“The Thacker Case” is currently being filmed.
The city and police department were sued for its role in the incident. District Court Judge Michael Moon served as the lead attorney for the city’s insurance carrier.
“He was visiting his gay lover who was not at home and got into some booze and trashed the guy’s house, stole a bunch of stuff, put it in his car, and got picked up for erratic driving,” Moon said. “He failed the field sobriety test and was arrested for OWI.”
Thacker was taken to the police department for processing.
Former Marshalltown Assistant Police Chief Rock Templeton, now retired, was the investigator on duty the night Thacker died.
He reported that Thacker had asked to use the bathroom twice during processing. On the second time, the police officer walked in front of Thacker backed to processing area and Thacker fled while the officer’s back was turned, but instead of going outside, he went up a set of stairs.
Once making his way to the roof, he noticed beam jutting out toward the Coliseum’s roof.
“He got on that beam and jumped over the Coliseum roof and apparently slipped off and fell backwards,” Templeton said.
Others claim that is not the case — that he was actually taken into the alley and beaten. Evidence was retrieved from Thacker’s clothing that suggested he had come into contact with a petroleum product, such as might be on a paved road surface or roofing tar.
“What was really interesting and [actually happening with] the trial going on, was the FBI labs were actually working on this,” Moon said. “They were developing this machine that would do the very kind of testing we needed done.”
The family’s lawsuit claimed Thacker died wrongfully while in the custody of the police.
Pat Brooks, now a Marshall County supervisor, was then serving as the city attorney for Marshalltown and remembers the case well. He sat in as part of the litigation team.
Another theory was also suggested.
“His estate’s attorney, at one point, suggested that he was taken to the top of the police department and pushed off the roof,” Brooks said. “It’s unfortunate, as there was no evidence that suggested that.”
The jury was eventually convinced that there was a legitimate wrongful death claim and Thacker’s family was awarded damages.
“But the jurors felt that the police officer erred in leaving him alone in the police station, nothing else,” Brooks added.
The evidence showed Thacker was almost successful in the first part of his daring escape. Brooks remembers that an eaves spout had been bent on the Coliseum building. Also, a patch of the man’s clothing was found near the top of the building where it had caught and torn on something.
The evidence that had been sent to the FBI did not come back in time to be used at the trial, but it did show the petroleum product on Thacker’s clothing came from the roof of the Coliseum, both Moon and Templeton said.
With that, the city motioned for a new trial, but the insurance company decided it was better to settle and pay the $12,000 that had been awarded by the jury.
“That really [disappointed] us,” Templeton said.
The independent film stars Gabriel Mann, who also had a role in “The Bourne Supremacy.” Mann plays the role of attorney Stuart Pepper, who litigated the plaintiff’s case.
Co-starring is Eliza Dushku, whose most famous previous role may be from the television series “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer,” where she had a recurring character. In this film, she plays an assistant to Mann’s character.
Contact Ken Black at 641-753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org
This alley behind the Marshalltown Police Department is where Kevin Thacker died in 1983. Police say the man attempted to walk out on the beam (shown at top) and jump to the Coliseum roof, eventually falling from the attempt. At trial, Thacker’s family gave a much different theory.