Marine, former police officer murdered in what officials now say was a hate crime against ‘white Harley riders’

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FOND DU LAC COUNTY, WISCONSIN – A former police officer and United States Marine from Fairfax, Virginia has been murdered in Wisconsin in what police are calling a hate crime.

Phillip A. Thiessen, 55, was riding his motorcycle in Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin.  That’s when investigators say a man intentionally swerved his truck into the motorcycle – and they say he did it because he believed all Harley riders to be “white racists.”

Daniel Navarro, 27, is now being held on a $1 million bond.

Marine, former police officer murdered in what police are calling a hate crime
Daniel Navarro, 27, is accused of intentionally ramming his truck in Phillip Thiessen’s motorcycle. Police say Navarro believed that all Harley riders are “white racists.” (Image: Fond du Lac County, WI Sheriff’s Office)

He’s facing charges of first-degree intentional homicide – hate crime, use of a dangerous weapon, and first-degree recklessly endangering safety – hate crime.

Thiessen was a Marine.  He served as a police officer in the City of Fairfax from 1990 until his retirement in 2016.  After that, he worked for the Wisconsin Department of Justice Internet Crimes Against Children unit.

Police say he was retired and living in Fond du lac, Wisconsin.

We also lost an officer in Montgomery, Alabama this week.

Montgomery Police responded to a gun shot wound on July 6th at approximately 2:15am to the 6700 block of Overview

Dr.  Upon their arrival, they located one of their own, Montgomery Police Detective Tanisha Pughsley. 

Unfortunately, Detective Pughsley, who was off duty, was pronounced deceased at the scene.

Marine, former police officer murdered in what officials now say was a hate crime against 'white Harley riders'

Det. Pughsley’s ex-boyfriend, Brandon Deshawn Webster, 24, was not at the scene when officers responded. 

According to AL.com, the investigation was quickly able to identify him as the suspect for shooting and killing Pughsley and attempting to kill another male, Jeremy Terrell Walker.  

Walker’s relationship with Det. Pughsley or Webster are unknown at this time.

Webster was located by the US Marshalls  Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task force and taken into custody without incident.  He is currently being held without bond at the Montgomery County Detention Facility. 

Webster is facing charges for capital murder, capital murder during the course of a burglary.  He is also charged with attempted murder for firing at Walker, he has received a bond for $150,000 for that charge. 

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said in a statement:

“Our entire community today mouns the death of one of our own, Tanisha Pughsley.  Detective Pughsley answered the call to serve, defend and protect our city.  We stand today with her family, friends, colleagues and all who loved her, praying for comfort, peace and healing during this tragic time.” 

Mayor Reed ordered all flags within the city to be flown at half mast.  Mourning wreaths were also seen on the doors of the police department. 

Det. Pughsley had apparently been having issues with Webster since ending their relationship. 

Det .Pughsley had recently (May) filed for an injunction for protection against him after an incident where he struck her twice on her head while she was holding an infant.  The hits caused her to drop the infant, although it’s unknown if the child suffered any injuries. 

In her affidavit, Det. Pughsley wrote:

“His actions caused me to drop the infant.  Although Brandon has moved out of the residence, he continues to unexpectedly show up and physically assault me.  He sends threatening text messages and one he is blocked, he continues to call my phone private.” 

Det. Pughsley also requested that Webster be barred from possessing firearms.

The judge, Family Court Judge Bob Baily, granted the injunction, however, denied the request to force Webster to turn in any firearms or bar him from possessing them.  The order was supposed to be in effect until December of this year.

Det. Pughsley was a graduate from the Alabama State University where she earned her degree in Criminal Justice and had been a member of their bowling team.    

ASU President Quinton Ross issued a statement to the staff and students of the University:

“We offer our deepest condolences and prayers to her family and coworkers.” 

Det. Pughsley’s was first employed as an officer with the Montgomery Police Department in 2016.  Det. Pughsley worked hard and was able to attain a position as a detective, no small feat to accomplish within four years.  Det. Pughsley will be laid to rest today.

Domestic violence is a problem that has existed in the United States for many years.  On average, as many as twenty people per minute are abused by a domestic partner each minute according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.  According to the NCADV, a study found that 20% of victims who were killed in a domestic violence incident were bystanders or law enforcement who intervened or witnessed the incident. 

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, there are many avenues to explore in order to get help.  One way is to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800 799-SAFE (7233).

Last month in Moody, Alabama, another officer was killed – who happened to be a writer for Law Enforcement Today and a personal friend of ours.

Two suspects have been officially charged in the murder of Sergeant Stephen Williams, who was reportedly gunned down on June 2nd at a Super 8 Motel in the city of Moody.

The announcement of charges was delivered by St. Clair County District Attorney Lyle Harmon on June 5th, stating that 27-year-old Tapero Corlene Johnson and 28-year-old Marquisha Annissa Tyson were both arrested and facing capital murder charges for the shooting of Sgt. Williams.

Not too many details on the shooting that occurred at roughly 9:30 p.m. at the Super 8 Motel located on Moody Parkway on June 2nd have been released thus far.

