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2 Milwaukee Police officers charged with misconduct for overdose death of man in custody

Charges allege officers neglected duties, entered false records

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Trees surround a tall building that says "Milwaukee Police"
The Milwaukee Police Administration Building on Thursday, Oct. 13, in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Two Milwaukee Police officers have been charged with misconduct related to the overdose death of a man in their custody.

Officers Donald Krueger and Marco Lopez each face felony charges for their actions — or lack of actions — leading up to the death of 20-year-old Keishon Thomas last year.

Krueger is charged with abuse of a person held in custody. Lopez is charged with misconduct in public office for making a fraudulent record.

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A statement from the Milwaukee Police Department offered its “deepest sympathies” to Thomas’ family.

“The Milwaukee Police Department holds all members to the highest degree of integrity and if any member violates the code of conduct they will be held accountable,” the department stated. “Our members must not discredit what this department stands for, particularly when taking an oath to preserve and protect life.”

Thomas died Feb. 23, 2022 after he was arrested during a traffic stop. According to the criminal complaint filed Friday, Thomas admitted to police that he had swallowed drugs, including cocaine and ecstasy, during the stop.

At the Milwaukee Police District 5 station where he was taken after his arrest, Thomas was visibly ill, sweating and throwing up.

According to the complaint, Krueger questioned Thomas about the drugs he had ingested during an interaction that is captured on video at the station. Although Thomas said he did not want to go to the hospital, Krueger said he was going to call an ambulance.

But instead Krueger placed Thomas in a holding cell where he later died. The complaint states that video shows the officer did not offer medical aid or call an ambulance, and he failed to note on health screening documents during the booking process that Thomas had admitted to swallowing the drugs.

When Krueger’s shift as the booking officer ended, Lopez took over, according to the complaint.

The complaint states that the records Lopez completed say he conducted 10 cell checks on the people in custody at the station, including Thomas. But video shows that he did not do the checks, and was instead painting, using his cell phone or watching something on a computer.

Thomas was found unconscious in his cell by the next officer to come on duty. He died there despite life-saving efforts by rescue workers.

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner found Thomas died of an overdose of a combination of drugs including fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamine.

According to the Milwaukee Police, both officers were placed on suspension after the incident. Krueger then retired in November 2022 after 25 years with the department. Lopez has been with the department for 12 years. He remains on suspension.

Both Krueger and Lopez are charged with felonies that carry possible prison sentences.

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