Milwaukee landlord allegedly made veiled threats against inspectors
“Maybe more things would happen to inspectors,” landlord said to city building inspector following death of a popular building inspector
In the wake of the killing of a popular city building inspector, Elijah Mohammad Rashaed — one of Milwaukee’s most notorious central city landlords — warned “maybe more things would happen to inspectors,” according to testimony from a city official.
Building Inspector Kristen Reed with the City of Milwaukee’s Department of Neighborhood Services (DNS) testified that because of the cryptic comment, heard also by Special Enforcement Section Manager Erica Lewandowski, DNS inspectors were ordered not to deal directly with Rashaed. The landlord is the target of a city suit aimed at stripping him of control of 166 Milwaukee properties and ultimately banning him from owning or managing rental properties in Milwaukee County. The city initially disclosed plans to sue Rashaed in March.
Building inspector Greg “Ziggy” Zyszkiewicz was on duty when he was found dead in his car, the apparent target of a carjacking attempt. He had been killed with a shotgun in broad daylight on March 22. A DNS employee for 33 years, Zyszkiewicz was in the area at the time to conduct a house inspection.
Zyszkiewicz’s wife Ola said he was aware of the dangers of his job. He wore a bulletproof vest to work and often visited homes that were the subject of chronic complaints. While police usually accompany inspectors on initial inspections in Milwaukee, that’s not typical for re-inspections.
Though Zyszkiewicz’s death was unrelated to Rashaed — Deshaun Scott, Qhualun D. Shaw and Eric J. Smiley Jr. have been charged in Zyszkiewicz’s homicide — the topic came up during a phone call between Rashaed, Reed and Lewandowski. Rashaed said he “was not surprised that it happened and maybe more things would happen to inspectors,” Reed said. Assistant City Attorney Kail Decker called the comments a “veiled threat” that he took “seriously enough that (he) didn’t want any interaction between” Rashaed and the inspectors.
Rashaed has had a long and contentious relationship with Milwaukee inspectors that has included properties linked to him being cited in more than 3,500 orders for more than 12,000 violations of city building codes. He was previously charged in a criminal complaint in 2007 with misdemeanor battery for chasing a city building inspector out of a property and punching him in the face. Rashaed pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct.
The city of Milwaukee’s Department of Neighborhood Services deals with inspections and permits related to buildings and business activities as well as environmental matters that impact health and public safety. Through the enforcement of building, zoning, fire, environmental, property maintenance and other ordinances, DNS protects the value of investments in neighborhoods and commercial properties and supports community goals of building safe and healthy neighborhoods and increasing investment and economic vitality throughout the city. The city of Milwaukee is an ICC Organizational member.
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