Society

Prosecutors: Inmate's Water Cut Off 7 Days Before Death

| by Michael Allen

Terrill Thomas died in the Milwaukee County Jail after reportedly spending seven days in solitary confinement without running water in April 2016. The 38-year-old inmate died on the eighth day from profound dehydration.

The jail is under the control of Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump. Clarke told The Associated Press via email in March that the media didn't report Thomas' alleged crimes:

I have nearly 1000 inmates. I don't know all their names, but is this the guy who was in custody for shooting up the Potawatomi Casino causing one man to be hit by gunfire while in possession of a firearm by a career convicted felon? The media never reports that in stories about him. If that is him, then at least I know who you are talking about.

Numerous media sources have reported Thomas' alleged crimes, including The Washington Post, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Associated Press, USA Today, RT and the New York Daily News.

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Thomas was locked up after he allegedly shot a man, whom he believed had stolen his Mercedes-Benz, drove to a casino, told everyone to get on the floor, fired rounds inside the casino and believed there were snakes everywhere, reported The Washington Post.

Media outlets are reporting on Thomas' death because his sons have filed a federal lawsuit, and there may be criminal charges against Clarke's employees because jail workers are not allowed to abuse detainees in the U.S., regardless of the crimes the inmates are charged with.

Thomas was awaiting trial and had not been convicted in this case.

Prosecutors began releasing details of Thomas' incarceration on April 24 during an inquest into the mentally ill inmate's death, notes the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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Thomas reportedly began his incarceration as loud and belligerent, but he quietly lost nearly 35 pounds, and became dehydrated and weak.

During the inquest, the prosecutors will lay out their case and interview witnesses in front of a jury, which will vote unanimously on whether there is probable cause for criminal charges.

The prosecutors will not have to follow jury's verdict, but the inquest may give prosecutors some idea of their chances for a future conviction.

Assistant District Attorney Kurt Benkley said three corrections officers turned off the water to Thomas' cell, based on jail surveillance videos, after Thomas had flooded a cell.

According to Benkley, those same three officers did not document the water turnoff or tell their supervisors.

"This order to shut off Mr. Thomas' water was highly irregular and contrary to standard operating procedure in the jail," Benkley stated.

Benkley went on to say that Thomas apparently didn't get water or other fluids during mealtimes. Inmates are supposed to be able to drink water from their cells' sinks, but Thomas could not.

Benkley said Thomas' bipolar disorder meant he was "was unable to tell people about his basic needs," and therefore did not tell the staff he needed water.

Inmates at the jail told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel how they informed the jail staff numerous times about Thomas' lack of water. There were reportedly 20 corrections officers working during the time Thomas was locked up.

Most of the corrections officers are expected to testify they did not know that Thomas' water had been turned off.

According to prosecutors, Thomas was never allowed out of his solitary confinement cell even though prisoners are normally given one hour of recreation each day.

Sources: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, AP via Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, USA Today, RT, New York Daily News / Photo credit: Satarupa Barua/Voice of America/Wikimedia Commons

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