The death of Terrill Thomas, 38, who died in his cell April 24 at Milwaukee County Jail, has been ruled a homicide. A coroner said his death was caused by dehydration.
Thomas, who was mentally ill, allegedly flooded his cell in the days preceding his death, and water in the cell was subsequently turned off. He was in jail after shooting a man in the chest and firing shots at a casino.
The community is outraged and calling for justice in the case.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Died in a Milwaukee County Jail Cell and His Death Was Ruled a Homicide
Fox 6 reported September 15 that Thomas’ death was ruled a homicide by the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner. The cause of death was dehydration paired with other significant conditions including bi-polar disorder.
In the days leading up to his death, Thomas begged for water, his family’s attorney, Erik Heipt told the station. “There was at least one other inmate, if not two, that became aware that Mr. Thomas’ water had been shut off and was repeatedly urging jail guards to turn the water back on,” Heipt said.
The medical examiner emphasized the fact that the term “homicide” in a death certificate is neutral and doesn’t indicate criminal intent.
“We’ve been seeking help for him before he did what he did… before he ended up at the county jail,” TJ Thomas, the man’s father, told TMJ 4. “It shouldn’t have happened. I’m upset about it, the whole thing,” he said.
“Intent or not the county was responsible for him. To die of dehydration is cruel and unusual punishment. Despite why he was in there it wasn’t his choice to die,” Richard Berndt told Heavy.
2. He Was Arrested in Connection With a Shooting at a Casino
Thomas was having a mental breakdown when he was arrested for shooting a man and firing shots at Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee, according to his family.
According to the criminal complaint, police spoke with a woman who indicated Thomas was her son, and said he fired four to five shots at six to seven males who were standing outside. One of the men was shot in the chest, and lived through the ordeal following surgery.
Court documents said Thomas aimed at a man he believed was responsible for stealing his Mercedes-Benz earlier in the month, Fox 6 reported.
3. Sheriff David Clarke Runs the Jail & Is Being Criticized for Deaths of Inmates
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who runs the jail Thomas died in and has been seen alongside presidential candidate Donald Trump, is being criticized for deaths at the facility.
A local newspaper, Shepard Express stated:
No one can be surprised anymore by the sheer contempt Sheriff David Clarke publicly expresses toward the human beings under his supervision housed in the Milwaukee County Jail.
But it should gravely concern citizens and other public officials to learn inmates may have died in that jail from a form of life-threatening punishment comparable to torture banned at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.
Clarke directed the Milwaukee Police Department to investigate Thomas’ death, rather than the sheriff’s office, to avoid any conflict of interest.
The sheriff spoke at the Republican National Convention on July 18, and you can watch the speech above.
4. The Community Is Outraged
“A simple glass of water would have saved this man’s life!,” Richard Parker posted to Facebook. That is the general feeling within the community, that something as simple as water could’ve prevented the tragic death of Thomas.
“And the 820th citizen killed by police this year… was right here in Milwaukee,” David Emiley said. “Denied water for 6 days, he died of thirst.”
5. He Was Facing 5 Charges at the Time of His Death
Court records said Thomas five charges: two counts of possession of a firearm by a felon, two counts of first-degree reckless injury and use of a dangerous weapon and one count of theft and use of a dangerous weapon in connection with the shooting.
The matter was scheduled for a status conference on April 27, but Thomas died three days prior.
*This story is being updated as information becomes available. Please check back for updates.