MILWAUKEE -- A Milwaukee County sheriff's deputy facing a charge of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle in connection with a January crash that killed a Milwaukee Public Schools lobbyist was involved in a similar crash less than two years prior, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday, May 18.
Joel Streicher, 50, killed Ceasar Stinson, 47, in the Jan. 25 crash near 10th Street and State Street while Streicher was on duty, prosecutors said. According to the complaint, Streicher told investigators he "looked away from the road to look at his squad computer," and indicated it "was possible he had driven through a red light."
At the scene, investigators found a black F-150 driven by Stinson, who was pronounced dead at the scene. A female passenger was extricated, and taken to the hospital. Prosecutors said the unmarked squad driven by Streicher was up on the sidewalk in front of the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility.
Prosecutors said Streicher was headed northbound on 10th Street in the 30 miles per hour zone, and noted in the complaint the crash happened in an intersection controlled by four traffic lights. Data from the squad's airbag control module showed Streicher was traveling at 29 to 30 miles per hour prior to the crash. Surveillance video from the nearby Milwaukee County Criminal Justice Facility showed all four of those traffic lights were red as Streicher's squad approached the intersection -- but he did not apply the brakes at any point. The lack of tire/skid marks on the roadway and data from the airbag control module confirmed that, the complaint said. The video showed Stinson, who was headed eastbound on State Street with a green light, passed on front of Streicher's squad as Streicher drove in the right lane. Prosecutors noted the right lane is a turn-only lane, and Streicher should have been in the center lane. That's because he indicated he intended to get on the freeway to continue his patrols, with the nearest northbound entrance near 11th and Highland -- which would require him to continue northbound through the intersection, the complaint said. The impact caused Stinson's vehicle to spin 180 degrees before rolling, and the squad ended up on the sidewalk.
The complaint said the video showed the lights were red for 11 seconds prior to the crash.
Streicher, who indicated he had been a deputy since 1996, told investigators he "did not have a memory of seeing any of the traffic signals or entering the intersection," and his "next memory was the crash." He said he never saw the victim's vehicle.
Prosecutors noted the Wisconsin Department of Justice's "Emergency Vehicle Operations Course Manual," which provides standards for those that operate law enforcement emergency vehicles, states that: "You must be continually alert to your environment and pay attention to the surrounding area as well as other drivers on the road with you," and, "Patrol driving takes more concentration than ordinary off-duty driving," and, "Do not try to read the screen while your vehicle is in motion."
According to prosecutors, Streicher was involved in a similar crash on July 25, 2018 near 11th Street and Highland Avenue. Body camera footage showed Streicher was driving the same unmarked squad and was exiting I-43 southbound at Highland Avenue in a left turn only lane. Streicher continued straight, and collided with another vehicle.
In April 2019, Streicher pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in connection with a prostitution bust.
Mark Thomsen with Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs, who represents the Stinson family, issued the following statement Monday:
"Ceasar's wife and daughter have been waiting three and a half months for this news and they thank the district attorney for taking this first step on their road to justice in the criminal system."
"Ceasar lost his father like I lost my father, and we lost our fathers to the same circumstances -- street violence," said Kwabena Antoine Nixon, a friend of Stinson who said he met Stinson in the late 90s while doing poetry in a jazz bar. "The world has missed a man who was a cheerleader and a leader for young black men throughout this country."
Nixon commended investigators and prosecutors for their work in bringing charges.
"It's a dubious feeling, but the closure would be to see action and justice in this matter," said Nixon.
Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas issued the following statement:
"The charge brought by the District Attorney’s Office moves the community one step closer to finding answers to this tragic crash that not only took the life of Ceasar Stinson but affected many more lives in the Milwaukee community. It also begins the process of healing and bringing closure to the family of Mr. Stinson. The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office will cooperate with the District Attorney’s Office investigation. In addition, the Sheriff’s Office internal review into this matter remains independent of the DA’s investigation to ensure integrity throughout the process."
Streicher was placed on administrative leave following the crash. If convicted on the charge, he faces up to 10 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.