Dead inmate's father: "It shouldn't have happened"

Terrill Thomas died from dehydration in cell
Posted at 10:05 PM, Sep 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-15 23:36:29-04

MILWAUKEE- The death of an inmate at the Milwaukee County Jail has been ruled a homicide. 

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office says 38-year-old Terrill Thomas died from dehydration with other significant conditions -- bipolar disorder, manic type.   

On April 15, Thomas was arrested for allegedly shooting a man in the chest outside his parents home on Milwaukee's North Side and then later firing shots inside the Potawatomi Hotel and Casino. 

Thomas died in his cell April 24. 

Thomas was being held in solitary confinement. Guards say they checked on him every half hour per protocol. They reported hearing a noise or movement every time they passed until their last check.

"We've been seeking help for him before he did what he did... before he ended up at the county jail," said TJ Thomas, the inmate's father.

TJ Thomas said it had been a struggle to get his son help for his mental illness, but can't understand why someone couldn't get him water.

"It shouldn't have happened. I'm upset about it, the whole thing," Thomas said.

The Medical Examiner's report says the cell was almost completely empty. There wasn't a blanket or mattress due to the inmate's destructive behavior, and that the water was turned off to the toilet.

TJ Thomas said he's had his suspicions about his son's death for months.   

"Didn't give him water, simple water," Thomas said.

The family's attorney is investigating all circumstances surrounding his death, including if other inmates knew Thomas was denied water.

"I hope it never happens to anyone else," Thomas said.

The District Attorney's Office says at the time of Thomas's death, there was an order to examine his competency to continue the proceedings.  The office says there is a pending investigation into the matter.

The Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office, which runs the jail, released the following statement Thursday:

"Earlier today, the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office released, via Twitter, a finding regarding MCSO inmate Terrill Thomas, who died in the Milwaukee County jail in April. The MCSO is not conducting this death investigation; has not received any updated findings directly from either the ME; MPD; or DAs Office; and is withholding employee internal investigations and will not be commenting on this matter until the completion of all investigative and review processes, and any resultant civil litigation."