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Remembering a rider murdered by hate

Empower Wisconsin | July 31, 2020

MADISON — Randy Schmidt and hundreds of his motorcycle-riding friends want to make sure Phillip Thiessen is remembered for how he lived — and for how he died. 

Wisconsin’s mainstream certainly hasn’t shown much interest in the murder of the Marine and long-time law enforcement agent, killed, according to the criminal complaint, by a Trump-hating man with a poisoned idea of Harley riders. 

Schmidt is one of the organizers of the Benefit Ride for Thiessen, set for 10 a.m. at the American Legion Foxhole Bar in Fond du Lac. Kickstands up, as they say, at 11 a.m. for a 50-mile ride, including a slow ride past the accident scene. 

The riders know the crash that killed Thiessen was no accident, though. 

“We want to give a show of support and a lot of attention to what happened,” said Schmidt, who lives in Grafton. 

As Jake Curtis reported this week in National Review, Daniel Navarro, 27, is accused of swerving his pickup truck head-on into Thiessen on July 3 as he rode his Harley in the town of Taycheedah. 

“Navarro does not appear to have known Thiessen. However, on seeing Thiessen, he allegedly intentionally swerved his truck head-on into the Harley-Davidson carrying Thiessen. The criminal complaint lays out in painful detail the thought process of a clearly deranged man,” Curtis wrote. 

Citing “recent events” and the “racial climate in the United States,” Navarro referenced a “silent majority that voted for Donald Trump as president and the political and racial tensions in the news lately, including racial tensions related to President Trump.” According to the complaint, he emphasized that “if Trump and white people are going to create a world like we are living in, then he has no choice and people are going to have to die.” 

Curtis continued: 

Deciding to act on this rage, Navarro is alleged to have “intentionally swerved his truck” into Thiessen head-on because all Harley riders are “white racists.” Lest there be any doubt as to the intentional nature of the act, according to the complaint, Navarro had been “thinking about targeting a white person and killing them with a vehicle earlier that day,” and he “picked a motorcycle because he wanted the person to die,” because “white people drive motorcycles,” and “the Harley culture is made up of white racists.”

As Curtis noted, save a few local news outlets, Thiessen’s tragic death received little attention. 

After Curtis’ piece in National Review, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel finally decided to cover the incident, nearly three weeks after Thiessen was killed. 

“In all honesty, I hadn’t heard about the story myself until a week later. A friend sent me an article out of Virginia,” Curtis told Empower Wisconsin. “It bothered me for two weeks that nobody at the Journal Sentinel or the (Wisconsin) State Journal thought it was worth covering.” 

“When you look at the current narrative the left is pushing on race relations, it’s so poisonous. To not provide coverage for something that doesn’t fit their narrative only proves they are going to push one side of this whole debate. It’s just sad.” 

Thiessen is a retired cop in a time when cops’ lives don’t seem to matter much to many on the left. As Curtis wrote, Thiessen was Born in Milwaukee, and was a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, serving for four years after graduating from L. P. Goodrich High School in Fond du Lac. After his military service, he devoted the next 26 years to the police department of Fairfax, Va. He returned to Wisconsin to finish his career in law enforcement by serving as a Wisconsin Department of Justice special agent, working in the Internet Crimes Against Children unit. He leaves behind a daughter and grandchildren.

Schmidt and the organizers of Saturday’s benefit ride want to send a message that hate — no matter where it comes from or where it’s directed — is ripping this nation apart. There’s a bond between bikers, he said. They live by a code: Ride free or die. He said that transcends race, it transcends politics. 

“To be categorized at all as hateful doesn’t reflect what motorcycle riders are today,” he said. “Phillip was an innocent motorcycle rider. If he would have been wearing his helmet and had been a different race, he would have been killed, too. That’s the total definition of prejudice.” 

Benefit Ride for Marine Phillip A. Thiessen

When: From 10:00 a.m.- 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1. Ride begins at 11 a.m.

Where: American Legion Foxhole bar in Fond du Lac 

What: Includes a benefit raffle/ Silent auction with gifts, goodies and gift cards as well as donation buckets for the family with all proceeds going to Phillip’s daughter and grandchildren. There will be a Brat/burger fry and full bar available for drinks. 

Extra parking is available at the fairgrounds and Ice center as well as on the road.

For more information check out the benefit website here. 

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