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Terrill Thomas, 38
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
April 24, 2016

Agencies: Milwaukee County Sheriffs office Wisconsin

Last updated: 3 months ago

Summary Help icon

The death of an inmate in the Milwaukee County Jail has been ruled a homicide, four months after corrections officers reportedly cut off his water supply for an extended period of time.

The cause of death was dehydration, with other significant conditions including bipolar disorder, according to autopsy results released Thursday by the Milwaukee County medical examiner's office.

Terrill Thomas, 38, was found unresponsive in his cell on April 24, nine days after being arrested for shooting a man in the chest and later firing two shots in the Potawatomi casino.

His family said he was in the throes of a mental breakdown when he was arrested. At the time of his death, he was awaiting a court-ordered psychiatric examination.

In July, the Journal Sentinel reported that inmates in cells near Thomas heard him beg for water days before his death and saw the water faucet in his cell had been shut off. Police investigating Thomas' death then interviewed the inmates. 

The water in Thomas' cell had been shut off for six days, according to the inmates. They said corrections officers told them his water was turned off because he had been flooding his previous cell and was acting erratically.

Testing after Thomas died revealed "profound dehydration," according to the medical examiner's office.

The county jail is overseen by the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office. Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. did not respond to a request for comment. A statement issued by his office Thursday afternoon said there would be no comment or internal investigation of employees until all outside reviews and investigations were completed, including civil lawsuits that could be filed by the inmate's family.

On Thursday, September 15, 2016, Milwaukee County coroners ruled the April dehydration death of bipolar inmate Terrill Thomas a homicide.

Legal Action Help icon

February 2018 Three Milwaukee County jail staff members charged in dehydration death of inmate Terrill Thomas.

Prosecutors say contractor Armor Correctional Health Services employees falsified health records of inmates, failing to check on inmates despite notes they did. “Had Armor Correctional medical staff actually performed the assessments that they falsely recorded in Mr. Thomas’ patient healthcare records, medical staff may have identified Mr. Thomas’ fatal medical distress,” the complaint states. The false records were confirmed by jail security footage, showing that Thomas’ vital signs were not checked. The District Attorney has filed criminal charges against Armor; seven misdemeanors for falsification of records.