What’s currently known is that Sgt. Williams had apparently been responding to a 911 call that stemmed from the motel, but the details of what prompted that call have not been specified.

Furthermore, the events that led up to the gunfire between suspects and police have not been stated publicly either.

Amar Fouda was among the current tenants at that Super 8 Motel on the night of Sgt. Williams death. Fouda described the noise he heard in the room next to him when the chaos was unfolding:

“I heard like an AK-47.”

At the sound of said gunfire, Fouda said that he ran into the bathroom inside the motel room and sought cover inside the bathtub. When he could see the police vehicle lights emanating from outside his room, he checked the window to see what was happening:

“I saw one of the officers, he was down.”

In the wake of Sgt. Williams’ passing, Police Chief Thomas Hunt stated that he would be promoted to lieutenant posthumously. Chief Hunt remarked on when he first encountered Lt. Williams three years earlier, when fellow officers were urging the chief to welcome him into the MPD:

“Man, were they right. I couldn’t ask for a better supervisor, or an officer than Stephen Williams.”

The chief also added the loss that the department is dealing with, noting the kinship officers in the department had with Lt. Williams:

“Our officers are hurting. Our police department is hurting. We’ve lost a brother. We’ve lost a dear friend.”

The slain police sergeant was a father of three children and only 50-years-old at the time of his death. With a 23-year career in law enforcement, Lt. Williams was said to have served the Alabaster Police Department, Bessemer Police Department, and also the Moody Police Department.

The funeral arrangements for Sgt. Williams have already been established, and visitation is scheduled on June 7th from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Ridout’s Southern Heritage Funeral Home at 1011 Cahaba Valley Road in Pelham. The funeral itself will then be taking place on June 8th at 11:00 a.m. at First Baptist Church in Moody.

Both Johnson and Tyson are currently being held without bond at the St. Clair County Jail. 

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Murdered officer's grave desecrated before headstone even placed

Here’s Law Enforcement Today’s original report, when we received the saddening news of Lt. Williams’ murder. 

I was a journalist for years.  I was trained to remove emotion from my writing.  That’s not going to happen here.

One of the kindest police officers our team at Law Enforcement Today has ever known was murdered last night.

His name was Sgt. Stephen Williams and worked at the Moody Police Department in Alabama.

Let me give you the official details first.

Sgt. Williams was shot and killed Tuesday night when responding to a call at the Super 8 motel.  A man and a woman are in custody in connection with his killing. 

Their names haven’t been released at this time.

Now let me tell you what the police department told the media about him.

According to Chief Thomas Hunt, Williams had just been promoted to sergeant in the past year.  He was a recipient of the Keith Turner Officer of the Year Award.

“Oh, he was awesome,’’ Hunt said of Williams. “He was just a good man, a good person, fun to be around.

“He was very thorough in his reports, a good teach, a good mentor,’’ the chief said. “A lot of the guys looked up to Stephen.”

“All I can ask is for everybody to please be in prayer for the Williams family and for the Moody police department,” Hunt said.

Now let me tell you a little bit about this kind and brave warrior. 

Sgt. Williams was a husband and dad. 

He had three kids.  He was only 50 years old. 

He was named Officer of the Year a few years back.  He’d been a cop for 23 years – the last three years in Moody.

Sgt. Williams was the guy I’d call when I got depressed about all of the negative media coverage out there about law enforcement.  When I needed private guidance on how our team should structure a story.  When I needed a reminder that no matter how dark the world seems, there are people out there full of light.

Stephen was the guy people could call in the middle of the night when they were struggling.  When they were alone.  When they were in a dark place.

He was the guy you could call to share a funny story with.  He was the guy you could Snap ridiculous videos to.

He wasn’t a “cop” to us.  He was a brother.  A role model.  A beacon of light.

In his 23 years in law enforcement, Sgt. Williams greatest joy was in bringing the community and law enforcement together.  His pages and posts on social media are endless streams about just that.

We’re going to bring you more on this story in the coming days, but as I type this through tears, I want to leave you with one fine taste of who this man was.

A man who loved his community.

A man who was an incredibly proud and loving dad.

A man who didn’t deserve to be killed… much less to die in some cheap motel at the hands of cowards.

Sgt. Williams was a regular contributor for Law Enforcement Today.  But he was also incredibly humble and didn’t want attention – and so he asked us to hide his identity.

Brother Stephen, I hope you’ll forgive me for this from up there with the angels.

Today… as our hearts break for the loss of this great man, I’d like to leave you with a story he shared with us at Law Enforcement Today.

In his story, he says:

“I like to stop moving and just watch sometimes. You’d be surprised what will pass by right in front of you when you least expect it.”

Today… take a moment to stop moving.  Just watch.  Take it in.  Hold your families a little tighter.  Because you’d be surprised what will pass by right in front of you when you least expect it… time.

This was the man behind the badge.  This was the father.  Husband.  Community leader.  Brother.

This was the man who was murdered… for nothing.  

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