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I-TEAM: Paramedic radio transmissions give insight to MPD District 5 custody death

MPD video of custody death
Posted at 7:14 PM, Apr 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-08 23:18:55-04

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) has released video showing what happened before and after a Milwaukee man was found unresponsive in a holding cell in February.

The nearly 16 minute edited video (YouTube link) shows the moments Keishon Thomas is pulled over, when he’s arrested, and what processed at MPD District 5. It also includes the response by officers in the district after finding him unresponsive.

While Thomas is being processed, twice he’s able to ingest drugs that he had on him. The first instance, he lunges into the back of the police vehicle while officers are removing him from the squad. Later, while he’s sitting and waiting to be booked, Thomas reaches into his pants and is able to ingest a bag of suspected drugs. He attempts to ingest a second bag, but drops it.

Police suggest taking Thomas to the hospital after he tells them he has taken “a lot” of drugs. Police say, Thomas formally declined to be taken to the hospital by filling out a medical questionnaire. He was then taken to a holding cell.

Questions remain about the timeline between when Thomas was last seen alive and when he was discovered unresponsive. All body camera video shows time stamps, but the two angles of surveillance cameras inside the station do not have time stamps. When Thomas is taken to his cell, he walks in under his own power but it’s unclear what time this was.

In the video, police indicate the surveillance footage is motion activated. However, police only provide two clips; when Thomas entered and when he was discovered unresponsive.

Milwaukee police tell the I-Team, video exists of officers checking on Thomas between 3 a.m. and 6 p.m., but say it was deliberately left out of the community briefing, saying it only shows officers walking past the cell and not much else.

They also say those visits to his cell were logged, but could not provide the last time Thomas was checked on before he was found dead.

The I-Team has obtained EMS Radio traffic giving insight into how much time passed between the videos released Friday.

“Last known well was 16 hours ago when he was incarcerated,” a paramedic says over the radio.

Later, as paramedics continued to assess Thomas, they describe the condition of the body.

“He has a rigid airway. Fluids are not flowing. Patient’s fingertips and earlobes are not yielding blood flow.”

At 6:19 p.m. on Feb. 23, the doctor working with those paramedics is heard on the radio, pronouncing time of death for Keishon Thomas.

“10-99 at 18:19. Thank you Med 6. This is Doc 0146 signing off.”

The MPD Standard Operating Procedure for cell block checks states, cells should be checked a minimum of four times an hour and that information should be logged.

This isn’t the first time an MPD Community Briefing has received criticism for what’s been released. In July of 2021, the department released about four minutes of body camera footage of the deadly shooting of Roberto Zielinski.

The family’s attorney, Russell Ainsworth of Loevy & Loevy, said at the time, “When the Milwaukee police department releases a video for transparency purposes, but release a video that is doctored and edited to push their narrative, that is not transparent, that is not accountability and that is not justice.”

The District Attorney’s Office says they are aware of this EMS audio and anticipate it’s part of the investigative file. Waukesha Police are the lead agency investigating Thomas’ death.

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