Corrections officer checked on inmate multiple times before his death

He said he did not know the water was turned off
Posted at 5:34 PM, Apr 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-28 18:34:18-04

A correctional officer who may have been the last person to see Terrill Thomas alive, testified Friday before a jury.

Authorities say Thomas died of dehydration on April 24, 2016, after spending seven days in the Milwaukee County jail without access to water.

Sheriff's Lieutenant Kashka Meadors testified Thursday that she ordered the water to be shut off on April 17 because Thomas had flooded his cell in the mental health unit.

Before he was transferred to the disciplinary unit, Meadors told another officer to preemptively shut off the water in his new cell.

Court testimony revealed that action was never recorded in a jail log or mentioned in a briefing and Thomas' water was never turned back on.

Officer Thomas Laine testified Friday that he had no knowledge of a water shut off in Thomas' cell.

Had he known, Laine says he would have done a more thorough wellness check on Thomas during his rounds.

"I was making sure he was breathing," Laine testified. "I could see the rise and fall of his chest."

According to jail records, Laine worked the evening shift on April 23, the night before Thomas was found dead in his cell.

In his testimony, Laine says he conducted checks on the inmates every 30 minutes starting at about 6:20 p.m.

Surveillance video backs up his story, showing him stopping multiple times at Thomas' cell.

He testified that he saw Thomas laying naked on the ground near the door of his cell and that he didn't have a mattress.

And that was how Laine found Thomas every time he walked by the cell, according to his testimony. He did inmate checks roughly eight times that night in a four hour period.

"You saw him laying on the floor for four hours, didn't that raise a red flag in your mind that something might be wrong with Mr. Thomas?" asked Milwaukee County Judge Francis Wasielewski.

Laine responded, "It did not. I work mental health unit and a lot of inmates are naked and sleep at all times of the day."

Laine went on to say sometimes they are on the floor with no mattress.

A doctor who oversees the jail medical staff also testified Friday saying that Thomas did receive medical care when he was first brought to the jail but after that, he would often refuse any kind of medical treatment.

Multiple correctional officers also testified Friday, all saying they did not turn off Thomas' water or know that his water had been turned off.

Two officers during this inquest have invoked their fifth amendment right not to testify.

The inquest, requested by the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office, will continue into next week.

The jury during this proceeding will have to determine if they feel a crime was committed and in that case, if anyone should face charges.

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