Miami-Dade Schools cop dies a week after surgery for knee injured during arrest

Miami-Dade Schools police officer David Thompson, 53, died of a heart attack last week.
Miami-Dade Schools police officer David Thompson, 53, died of a heart attack last week. Miami-Dade Schools Police

In mid-January, veteran Miami-Dade Schools police officer David Thompson injured his knee while taking a high school student being questioned about a burglary into custody. A month later he underwent surgery to repair the damage. Last week, he died of a heart attack.

As of Thursday, the Broward County Medical Examiner hadn’t determined the official cause of death and schools police still hadn’t decided if Thompson’s death would be classified as in the line of duty. That’s important because it would mean a host of benefits for his family, like college assistance for his children.

Still, the death of Thompson, 53, is being treated as if he were killed while on duty. Services for the officer will include a full salute and a traditional ceremony from the department’s Honor Guard.

“He had a large impact on the department,” said Schools Police Chief Edwin Lopez. “He was a God-fearing faithful man with an everlasting presence in the community.”

Lopez said Thompson injured his knee on Jan. 15 at Miami Central High School when a student who was being questioned about a burglary started walking away from the officers and ended up behind them. Thompson ordered the 18-year-old student to move. He didn’t comply.

When Thompson tried to take him into custody, Lopez said, the student resisted. The officer lost his balance, fell and injured his knee. He was transported to North Shore Medical Center. The student was transported to jail. By late Thursday, school administrators had not released the student’s arrest report.

Lopez said that some time after Feb. 15, Thompson had surgery on his knee. The chief wasn’t certain which hospital did the surgery.

Then on Feb. 21, while he was home recovering, Thompson suffered a heart attack at his Miami Gardens home. He was transported to Memorial Hospital West in Broward County, but surgeons couldn’t revive him.

Thompson joined the schools police department 20 years ago after a stint with the U.S. Army, according to Lopez. He worked as a school resource officer at Central and William H. Turner Technical Arts High School. For the past 18 years he also served as a field training officer.

According to Lopez, Thompson turned down several opportunities to transfer schools or to work as a detective.

“He wanted to stay because of his impact with the kids,” the chief said.

A man of deep faith, Lopez said, Thompson would often lead police during prayers or read the invocation during Thanksgiving or holiday services.

Married with children and one grandchild who attends a Miami-Dade public school, Thompson loved to fish. Lopez said he often heard him talking about moving away from South Florida and fishing as part of the next chapter of his life.

A viewing for Thompson will begin at 3 p.m. Friday at the Greater Holy Cross Missionary Baptist Church, 1555 NW 93rd Terrace. That will be followed with a 7 p.m. memorial service at William H. Turner Technical Arts High School, 10151 NW 19th Ave. Thompson’s funeral service will be Saturday at New Birth Baptist Church, 2300 NW 135th St.

Chuck Rabin, writing news stories for the Miami Herald for the past three decades, covers cops and crime. Before that he covered the halls of government for Miami-Dade and the city of Miami. He’s covered hurricanes, the 2000 presidential election and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas mass shooting. On a random note: Long before those assignments, Chuck was pepper-sprayed covering the disturbances in Miami the morning Elián Gonzalez was whisked away by federal authorities.