Subscribe for 33¢ / day

The bank teller recognized the man as a regular customer and knew something wasn't right.

"Are you OK?" the 24-year-old teller mouthed to the 63-year-old man through the drive-thru glass at UW Credit Union on Wednesday afternoon.

No, he indicated wordlessly, he wasn't OK.

So the teller stalled the transaction, calmly asked a manager to call 911 and filibustered until police arrived.

If she hadn't done so, Monona Police Chief Walter Ostrenga said, "who knows what would have happened?"

Here's what did: The victim fled from the SUV and indicated to police the man was armed. The man rammed the car behind, then gunned the SUV forward and rammed into a Monona police car directly facing him. And an officer shot him dead.

Police identified the dead man Thursday as Daniel Thomas, a 30-year-old career criminal from Madison who kidnapped the man.

They didn't name his victim, the teller who alerted police about him or the two officers who risked their lives and ultimately killed him.

But Ostrenga did identify the four with a single word: "heroes."

When the victim gave the not-OK sign to the teller in the drive-thru, there wasn't time to tell of the "horrendous" string of events that led him there, as Madison Police Chief Noble Wray described them.

Thomas invaded the man's house, pointed a revolver at him, tied him up in the basement, looted his belongings and stole his debit card — before returning 15 minutes later.

The man, in his basement, heard noises above when Thomas returned and thought someone had come to his rescue, Wray said.

Instead, it was Thomas, and this time he ordered his victim at gunpoint to the man's car and drove to the man's bank to withdraw still more money.

Police arrive quickly

About four minutes after someone at the bank called 911, two Monona police officers approached in a squad car.

"They came up with a plan within seconds," Ostrenga said of the officers. It prevented Thomas from getting out into traffic, and ultimately resulted in harm to only one person.

The officers were placed on administrative leave pending results of a district attorney's investigation into the shooting, the chief said.

Paramedics arrived shortly after the shooting, but Thomas was already dead, about 90 minutes after the incident began. An autopsy was done Thursday and found he died of a "firearm-related injury," county coroner Barry Irmen said Thursday.

Police later recovered a revolver in the car near Thomas but weren't sure if he fired any shots, Wray said.

Wray said the kidnapping was the second home invasion in the same Waunona neighborhood Wednesday, and police suspect Thomas was responsible for both. In the first one, a man posed as a utility worker and attempted to enter a house but was rebuffed by the homeowner, Wray said.

When Thomas knocked on the 63-year-old's door, he was less subtle, pointing a revolver at the man immediately and demanding entry, Wray said.

Lengthy criminal past

Since the age of 17, Thomas spent much of his life behind bars. Most recently, he was released from prison Nov. 23 after having been returned there in June following an obstruction arrest.

Thomas' history with the juvenile justice system dates to 1992 when he was 12 years old, according to court records.

As a 17-year-old, he was convicted of first-degree sexual assault of a child and sentenced to the state's Serious Juvenile Offender Program. He was released to his father's custody in 1998. While on community supervision, he was arrested and convicted of robbing a man at gunpoint and was sentenced, this time as an adult, to five years' probation.

The state sought to have Thomas committed to institutional treatment as a sexual predator in 1999, but after a trial in July 2000 he was found to not meet the criteria.

Thomas was arrested and convicted twice for selling crack cocaine in July and August 2004 on Madison's East Side and sentenced to concurrent 1½ year prison sentences.

On Dec. 26, 2005, his birthday, Thompson escaped from the Thompson Correctional Center near Deerfield but was quickly arrested. He was sentenced in July 2006 to two years in prison.

In a May 2008 letter to Circuit Judge Daniel Moeser, he sounded hopeful notes about his progress behind bars.

"My son needs the father I am now, and not the boy I was two years ago," Thomas wrote. "Your honor, my recovery will not stop when these gates open."

— State Journal reporter Gena Kittner contributed to this report. Contact Dan Simmons at or 608-252-6136. Contact Ed Treleven at or 608-252-6134.