Testimonies Heard for the Death of Terrill Thomas, Who Was Deprived of Water for Seven Days While in Jail

Man's hands tightly holding the bars of his jail cell. (Photo: Instants/Getty Images)

Testimonies Heard for the Death of Terrill Thomas, Who Was Deprived of Water for Seven Days While in Jail

The family estate also filed a suit against Sheriff David Clarke.

Published April 28, 2017

Testimonies from inmates and correction officers of the Milwaukee County Jail are being heard this week to determine if jail staff will be charged for the death of an inmate who was deprived of water for a week.

On April 15, 2016, Terrill Thomas was placed in an isolated cell after getting arrested for allegedly firing shots inside Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, reported The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

While in holding, the water supply to his cell was turned off and he was not given water with his meals. Thomas died on April 24, 2016.

  1. When Thomas was in jail, other inmates told staff that he needed water and that the 38-year-old could not speak for himself due to his mental state. 

    During an interview, Erik Heipt — the lawyer representing Mr. Thomas’s estate — claimed Thomas, had bipolar disorder, reported the New York Times.

    “He was not operating in a world of reality," Heipt said of Thomas's mental state at the time of his jailing. “He needed mental health treatment, but instead of the jail treating his very serious mental health needs, they responded by punishing him for acting out.” 

    During his detainment, Thomas tried to overflow the toilet, which prompted jail staff to cut his water supply. 

    “Inmates are at the mercy of their jailers for basic life-sustaining necessities like water, food and medical care,” said assistant district attorney Kurt Benkley in a March court filing. “When a mentally ill inmate, like Mr. Thomas, is locked in solitary confinement without access to water, his life is totally in his jailers’ hands.”

    Additionally, the Milwaukee County jail did not disclose that they'd had a surveillance video of the entire week to Milwaukee Police, reported Fox6Now.

    "To not mention to me that you have video relevant to his access to water is unconscionable to me," Milwaukee police lieutenant Eric Donaldson. 

    During the testimonies, lieutenant Kashka Meadors, the official who ordered the water off, spoke of how her decision was not unusual. 

    "It should've been the toilet water. Just the toilet water. I instructed to have the toilet water cut off because he was flooding the toilet," Meadors said. "It ought to be noted. But it is not noted in the logs like it should be, probably because it happens so often, sad to say."

    "I don't know if I could have prevented it," Meadors added.

  2. Thomas's family lawyer said he planned to file a federal civil rights case on behalf of Mr. Thomas's estate. In addition, one of Thomas's children has filed a separate federal civil suit against Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County and his staff. The jail that held Thomas falls within Clarke's jurisdiction. 

    Sheriff Clarke gained much attention over the last year for his support of Donald Trump and his advocacy for Blue Lives Matter.

Written by Rachel Herron

(Photo: Instants/Getty Images)

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