.
Johnson’s mother, Denise Hardwick-Townsend, has two other sons with the last name Hardwick, Forrest and Blake (the latter is also a felon). An elderly woman who answered the door said Denise “don’t live here,” that Marvin Hardwick “is deceased,” and became extremely angry and slammed the door when we asked about Addison and Cavalier Johnson. “We’re not going to do that,” she said.
A man named Dennis Hardwick wrote on Facebook, “Kicking it with family! Man I love having a twin sister Denise Hardwick-Townsend.” That indicates that Denise’s maiden name is Hardwick.
The neighbor wouldn’t provide the family members’ names, but said she did not believe that Addison, Johnson, or their mother were frequent visitors or had lived there. She did not know the Johnson link until the story hit the news.
To be sure, Marvin C. Hardwick died in February 2021.
His Facebook page is still active. Three years ago, the sister of Johnson and Addison wrote on Hardwick’s comment thread, “Uncle Bear living your best life.” Marvin was Facebook friends with Allen Addison, his two Hardwick surnamed brothers, Denise Townsend (also known as Denise Hardwick-Townsend), and….Acting Mayor Cavalier “Chevy” Johnson. A tribute post to Marvin by a relative tagged Johnson, his mom, and Addison.
A truck in the backyard of the home contained a similar logo to a lawn service, Trimmers Landscaping LLC. Addison posed for a selfie in front of a truck with that logo on Facebook. That company’s registered agent is out of Appleton, according to Wisconsin state records.
Fleming also released this statement on behalf of Johnson:
“The Mayor has been direct and upfront about his siblings. He has frequently noted he has one brother who is a warden at a state prison, and another brother who has been an inmate in that prison.
He has also stated his belief in accountability — to the community and to the criminal justice system — for those who break the law.
Cavalier Johnson brings a background and perspective to the Mayor’s Office unlike any other mayor in recent history. His experiences provide valuable insight as he addresses the serious challenges Milwaukee faces.
To your questions, the Mayor tells me he was not aware of the arrest warrant for his brother until recent days. As to his perception of police, he stands solidly behind has statement that the police play an important role in reducing crime and making Milwaukee safer.”