It’s been almost two years since Terrill Thomas died of dehydration while in custody at the Milwaukee County jail, and almost a year since jurors recommended that staffers at the facility be held liable in his death. On Monday, prosecutors finally announced that three jail staffers will be facing criminal charges in the death.
According to the Associated Press, jail Supervisor Kashka Meadors and jail Deputy James Lee Ramsey-Guy are both charged with neglect of a resident of a penal facility, which is a felony punishable by up to three-and-a-half years in prison. Meanwhile, jail Cmdr. Nancy Lee Evans is charged with felony misconduct and misdemeanor obstructing an office.
Prosecutors claim that it was Meadors who ordered Ramsey-Guy to shut off Thomas’ water, while Evans, who could be facing more than four years in prison, was the one who failed to keep surveillance footage showing the water turned off, and then lied to police about what that footage showed.
According to the report, investigators asked Evans in a questionnaire if there was any documentation showing whether the water had been turned off the entire time Thomas was incarcerated or intermittently. Evans signed a document claiming that “there is no documentation indicating this.” Later, prosecutors said that Evans was, in fact, aware that there was a tape showing that the water to Thomas’ cell was turned off and never turned back on again.
Thomas, who grappled with bipolar disorder, was denied both water and a mattress for a full week at the jail, which was then run by “Blue Lives Matter” advocate, Donald Trump supporter and all-around windbag Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. Clarke, who was not involved in the inquest because he was not directly involved in the death, has since resigned to join a political action committee in support of Orange Julius.
Thomas’ family said that the then-38-year-old was in the midst of a mental crisis when police arrested him on April 14, 2016, for shooting a man in front of his parents’ home and then later firing a gun inside a casino.
“Our expectation when Mr. Thomas was brought into custody was that he would be kept safe. The allegations set forth in the criminal complaint document that that did not happen,” District Attorney John Chisholm said.
Prosecutors further presented jurors with jail logs showing that this was not the first time an inmate at that jail had been punished through water deprivation. Logs show two cases in which inmates had water to their cells turned off, both occurring within a month of Thomas’ death. One incident actually occurred a week after Thomas’ death.
Interim Sheriff Richard Schmidt told AP that the three staffers who have been charged were suspended Monday, and signaled that he would announce by Friday whether further discipline is needed, after his office conducts a separate investigation.
“My heart bleeds for these people,” Schmidt said. “I’m a human being, I have family members. If this turns out to be exactly the way they’ve been written, it’s horrific.”
The inquest jury had also recommended charges against four other staff members—JorDon Johnson, Thomas Laine, Dominique Smith and John Weber—but the district attorney declined to prosecute them.