Police launch footage of in-custody dying and station capturing
Milwaukee police released redacted footage Friday surrounding the police custody death of Keishon D. Thomas and subsequent police station shooting two days later.
Thomas, 20, died Feb. 23 in a holding cell at the District five station, 2920 Vel R. Phillips Ave., after spending roughly 16 hours in custody.
Body-worn police officer cameras and surveillance footage from the police station show some events leading up to his death.
Thomas was pulled over in the early morning hours on Feb. 23 in the 2000 block of West Capitol Drive. Bodycam footage shows officers conducting a traffic stop for a failure to signal. Police then discovered an active warrant for Thomas’ arrest and took him into custody.
Police say upon searching Thomas during arrest they discovered what they believed to be narcotics. Police did not release video of that moment.
Upon arrival at the police station, Thomas is seen on video being searched again. The video shows an officer attempting to dig into Thomas’ pocket before Thomas lunges forward back into the squad car, looking as if he was trying to consume something on the backseat of the squad car.
“He’s trying to eat it. He’s trying to eat it,” one officer said while pulling Thomas out of the car.
Another officer discovers what he believes to be narcotics on the backseat. “Alright, so there’s one rock. Where’s the other one?” the officer says to Thomas. “I have no more. I ate ’em. … I ate the little, the little smoke I had,” Thomas replies.
Further search of Thomas discovered more illegal substances, police say.
Once in the booking area, the booking officer asked Thomas how much he ingested, to which Thomas responded “one rock” and “one ecstasy pill.” The officer then suggests that he go to the hospital and Thomas later replies, “I had a lot of dope and two ecstasy pills. … I had a lot.” An officer then responds, “I think we should send him to the hospital.”
Thomas insists he doesn’t want to go to the hospital. “I should be OK,” he said. Officers take Thomas to a holding cell.
Later that evening, at 5:53 pm, roughly 16 hours after the traffic stop, surveillance footage shows an officer unlock Thomas’ cell and enter the cell. This is when police say the officer discovered Thomas not breathing. No footage inside the cell is shown, just the area outside the cell.
Part of the footage cuts off, which MPD said is due to a motion-activated camera needing to be activated. When footage resumes, the officer is seen running out of Thomas’ cell, pushing an alarm and heard alerting other officers.
“Get in here,” he says. At least 13 officers come running back to the cell area. Police say they performed CPR on Thomas, but that is not shown on footage. Multiple officers then yell, “Narcan!” and one officer says, “I will get medical on the radio.”
Thomas was pronounced dead by medical staff, after attempting life-saving measures, police say.
Thomas’ official cause of death is still unknown, awaiting toxicology reports, according to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Police say the investigation is still ongoing and the Waukesha Police Department is the lead investigative agency. The officers involved in the incident were placed on full suspension, according to police. The Waukesha Police Department will present the case to the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office for review.
Footage shows Thomas’ best friend firing shots inside District 5
Two days later, police say, Thomas’ best friend, Darreon Parker-Bell, 23, opened fire inside the district five police station. Parker-Bell’s girlfriend of two years would later tell the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Parker-Bell reached a “breaking point” when Thomas died.
Surveillance footage from inside the police station shows the shooting and the subsequent police chase.
Police say Parker-Bell walked into the police station and asked an officer about the Thomas investigation, to which the officer replied he couldn’t share any information because it was an ongoing investigation.
Parker-Bell is then seen on video pulling a gun from his waist and firing a shot into the floor. People are seen in the lobby scrambling for cover. The officer drops behind the counter.
Once the officer rises back to his feet, Parker-Bell then fires another shot toward the officer, shattering the glass partition. Parker Bell then fires a third shot across the counter.
Officers then fired back at Parker Bell while inside the station. Parker Bell then exits the police station.
Moments later, an officer discovers Parker-Bell on foot within the nearby residential area. The officer orders Parker-Bell to drop his weapon, Parker-Bell refuses and turns toward the officer, prompting the officer to fire on Parker-Bell, police say. Parker-Bell then flees the scene.
Officers then discover Parker-Bell again in the backyard of a home. Officers order Parker Bell to drop his weapon. Police say Parker-Bell points his gun at officers, prompting officers to fire at Parker-Bell, striking him multiple times. The available footage does not clearly show these moments.
Officers then approach Parker Bell, secure his gun and place him under arrest. Parker-Bell was hit by gunfire multiple times and was treated at the scene by officers, police say. He was eventually transported to the hospital.
Casings from inside the police station matched the gun recovered from Parker-Bell, according to police.
No officers were injured in the incident, including those inside the police station. No members of the public, including those inside the police station lobby, were injured either.
Police say the investigation is still ongoing and the West Allis Police Department is the lead investigative agency. The officers involved were placed on administrative duty, per department policy.
On March 1, Parker-Bell was charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide and seven counts of first-degree recklessly enduring safety.
Parker-Bell told investigators from his hospital bed he hoped police would have returned fire and killed him, according to the criminal complaint. He is currently in custody with a bail set at $500,000.
How to find support:
Milwaukee’s Office of Violence Prevention recommends these resources for free support:
Sojourner Family Peace Center’s domestic violence shelter and support: 414-933-2722.
414 Life outreach and conflict mediation support: 414-439-5398.
Milwaukee County’s 24-hour Mental Health Crisis Line: 414-257-7222.
Milwaukee’s Child Mobile Crisis and Trauma Response Team: 414-257-7621.
National crisis text line: text HOPELINE to 741741 to text with a trained crisis counselor.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255.
Contact Drake Bentley at (414) 391-5647 or DBe[email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @DrakeBentleyMJS.