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Dash Cam Video Helped Clear Wis. Officers

MONONA, Wis. --

Police dash cam video obtained by WISC-TV shows the gravity of an incident that unfolded outside a Monona credit union in December when a suspect who took a hostage was fatally shot by a Monona police officer.

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Police said Daniel L. Thomas, 30, of Madison, went on a crime spree that ended with an officer fatally shooting him outside a Monona credit union on Dec. 8, 2010.

The video shows just how quickly officers needed to act after Thomas kidnapped a 63-year-old man at gunpoint and took him to the UW Credit Union's Monona branch to withdraw money from the victim's account.

Police said the graphic squad car dash cam video proved to be instrumental in determining that all of the officers involved did what they had to do to minimize a very dangerous situation. District attorney Ismael Ozanne said the Monona police officer had no choice but to use deadly force.

Police said Thomas' crime spree started about an hour before the incident at the credit union. A 63-year-old man from Madison's Waunona neighborhood was robbed at gunpoint in his home.

Thomas, who had just been released from jail, had tied the victim up, stole his debit card and went to withdrawal money. Eventually, Thomas returned to the home and drove the victim to the UW Credit Union on East Broadway to force him to withdrawal money from his account.

Thomas pulled his sport utility vehicle up in a drive-through lane, but a quick thinking drive-through teller, who knew the victim as a regular customer, suspected something wasn't right.

"The suspect kept looking down," said Monona Police Chief Walter Ostrenga. "She (the teller) mouthed to the customer, 'Are you OK?' So at that time she was able to determine by the look on his face that he was not. She then began to stall on the transaction."

The teller informed a manager, who then called police.

Monona police responded to the scene, and a police squad car pulled in front of the SUV, blocking it in the drive-through lane.

Police said that's when the victim jumped out of the passenger side of the SUV and was nearly crushed to death as the suspect unexpectedly put the SUV in reverse, hitting the car behind him.

With nowhere to go, the suspect rammed the squad car in front of him, and another officer opened fire.

The video shows it took just nine seconds for the victim to barely escape death and the Monona police officer to open fire on the suspect.

"The Monona officer used deadly force to stop the threat as the subject continued to try to accelerate and smash into the squad car," Ostrenga said.

Five shots went through the SUV's windshield, and Thomas was struck by at least one of the bullets.

Thomas was still alive for a few minutes after being shot, even burning rubber as he tries to reverse the SUV one more time, the video shows. He eventually lost consciousness from blood loss and later died.

Ostrenga said the video was instrumental in defending his officers' actions and identifying the many heroes who stepped up that day -- the victim, the teller and his officers.

"They really, within seconds, made a critical decision, to keep that car contained where it was. They probably saved a lot of innocent lives that day," Ostrenga said. "This (video) was instrumental in having the documentation that we should show the district attorney's office, so that they could make the finding that the officer was justified."

It has taken nearly five months for authorities to release the dash cam video and audio. The Monona Police Department said it took so long because of how extensive the investigation was and the many different agencies involved, from Madison police to the Dane County Sheriff's Department, the Wisconsin State Patrol and the Department of Criminal Investigation.


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