Phillip Thiessen served his country as a former Fairfax, Virginia, police officer, U.S. Marine, and agent with the state Department of Justice in Wisconsin. He lost his life on a motorcycle in an alleged hate crime in which prosecutors say the suspect targeted Thiessen because he was white.
Authorities say the suspect, another motorist, purposely killed Thiessen because he was “targeting a white person.” Thiessen was only 55 years old. According to the Fox 6, citing the complaint, the suspect, Daniel Navarro, talked about “recent events” and the “racial climate in the United States” discussing a “silent majority that voted for Donald Trump as president and the political and racial tensions in the news lately, including racial tensions related to President Trump.” He is accused of saying “if Trump and white people are going to create a world like we are living in, then he as no choice and people are going to have to die,” the television station reported.
Tributes flooded in for Thiessen. “My heart is breaking. He was one of the kindest most genuine people I have every known. We would always give each other crap about our rival sports teams. He was truly the brother I wish I had,” wrote one woman on the Fairfax Police Department’s Facebook page. “Oh my goodness he was such a class act. Literally heartbroken,” wrote another.
For the Wisconsin DOJ, Thiessen worked in the Internet Crimes Against Children unit.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Prosecutors Say the Suspect Careened Into Thiessen’s Motorcycle Because He Believed ‘White Racists’ Ride Harleys
Prosecutors allege that Thiessen was targeted because of his race. According to WJLA-TV, the suspect, Daniel Navarro, 27, “intentionally swered his truck” into Thiessen’s motorcycle because he believed all Harley riders were “white racists.”
Online court records show Navarro is charged with first-degree intentional homicide with a hate crime penalty enhancer, use of a dangerous weapon, and first-degree recklessly endangering safety.
The tragedy occurred on July 3, 2020, when Navarro is accused of striking Thiessen’s motorcycle head-on, according to Fox 6, which added that there’s no evidence that Thiessen was targeted because he was a former police officer. According to Fox 6, the complaint alleges that Navarro also made bizarre statements, saying things like claiming that he was “intentionally contaminated with chemical sterilizer on a jacket by an employment supervisor in Ripon a year and a half prior.” He also claimed he “can hear one of his neighbors making racist comments through the walls,” the complaint alleged, adding that he also claimed “those who are poisoning him, giving him acid and making racist comments are all Caucasian and targeting him because he is Mexican.”
According to Fox 6, the complaint further alleged that Navarro said he was “thinking about targeting a white person and killing them with a vehicle earlier that day,” and he “picked a motorcycle because he wanted the person to die,” because “white people drive motorcycles,” and “the Harley culture is made up of white racists.”
Bail was set at $1 million. Court records say Navarro is also from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. He had a previous case for disorderly conduct that was dismissed and involved a competency evaluation. He also had previous traffic offenses.
In a press conference, Fond du Lac prosecutors discussed the case. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 17.
The prosecutor called the case “very tragic.” He said a witness stayed with the victim until help could arrive.
“Justice is what we’re looking for,” he said.
2. The City of Fairfax Police Department Remembered Thiessen’s Sense of Humor & Service
The City of Fairfax Police Department wrote a tribute to Thiessen on its Facebook page.
“It is with a heavy heart that our department announces the passing of retired Sgt. Phil Thiessen. Sgt. Thiessen retired in 2016 and was killed last night in a motor vehicle accident in Wisconsin,” the statement read.
“He not only served the citizens of the City of Fairfax with honor from 1990-2016, but also served in the United States Marine Corps. As you can tell by this brief array of photos, he had a great sense of humor and was quite the character. You will be missed by many Phil.”
3. Thiessen Was Born in Milwaukee & Served in the Marine Corps for Four Years Before Becoming a Police Officer in Fairfax, Virginia, for More Than Two Decades
Thiessen had a long career in law enforcement and longstanding ties to Wisconsin.
Phillip Arthur Thiessen of Fond du Lac was born in Milwaukee, WI, the son of Arthur J. Thiessen and Phyllis H. Thiessen, according to his obituary, which says he “graduated from L.P. Goodrich High School in the year of 1983. Phillip joined the US Marine Corp. in February of 1984, and served for 4 years.”
After leading the Marine Corps, he became a police officer with the City of Fairfax, VA for 26 years. “After retiring from the City of Fairfax Police Department, Phillip was a Special Agent with the WI Department of Justice for almost 2 years before officially retiring in Fond du Lac, WI,” the obituary says.
He was survived by his daughter, two grandchildren, and other relatives.
4. People Offered Tributes to Thiessen on Social Media, Remembering His Politeness & Work on a Credit Union Board for City Workers
Tributes flooded into the Fairfax Police Department’s Facebook page in memory of Thiessen.
“Phil was an exceptional person, well liked. I will remember mostly for his politeness. After you watch over them for 20+ years to keep them safe and then someone takes them out once they reach retirement. It’s not the way it is suppose to be. Rest in peace,” wrote one woman.
“Loved this guy, was really saddened to hear this morning about his passing,” wrote another. “Phil was indeed a character always smiling and a bit mischievous. He showed how much he cared about fellow workers by always willing to help when called upon and sometimes just there to check in and let you know he was there for you. A little known fact was that Phil also served as a Board Member of our credit union for the City workers. He brought a sincere concern for serving our members and wanted to learn all he could to be a great board member. An all around great guy. You will be sorely missed! 😢💙”
A man wrote, “Heartbreaking. Had a blast working along side Phil on old Squad 3. He always kept us laughing. He’s now patrolling heavens highways…”
Wrote a former colleague: “My heart is broken, Phil was such a wonderful person with a beautiful spirit. He was such a joy to work with, and always knew how to make you laugh. Such a gentleman. My thoughts and prayers go out to all that ever had the honor of knowing him. Fly high with the angels my friend. We will take it from here.”
5. Thiessen Was Remembered for His Strong Catholic Faith & Love of Sports, as Well as Riding His Motorcycle
The obituary says that Thiessen “grew up in the Catholic Faith, but was most recently an active member of Pathways Church in Appleton, WI. Phillip’s faith and his relationship with God had never been stronger.”
According to the obit, Thiessen “was a man of many interests and was a self-described ‘sports junkie.’ He enjoyed cheering on the Green Bay Packers, the Washington Capitals and Jordan Spieth in the PGA.”
He was described as living an active lifestyle that took him to Southern California in the winter. “He could frequently be found hiking or riding his bicycle… He loved riding his Harley Davidson Motorcycle on scenic drives and would often go on riding adventures,” the obituary says.
It described Thiessen as “a generous, caring, loyal man that made friends easily anywhere he went, and maintained long distance friendships for many years. He believed in giving back to his community and was a volunteer at the Fondy Food Pantry.”