Driver Charged With First-Degree Murder After Intentionally Running Over Motorcyclist

By - July 13, 2020
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A former Fairfax, Virginia police officer was murdered in Wisconsin last week in a motorcycle accident in what police there say was a hate crime.

Phillip Thiessen, 55, was riding his motorcycle when police investigators say a man purposely swerved his truck into the biker because he believed that all men who ride Harleys in Wisconsin are ‘white racists.’

Daniel Navarro, 27, is being held on a $1 million bond and is facing a federal charge of first-degree intentional homicide – hate crime, first-degree recklessly endangering safety, and use of a dangerous weapon. He faces life in prison if he is convicted of all charges.

Thiessen was in the Marines and was a police officer in Fairfax, Virginia from 1990 until he retired in 2016. He also worked for the Wisconsin Department of Justice Internet Crimes Against Children organization.

Defendant Said He Targeted Harley Rider Because of His Race

Navarro remained at the scene after the fatal accident as witnesses were trying to help Thiessen. When police arrived, the sheriff stated that the driver said he had hit the motorcyclist on purpose. He also passed a field sobriety test.

Navarro, who is Hispanic, allegedly said he targeted the motorcyclist because of his race and that he knew the injuries would probably be fatal. He also allegedly said that he chose the target because ‘white people drive motorcycles,’ especially Harleys. Navarro also said he chose a motorcyclist and not a car driver because he wanted to make sure the person was killed.

Also, he said that he wanted to be in prison so that he could be away from the people who harass him at his home. Navarro said that he had been poisoned by co-workers, neighbors, and friends, and could hear his neighbors making racist comments through the walls.

Increased Racism Against Him Led to Murder, Defendant Claimed

Navarro told investigators during a four-hour interview that the homicide was motivated by racist actions against him, although Navarro never met Thiessen.

He told police that people drive by his house, rev their engines and squeal tires to upset him. They also allegedly made racist comments towards him.

Navarro also said that if President Trump and white people ‘want to create the world we are living in, he has no choice and people are going to have to die.’

Navarro Took Father’s Truck for the Fatal Act

On the day of the murder, Navarro borrowed his father’s pickup truck to go for a ride in the country. As he drove back to Fond du Lac, he saw a man on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

He told detectives he thought the person on the bike was white because in Wisconsin, most people who ride Harleys are white. The man also claimed the Harley culture consists entirely of white racists. But he admitted he could not see the race of the person on the motorcycle.

Navarro said he purposely swerved into the path of the motorcyclist with the intent to murder him. He said that he wanted to go to prison so his parents would not have to take care of him. He also was glad to be away from the people harassing him, he claimed.

The criminal complaint also noted that a detective had reviewed law enforcement records and discovered a 2019 disorderly conduct domestic violence investigation involving Navarro in Fond du Lac. Police officers tried to have a 3-day mental health hold put on Navarro but it was denied by the mental health crisis hotline.

The district attorney for Fond du Lac County, Eric Toney, told reporters that Navarro’s crime does not reflect that community. He noted that one of the witnesses, who knew the victim had died, stayed until first responders arrived. Toney said he believed that act says more about the community’s character than the charges against Navarro.

Police Report More Hate Crimes As Protests Roil Nation

Since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May, protests and unrest have occurred across the country, and the number of alleged hate crimes is on the rise. Most of the alleged crimes do not involve murder, but there is no question many people are on edge during this turbulent summer.

For example, in Santa Cruz, California, a 42-year old white man was accused by the local police of drawing a knife on and screaming racial comments at a black man last Sunday. The police said the victim had suffered minor injuries in the attack.

The accused, Ole Hougen, acted out of control when the police arrived and asked for a white person to take him into custody. He continued to make racial slurs towards jail staff and officers as he was booked. He is being held in the local jail on a $25,000 bound. He has been charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon and hate crime.

Hate crimes such as this one can be handled at the state or local level. Police say they have contacted the FBI to determine if they want to file federal charges.