A former commander and two other jail staff members have been charged with felonies in the 2016 dehydration death of an inmate at the Milwaukee County Jail.
Terrill Thomas, 38, was found dead in a cell on April 24, 2016, nine days after being arrested in connection with a shooting. Other inmates heard Thomas beg for water in the days before he died, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
An inquest into Thomas’ death in 2017 found that jail employees had kept him in his cell for seven days straight after cutting off his water supply. A Milwaukee County medical examiner said Thomas, who reportedly had bipolar disorder, died of “profound dehydration.”
On Monday, Sheriff’s Maj. Nancy Evans, Lt. Kashka Meadors and corrections officer James Ramsey-Guy were charged with felonies in relation to Thomas’ death. Meadors and Ramsey-Guy were charged with abuse of a resident of a penal facility. Evans was charged with felony misconduct in office, as well as the additional misdemeanor charge of resisting or obstructing an officer.
Meadors allegedly gave the order to turn off Thomas’ water after he attempted to flood his cell, and Ramsey-Guy allegedly carried out the order, WTMJ reported.
As the commander at the time, Evans oversaw daily operations at the jail. During the inquest last year, prosecutors questioned her about whether she misled investigators, noting the disappearance of several days’ worth of surveillance footage around the time of Thomas’ death. Evans was previously accused of misconduct in 2012 for giving her boyfriend thousands of taxpayer dollars via a bank account she created in his name. Prosecutors decided not to press charges at that time.
Last year, a jury recommended felony charges against seven Milwaukee County Jail ― but only Evans, Meadors and Ramsey-Guy have been charged so far.
HuffPost included Thomas’ death in an investigative project examining jail deaths across the United States in the year after Sandra Bland died in police custody in 2015. Thomas was one of several inmates to die over a short period of time in the Milwaukee County Jail under former Sheriff David Clarke.
An outspoken Trump supporter and critic of the Black Lives Matter movement, Clarke is a regular presence on Fox News and a prominent supporter of President Donald Trump who spoke during the Republican National Convention in 2016. He said in May 2017 that he was in line for a position within the Department of Homeland Security, but later rescinded his acceptance of the post.
Clarke resigned as sheriff in August 2017, the same month that Thomas’ family filed a lawsuit alleging that Clarke “knowingly sanctioned” jail officials’ decision to cut off inmates’ water supply as a disciplinary measure.
The sheriff’s office did not respond to a request for comment.