Jeramey Jannene

Two Milwaukee Police Officers Charged With Felonies For In-Custody Death

Charges of abuse of a resident, felony misconduct in public office.

By - Feb 24th, 2023 01:10 pm
Booking video of Keishon D. Thomas and Donald W. Krueger. Image from MPD community briefing.

Booking video of Keishon D. Thomas and Donald W. Krueger. Image from MPD community briefing.

Two Milwaukee Police Department officers face felony charges for their roles in the in-custody death of Keishon D. Thomas, 20, in February 2022.

On Friday, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office filed the charges against officers Donald W. Krueger and Marco A. Lopez.

Krueger, 49, was charged with abuse of a resident in a penal facility for his alleged neglect of Thomas while he was in custody at MPD’s District 5 station, 2920 N. Vel R. Phillips Ave. He retired in November 2022 with 25 years of service said the department in a press release issued after this article was first published. He was suspended with pay in February 2022.

Lopez, 40, was charged with felony misconduct in public office (false entry) for allegedly falsifying log books used to record that prisoners in holding cells are being checked on. Lopez has worked for MPD for more than 12 years and remains out on his February 2022 paid suspension.

MPD previously said it found marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine on Thomas during a traffic stop. In a body camera video released by MPD, Thomas admits to ingesting some of the drugs. He can be seen ingesting drugs at two points while in custody.

Krueger, in body camera footage, told Thomas he would take him to the hospital regardless of Thomas’ stated opposition. According to the complaint, Krueger never called an ambulance, nor did he record in a paper-based health screening the fact that Thomas said he ingested drugs. Krueger did provide him with a trash can to throw up into and then transferred him to a holding cell. The officer, in an interview with investigators, said Thomas did not show signs of needing medical attention.

His shift ended, with Lopez replacing him. Lopez, says the complaint, told investigators he was never advised of a health issue with Thomas.

Department practice is to check on prisoners every 15 minutes. Based on video evidence, the complaint says Lopez missed 10 checks during his shift, but recorded them as having been performed.

Lopez, according to the complaint, was using his cell phone at his desk and painting a small object during many of the missed prisoner checks. He told investigators he performed an “audio check,” for which no such MPD policy exists. Bookers are required to perform visual checks.

Krueger and Lopez both face a fine of not more than $10,000 and imprisonment of not more than 3.5 years. The cases are currently assigned to Judge Kori Ashley.

Detective Jessica Behrendt of the Waukesha Police Department led the investigation according to the complaint. Outside investigations are standard with all in-custody deaths.

The charges, according to the complaint, were filed by assistant district attorney Nicolas J. Heitman. John Chisholm is the district attorney.

Thomas was initially pulled over at approximately 2:00 a.m. on Feb. 23, 2022 on Capitol Dr. Police took Thomas into custody after determining there was an open warrant for his arrest.

At 5:53 p.m. the same day, an officer that replaced Lopez observed that Thomas was in need of medical attention. MPD’s video released in April shows several officers running to Thomas’ aid following the discovery. But ultimately, after the Milwaukee Fire Department arrived, Thomas was pronounced deceased at 6:19 p.m. The officer that discovered Thomas was not charged, nor does the complaint suggest misconduct on their part.

Police Chief Jeffrey Norman announced the suspension of three unidentified officers two days after the incident. The department has never publicly identified the third officer.

“Yes, I am concerned,” said the chief in a press conference. “As we are going through this process we are finding some things that need further explanations… we have some concerns that have not been flushed out.”

MPD updated its booking procedures as a result of the incident. They include a formal question on the health screening if the individual ingested prescription drugs or narcotics. The standard operating procedure changes also established a reporting framework for a failure to answer and codified and increased cell inspection procedures.

A couple of hours after Norman’s press briefing on Feb. 25, 2022, Darreon Parker-Bell entered the police station and fired three times at officers. He ran from the station and was shot by officers several blocks from the station. Parker-Bell, then 23, was a friend of Thomas. He faces eight open felony charges in the incident, one for first-degree attempted homicide and seven for first-degree recklessly endangering safety with a dangerous weapon.

As a result of Parker-Bell’s actions, MPD began installing bullet-proof glass at its stations.

Officers Cleared In Separate In-Custody Death

Shortly after releasing the charges against Krueger and Lopez, the District Attorney’s Office cleared a different group of MPD officers of any allegations of wrongdoing related to a 2021 in-custody death that also involved the ingestion of drugs.

Quievonta Moffett was pulled over and arrested on Dec. 8, 2021. Cocaine was recovered from his vehicle and saw cocaine on his lap. Moffet repeatedly told officers while in custody he had not consumed drugs, but later admitted he had swallowed multiple baggies of cocaine.

Moffett spent approximately two hours at Ascension St. Francis Hospital, where officers advised staff they were concerned about the possible ingestion of fentanyl. Three hours after returning to MPD’s District Two station, 245 W. Lincoln Ave., he said he was not feeling well and was transported to Froedtert Hospital. A CT scan revealed the presence of plastic bags in his stomach. He suffered cardiac arrest while at the hospital. Medical personnel removed three baggies from his stomach, one of which still contained cocaine. He, however, passed away at 9:47 a.m. The Medical Examiner ruled he died of acute methamphetamine intoxication.

“Under all the circumstances presented to MPD after its arrest of Moffett on December 8, 2021, the officers at District 2 responded immediately and appropriately to his emerging medical needs. Significantly, the officers at District 2 immediately and appropriately obtained emergency medical assistance for Moffett, through the Milwaukee Fire Department and local hospitals. My office has completed its review of this matter and will take no further action,” write chief deputy district attorney Kent Lovern.

April 2022 Video Release

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