Milwaukee County has paid $6.75 million to the family of Terrill Thomas, a man who died of dehydration while sitting in jail.
When Thomas was in jail in April 2016, the guards shut off the water in his cell because he flooded his previous cell by putting a mattress in the toilet. He died about six days later from dehydration. Other inmates said they heard him beg for water before he died.
The lawsuit specifically named former Milwaukee County Sheriff, David Clarke, who runs the jail. It alleges that he “knowingly sanctioned” the decision to cut off the inmates’ water supplies.
“The amount of pain and suffering that Terrill Thomas went through is really hard to comprehend, and a ton of this is captured on video,” James End, an attorney with First, Albrecht & Blondis who worked on the Thomas case, said. “The amount of suffering that Mr. Thomas went through was just tremendous, and that I think would be recognized by any person who took any time to listen to the facts of this case.”
“What happened to Terrill Thomas was a form of torture,” said Erik Heipt, one of the attorneys representing the Thomas estate. “He was a mentally ill man who needed help. Instead, he was deprived of life-sustaining nourishment — water. This is the sort of atrocity that should never happen in an American jail. Ever. There’s no excuse for it.”
Thomas was arrested on April 15, 2016 for shooting a man and then firing two gunshots inside a casino. He had suffered from bipolar disorder and couldn’t advocate for himself in jail or take his prescribed medication.
“While no amount of money will give Mr. Thomas his life back — or allow his children to spend another day with their father — it is our hope that this case sends a message to every single jail and prison in America that this type of blatant disregard for human life will not be tolerated,” a joint statement from lawyers for the Thomas estate said.