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Milwaukee police chief responds to questions about edited video of in-custody death

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Posted at 5:10 PM, Apr 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-12 19:32:27-04

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee’s police chief made his first comments to TMJ4 News on Tuesday about an edited video the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) released showing the February in-custody death of Keishon Thomas.

Thomas’ family says they want to know why the cell checks MPD claims were made were omitted from the video that was shared last Friday. TMJ4 News asked Chief Jeffrey Norman why those cell checks were edited out and whether he has seen the unedited footage.

"I know that we have presented to the family. I know that we have presented the video in regards to what was asked to be removed so there is a number of different moving parts with the video that we have to be sensitive to,” Chief Norman responded. “This video encompasses a number of different hours, a span of hours and when we were reporting out, we had to be sensitive in regards to how to appropriately reflect what had took place and be able to report out to our public who was looking for an answer of what goes on within our police department.”

Chief Norman quickly left after one response about the in-custody death. We wanted to ask him several questions regarding the incident, including whether the unedited surveillance footage shows officers performing cell checks four times an hour as required by department policy, and why paramedics said on dispatch radio that the last wellness check performed was when Thomas was placed in the cell.

"Last known well was 16 hours ago, when he was incarcerated," a paramedic told dispatchers when they responded to Milwaukee police District 5.

Thomas’ family says Milwaukee police let them see the edited footage a day before it was released in a community briefing video. They say they only asked police to remove video of Thomas being taken out of the cell after he was found dead.

The family provided us with another clip that was also removed from the version MPD released. It shows a cell check being done at an unknown time during Thomas’ 16 hours in custody. An officer is seen looking inside Thomas’ cell and walking away.

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The video cuts to another officer walking up to the cell and calling for help after realizing Thomas was no longer breathing. It’s unclear how much time passed between those checks.

Prior to this, Thomas was seen on MPD video ingesting drugs in front of officers. His family wants to know whether the officers who witnessed Thomas take drugs told the officer responsible for cell checks to be aware of a potential overdose.

The Waukesha Police Department turned over their investigative report into this in-custody death to the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office last week. The District Attorney's Office says they are reviewing the case and are still waiting on toxicology lab reports.

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