FOND DU LAC COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY/Gray News) - A Fond du Lac man charged in a homicide hate crime said he intentionally swerved his truck into a motorcyclist because he believed Harley riders to be “white racists,” according to information released by the county sheriff Thursday.
Daniel Navarro, 27, is being held on a $1 million bond on charges of first degree intentional homicide - hate crime - use of a dangerous weapon and first degree recklessly endangering safety - hate crime. He made his initial court appearance in Fond du Lac County Thursday.
The victim was identified as Phillip A. Thiessen, 55. Thiessen, a 1983 graduate of L.P. Goodrich High School, was a Marine and later a police officer in Fairfax, Va. Later, Thiessen worked for the Wisconsin Department of Justice Internet Crimes Against Children unit. He had retired and was living in Fond du Lac. CLICK HERE to read Thiessen’s obituary.
“Phillip was a generous, caring, loyal man that made friends easily anywhere he went, and maintained long-distance friendships for many years. He believed in giving back to his community and was a volunteer at the Fondy Food Pantry,” reads the obituary.
The crash happened July 3, at about 6:47 p.m. Sheriff Ryan Waldschmidt said Navarro was driving a pickup truck when he swerved into the path of an oncoming motorcycle.
Navarro’s truck hit Thiessen’s motorcycle head on. Thiessen was found dead in the road.
Navarro’s truck went off the road and hit a pole. He was not hurt.
Waldschmidt said Navarro spoke to a sergeant who responded to the scene. Navarro told the sergeant that he intentionally crashed into the motorcycle.
Navarro passed field sobriety tests and had no signs of impairment, according to the sheriff.
Detectives interviewed Navarro for several hours. They said Navarro claimed he was being poisoned by co-workers and neighbors. He claimed white people make racist comments to him because he’s Hispanic.
“He [Navarro] said that all of the people who cause him these problems in his life are Caucasian or white,” said Waldschmidt.
Navarro discussed recent events and the racial climate in the country.
“Navarro said if President Donald Trump and white people are going to create the world we are living in, he has no choice and people are going to have to die,” Waldschmidt recalled.
On the day of the crash, Navarro took his father’s pickup truck for a ride in the country. As he headed back into Fond du Lac, he noticed a person on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
The sheriff said, “Navarro told detectives that he believed the person driving the motorcycle was white because in Wisconsin, white people drive Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and the Harley culture was made up of white racists. He admitted he could not specifically see who was driving this motorcycle.”
“Navarro said he intentionally swerved into the path of the oncoming motorcycle with the intent to kill that operator, and that he chose a motorcycle instead of a car because he wanted the driver to die and not just be injured or paralyzed,” said Waldschmidt.
Navarro told them he wanted to go to prison so his parents no longer had to take care of him and he would be free of the people who harass him.
Investigators do not believe Navarro knew Thiessen prior to the crash. They don’t think Navarro knew about Thiessen’s history in law enforcement.
Thiessen is survived by his daughter, two grandchildren, a sister, and many aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and neighbors.
The family is asking people to make donations in Phillip’s name to the Fondy Food Pantry, 573 W Rolling Meadows Dr, Fond du Lac, Wis.
Crash scene reconstruction teams continue to investigate the crash.