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One of the last to see 22-year-old alive shares experience of deadly Christmas Eve shooting

View from the taco truck
Posted at 6:10 PM, Dec 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-27 19:10:10-05
  • The 22-year-old killed in a Christmas Eve shooting in downtown Appleton is Elijah Dodson of Milwaukee, police say.
  • Diablos Tacos Truck worker Manuel Almanza was one of the last people to see Dodson alive.
  • Watch to hear his account of the evening, and read the article below for more details.

(The following is an expanded transcription of the full broadcast story)

Since day one, we've been following the story of a deadly Christmas Eve shooting that happened right in front of a Diablos Tacos Truck in downtown Appleton, and now we know more details.

I'm Darby McCarthy, talking to a man who was working in the truck when a fight turned into a deadly shooting.

"The first moment, I think nobody believed what’s, what was happening. Everybody was in shock. And after that, everybody run away everywhere," said Diablos Tacos Truck worker Manuel Almanza.

We now know the identity of the 22-year-old who was shot.

Police say his name was Elijah Dodson, and he was from Milwaukee.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, Almanza was one of the last to see Dodson alive.

“I was preparing a snack, and my co-workers were grilling, and suddenly we hear noises," said Almanza. "So, we went to the window, and the first time we, we hear, people yelling, so we went to check what happened, and people was fighting."

"Did you hear what they were arguing about?" I asked him.

"Oh, no, they were, they were like, five, six guys," he replied.

"So it was a group of them?" I clarified. "You saw – it was a group of guys?"

"Yeah, I mean, I think they were friends. Maybe drunk. I don't know what happened. I didn't see them before," he answered.

Almanza says he had turned around to help prepare food since it was very busy after the bars were closing.

"My co-workers – the grillers – they get their back to the window. I am the only guy facing everything. But in that moment, I was doing a snack on the corner of the truck," Almanza said.

While Almanza and his co-workers scrambled to complete about 15 orders at one time, suddenly, the fight worsened.

"The second time when we hear noise, this time were two gunshots. So, when we saw in the window what happened, we see — we saw this bad situation," said Almanza.

Almanza said neither the shooter nor Dodson had ordered food from the truck when this happened. But he struggles to make sense of the whole thing.

"It was only a fight, and why somebody used a gun?" he said. "We feel bad for that guy. I mean, nobody, nobody deserves that."

I've talked to many people while covering this tragedy, including the owner of a pizzeria nearby where many sought sanctuary from the chaos of the scene.

And many of them have the same thing to say: that this does not define the area.

"Everybody's a good neighbor. Everybody's so kind. When you, when you drive, they give you the pass, they say, ‘Come on; you first,'" said Almanza, amazed. "Wow. That's Wisconsin."

Almanza says the truck is expected to be in the same spot downtown for New Year's Eve. And he hopes people won't be afraid to go out after the deadly shooting.

If you have information related to this incident, you can click this link to go to the Appleton tips website, call 920-832-5540, or email

Police say the investigation is still ongoing, and we'll keep you updated as we learn more.