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La Crosse man charged with beating gas station employee over face mask request

Kaitlyn Riley

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The La Crosse County District Attorney’s Office filed charges last week against a man accused of attacking a gas station employee in November and trying to stop the victim from calling the police.

Keith Thames, 30, of La Crosse faces felony intimidation of a victim, felony bail jumping, misdemeanor battery, and disorderly conduct after an incident that took place at the Mileage gas station on Cass St. in La Crosse.

The victim was working the desk at the store when he said Thames tried to make a purchase on Nov. 11. When the victim asked him to cover his face, Thames became verbally confrontational. He knocked items off the front counter of the gas station, strewing them across the floor in the main lobby, according to the criminal complaint.

When Thames seemed to be leaving, he turned around and tried to replace some of the missing items from the counter. The victim told him he was going to call the police. That is when the verbal confrontation started to escalate, according to the criminal complaint. Thames went around the counter and smacked the phone away from his hand. Then, the victim said Thames starting hitting his head and face.

The victim told police he was hit 15 to 20 times. Officer Noah Grimm said he had scuffs, scrapes, bruises, and swelling on the left side of his face, and the swelling continued as he took the report.

Police used security camera footage to identify Thames’ appearance. He was spotted at the corner of 4th Street S. and Market Street, and officers made brief contact. He then ran through backyards and over fences to get away from police.

Later, law enforcement identified Thames and tried to contact him at his listed address. The resident said he moved and was not sure where Thames was staying.

A warrant was issued for his arrest, and charges were filed Dec. 14.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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