Prosecutors say 38-year-old Terrill Thomas did not have access to water for seven days before he died of dehydration in his cell in the Milwaukee County Jail.
“It should have been the toilet water. Just the toilet water,” Lt. Kashka Meadors of the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office testified on Thursday. “I instructed to have the toilet water cut off because he was flooding the toilet.”
Thomas died on April 24, 2016 and exactly one year later prosecutors launched an inquest to determine who, if anyone, is criminally responsible for his death. Three other people, including a newborn baby, have died in the Milwaukee County Jail since Thomas’s death last April.
Thomas’s death was ruled a homicide by the Milwaukee Medical Examiner’s office last fall leading to more questions about what happened and why.
Jail employees and several others testified throughout the week, sometimes giving conflicting reports of what happened during the week leading up to Thomas’ death, according to CNN affiliate WITI, which was in court.
“No one informed me that his water was off,” Officer Thomas Laine testified. He was one of several corrections officers who testified that they were not aware that Thomas had no access to water, according to CNN affiliate WITI.
Part of the confusion was due to the fact that the decision to turn off the water was never logged, according to Lt. Meadors’ testimony.
“It ought to be noted, but it is not noted in the logs like it should be. Probably because it happens so often,” she said in testimony.
Lt. Jeffery Andrykowski, who was working the day Thomas was found dead in his solitary confinement cell, testified that shutting off water to a cell as punishment was against jail protocol, according to CNN affiliate WITI. He also denied knowing that Thomas had no access to water.
But the Milwaukee Police Department, the agency investigating Thomas’ death, painted a different picture. Detective Kyle Mrozinski told the court that inmates housed near Thomas recalled him begging for water.
Mrozinski recounted what inmate Marcus Berry told him during the course of his investigation. “Mr. Berry said that starting on Monday and every day after that, Thomas asked every CO for water because the water in his cell was shut off,” Mrozinski said.
Separately, Thomas’ family filed a 25 page civil complaint against Sheriff David Clarke, who oversees the jail, Milwaukee County and several other jail officials. The lawsuit claims the defendants deliberately failed to appropriate medical attention for Thomas and deliberately and willfully failing to render medical care.
The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office has not returned CNN’s request to comment and has been largely silent on Thomas’ death as the investigation continues.
Thomas was arrested on April 15, 2016 on felony firearms charges and reckless endangerment charges after he fired shots in a local casino, according to court documents and CNN affiliate WITI. All charges related to his arrest were dismissed after his death.
The inquest continues Monday as the prosecutor’s office continues to call witnesses before a jury of six people. After witnesses testify and all evidence is presented, the jury will determine if there is adequate grounds to file criminal charges and make a recommendation. Prosecutors are not, however, obligated to follow the jury’s recommendation.
As the inquest continues, groups plan to rally in Milwaukee Monday to call for the resignation of controversial Sheriff David Clarke. Clarke oversees the Milwaukee county jail and his opponents are critical of his plan to crack down on immigration as well as his management of jail.