February 03, 2021

Thomsen and Sulton File Lawsuit Against City of Milwaukee and Five Police Officers After Child Left in Minivan Overnight

Attorneys Mark Thomsen and William Sulton of Gingras, Thomsen and Wachs Lawyers have filed a lawsuit in Milwaukee County Circuit Court against five police officers and the City of Milwaukee for negligence as well as actions violating the Fourth and 14th Amendments.

The claim arises from an incident that occurred in November of 2018 in which a four-year-old child, identified only as F.K., was sleeping in the backseat of a minivan when her mother, the driver of the van, was arrested by City of Milwaukee police officers on suspicion of drunk driving.

Despite being told by the driver that there was a child sleeping in the backseat, officers towed the car with F.K. still inside. She was taken to a City of Milwaukee tow lot and left overnight in freezing temperatures that dropped as low as 19 degrees Fahrenheit — with a wind chill of five degrees Fahrenheit.

F.K. was finally found the next morning when a city worker heard the girl crying for her mother.

When asked for a comment on the case, Mark Thomsen said, “The city must step up and repair this mess of its creation. As a city taxpayer, I am stunned and ashamed of my city’s deliberate indifference to any justice.”

Only two officers involved in the incident received suspension, despite at least 10 city employees being involved in the towed vehicle. These officers were found to have violated Standard Operating Procedures by failing to thoroughly search a vehicle prior to tow. They additionally failed to activate their body cameras during the time of the arrest and search.

Thomsen and Sulton seek relief for F.K. and her family, arguing that the actions of the officers violated F.K.’s Fourth Amendment rights, as she was unlawfully seized while the vehicle was towed to the city lot.

They also assert that her 14th Amendment rights were violated for the alleged deprivation of due process, as she was left overnight in freezing conditions. The third and final negligence claim was filed in response to the officers’ failure to properly search the van.

Sulton spoke with TMJ4 News about the case and specifically called out the indifference of all responding police officers.

“They certainly knew that our client was in the back of that car because her aunt had said so. And when they took her mother down to the police station, she had said so.”

The lawsuit by Thomsen and Sulton seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for F.K.’s physical and emotional pain and suffering. It also demands a trial by jury.

Read the full complaint here.

Learn more about this case from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.