MILWAUKEE — The family of Keishon Thomas wants answers after a community briefing video released by Milwaukee police Friday left them with more questions about his in-custody death.
TMJ4 News obtained paramedic audio from that night in late February stating that Thomas had not been checked on for 16 hours.
“Last known well was 16 hours ago, when he was incarcerated,” a paramedic said.
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Milwaukee police say that’s not true, but they haven’t released the video they say shows those checks.
Milwaukee Police Association President Andrew Wagner says these community briefing videos are created by the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) to promote transparency with the public.
"It's important that the public trust police officers with what they're doing and to have that transparency to show that we're not trying to hide anything,” Wagner said.
But Thomas’ family argues the most relevant part of the video was edited out. MPD's Standard Operating Procedure says cells must be checked four times an hour.
The video (YouTube link) released Friday shows Thomas being placed inside the cell and then the video cuts to when he was found dead, omitting the cell checks MPD claims were made in between.
"I think that it just comes down to a time of video or how much is there to go through,” Wagner said when asked why that portion of the video was edited out. “There's no cover up on the police department's aspect."
Civil rights attorney B’Ivory LaMarr doesn’t think releasing the footage Thomas’ family wants to see would compromise the investigation if it shows officers acted within policy.
"These are the type of calls for transparency that the community and the families are looking for in these type of cases is because, 'Hey, if there's nothing to be shown or nothing material, just release it.' That closes the issue,” he said.
UW-Madison Law School Professor Ion Meyn says if this case ends up in court, Milwaukee police would have to provide the entire unedited video. However, he says the department does have the right under state law to withhold that video at this time since it’s still under investigation.
“Even though we have a right to make requests to get public documents from public agencies, that right is constrained at certain moments,” he said. “One time that's constrained is when something is under active investigation."
The Waukesha Police Department is the lead agency investigating this case. The Waukesha Police Department says it turned the investigation over to the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office for review.