by Rik Hayman
Prosecutors refused Tuesday to issue charges against the 19-year-old black man arrested by police in the weekend slaying of a white supremacist.
Naseer Ghani, of Racine, was released from jail Tuesday after posting bond on an unrelated battery charge.
Ghani was arrested in connection with the early Saturday shooting death of Joe L. Rowan, 22, of Toms River, N.J., at the Starvin' Marvin's /Speedway gas station at Washington and Ohio streets.
But after reviewing the evidence, Racine County prosecutors declined to charge Ghani. They sent the case back to police investigators for more work.
District Attorney Robert Flancher said it's not uncommon for prosecutors to ask police to reinvestigate a case. The evidence needed to make an arrest, he said, often falls short of the amount of evidence needed to prove a case in court, beyond a reasonable doubt.
"We are not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Ghani did the shooting," Flancher said.
The county's top prosecutor said Ghani was "one of two or three others considered possible suspects" in the case.
While Racine police spokesman Sgt. Kurt Wahlen described Ghani as "still the prime suspect," he acknowledged the case against him or any other suspect will be tough to bring to trial.
"This is going to be a very difficult case for the district attorney to prosecute. We know that."
Wahlen said the district attorney's office asked police to reinterview witnesses in order to solidify its case.
"This is not a setback," he said. "They just want a thorough job. We both want the same thing: to prosecute and convict the guilty party."
As police began the process of finding and reinterviewing witnesses, other evidence was being carefully studied and analyzed.
Film from a store security camera was being studied for clues. But it reportedly doesn't show the face of the gunman.
The tape revealed that Rowan was shot after a group of skinheads traded racial insults with black customers inside the convenience store.
Ghani was reportedly walking away from the store after police arrived to investigate the 2:15 a.m. shooting. He was arrested at the scene.
Police have yet to find the murder weapon.
Prosecutors were also awaiting gun powder residue test results from the State Crime Lab in Milwaukee to show whether Ghani had fired a gun recently.
Racine attorney Mark Richards - who represents Ghani - maintained Tuesday that his client didn't commit the slaying. He said Ghani's arrest was based on the "unreliable claims of white supremacist witnesses who picked out the first black man they saw."
The slaying occurred after about 250 to 300 people attended a "white power" concert Friday night at Memorial Hall that featured six white supremacist rock bands. Rowan was a singer in one of the bands, Nordic Thunder.