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As they walked the three blocks to their hotel, a large, rowdy group of men approached, he said. As Thole and Powell went around them, one said something to Powell, who approached him. Three men from the group then rushed toward the officers and one man was held back by his friend, Thole said.
“I told them we were off-duty cops and we weren’t looking for any trouble,” he said.
At that moment, he said, the man being held back lunged toward Thole and appeared to be ready to fight. Thole said he landed a punch and “was looking for an escape route” when a squad car approached. Several of the men were slipping away as Thole tried in vain to get the officer to apprehend them.
Thole said he told the officer he didn’t want his name in a report because the case would go nowhere. He also said that “we have a lesbian chief that’s looking to fire people for any reason.”
He said he made the remark out of frustration over the officer’s lack of response and out of concern that the report might be used against him because, he said, Harteau had removed several longtime SWAT members for no apparent reason.
During the scuffle, Powell suffered a black eye and cut lip. When Powell decided to file a report, Thole said a lieutenant at the police station didn’t take them seriously.
“We were pissed, but we weren’t looking for any preferential treatment,” Thole said.
‘Turned into Lucifer’
Green Bay Police Department Lt. Chad Ramos declined to comment on Thole’s account.
During the investigation, his department sent a 40-page report about the incident to Minneapolis police. There were also multiple videos from squads and the police station lobby.
Thole said he tried to apologize to Harteau for his reference to her sexual orientation, but that she declined to meet with him. He said he hired a diversity counselor to talk about the incident and was assured that he didn’t have issues with gay people. He said he finds it ironic that one of the officers he worked often and well with during his burglary investigation was Sgt. Holly Keegel, the chief’s then-domestic partner (the two were married in August).
Thole said he strongly believes that his firing was politically motivated and that Harteau was backed into a corner.
But in her interview, the chief denied that Thole’s comment influenced her decision.
“The fact that people would believe that I would actually use something personal and so benign to influence my decision is very disappointing to me,” she said.
Thole said his life of public and military service has been upended by the firing. He briefly contemplated not appealing it, he said, but concluded that “why wouldn’t I fight allegations I didn’t do?”
“But you can’t repair the damage,” he said. “I’ve been turned into Lucifer.”
David Chanen • 612-673-4465