On April 24, a mentally ill man named Terrill Thomas was found dead in a cell of the Milwaukee County Jail. Although his death was labeled as homicide, a medical examination carried out by the Milwaukee County has revealed that the 38-year-old died as a result of “profound dehydration.”
Thomas died only nine days after his arrest in connection with a casino shooting. Apparently, in the days preceding his death, the man had flooded his prison cell, after which the water supply to him was blocked. Inmates reported hearing him begging for water and help for days.
Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr., a top law enforcement officer who happens to be a strong Donald Trump supporter and a critic of the Black Lives Matter movement, runs the jail.
Inmates reported that Clarke purposely deprived Thomas of water and they even told a guard: “If something happens to that man, it’s your fault.”
Attorney Erik J. Heipt is representing Thomas’ family in the case.
“They may well have had reason to turn off the water. There absolutely could be reasons why you’d want to turn off someone’s water in their cell. But to then not give them drinking water? That’s crazy. To make a human being die of thirst, where they have no ability to get their own water for survival, that’s pretty inhumane. It doesn’t get much worse than that,” he said.
Heipt pointed to another lawsuit involving a 25-year-old man who died of dehydration and malnutrition in a Island County Jail in Washington state. That case settled for $4 million last year.
Ever since Sandra Bland's death on July 13, 2015, at least 810 people have lost their lives in jail. A large number of them even go unnoticed, sometimes even unrecorded and it is about time this brutality ends.
Information that has surfaced during the case has revealed that Clarke received a $40,000 trip to Israel and Russia, made around $26,000 in speaking fees and locked up $22,500 in car services that shuttled him to various media appearances. He also took a plane flight valued at $9,000 to speak at an Idaho conference and even scored playoff basketball tickets from the Milwaukee Bucks' GM.
The sherriff’s office has refused to comment on Thomas’ death until investigations and civil lawsuits are settled.