Fond du Lac man committed, hate crime motorcycle crash

Daniel Navarro, Phillip Thiessen

A Fond du Lac man, 29, convicted of first-degree intentional homicide with a dangerous weapon, hate crime enhancer in connection with the July 3, 2020 crash that killed motorcyclist Phillip Thiessen, was committed for life Thursday, Aug. 11.

The commitment was announced by Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney after Phase 2 of the jury trial for Daniel Navarro, who was convicted on the homicide hate crime charge Wednesday. The jury then moved to the second phase of this trial to address Navarro's plea of not guilty due to mental disease or defect to determine whether he should be sentenced to prison or committed for mental health treatment. 

Two doctors testifying Thursday said Navarro "experienced paranoid delusions from schizophrenia and was not guilty due to a mental disease or defect." Two jurors dissented.

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Navarro, a Mexican American man from Wisconsin, intentionally crashed his pickup truck into Thiessen, 55, a white motorcyclist "because he stated he believed the rider of a Harley motorcycle would be white and racist."

Navarro struck Thiessen's motorcycle head-on in the town of Taycheedah. Thiessen was a retired special agent with the Wisconsin Department of Justice and a former police officer. Navarro didn’t know Thiessen but targeted him because he was white.

Navarro told investigators he had been harassed by co-workers and neighbors and poisoned, drugged and verbally attacked by white people because of his race.

Daniel Navarro appears in Fond du Lac County court via video conference July 17, 2020. (WLUK image)

Daniel Navarro appears in Fond du Lac County court via video conference July 17, 2020. (WLUK image)

During an interview at the sheriff’s office, Navarro said he wanted to go to prison for the rest of his life so he could be free from his neighbors, who he could hear making racist comments through the walls of his house.

In October 2021, Navarro pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. A judge earlier that month ruled he was competent to stand trial. Online court records show multiple competency examinations throughout the proceedings. 

Wednesday's guilty verdict was reached after two and a half days of testimony and 45 minutes of deliberations.

Statement from Distict Attorney Eric Toney:

"This was a horrific act of violence born out of hate and a mental illness. The defendant intentionally took the life of Phillip Thiessen because he was white and riding a Harley Davidson Motorcycle. Phillip was an incredible man that helped some of the most vulnerable in our society as a retired Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation - Special Agent, a former Fairfax Virginia Police Officer, and a United States Marine. Phillip worked on internet crimes against children and was incredibly proud of the work he did to help kids. Phillip spent his 2 years of retirement volunteering at the Fond du Lac Food Pantry and spending time with his daughter and grandkids. Everyday Phillip would remind his grandson: "Do the right thing and help people." We encourage anyone that knows someone experiencing a mental health crisis to work to find their loved one help."