Lieutenant testifies she ordered inmate's water be turned off

She said it was due to his disruptive behavior
Posted at 4:00 PM, Apr 27, 2017

A lieutenant with the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office assigned to the jail, testified in court Thursday that she ordered the water in Terrill Thomas' cell turned off because of Thomas' disruptive behavior.

Authorities say Thomas died of dehydration after going seven days without water, while in custody at the jail on shooting charges.

In day four of the inquest into Thomas' death Thursday, Lt. Kashka Meadors said in her testimony that she was informed Thomas had flooded his cell in the mental health unit of the jail by stuffing pieces of his mattress in the toilet.

Surveillance video captured in a Milwaukee Police Department's holding cell shows Thomas after his arrest for allegedly firing shots inside the Potawatomi casino. He can be seen drinking water from a cup, likely one of his last cups of water before his death.

He was booked into the county jail and placed in the mental health unit due to his erratic behavior. 

He was then transferred to the disciplinary unit because of that behavior, but prior to his transfer Meadors gave the order to several officers to turn off the water to his toilet and remove his mattress until he "calms down."

"I said for right now, get rid of his mattress, turn off his toilet water cause we don't want him to flood and we'll put him in a cell," Meadors testified . "We're going to change him over but he was still acting kind of irate. I told him once he calms down we'll come back to him, we'll revisit it and then we will change him over and do everything."

Court testimony revealed that never happened, and Thomas went without water and a mattress for seven days.

When asked if Meadors followed up on her order later that same day, she testified that officers told her everything was fine and she didn't need to follow up.

"The officers called me because I was floors two through six that day and I was busy dealing with two guys in the mental health unit who had a lot going on and they called me and said everything had been taken care of," she testified. "Mr. Thomas had been changed over everything was good. I had no reason to come back, they took care of him."

Meadors testified that at the time of Thomas' death, it was common practice to turn off an inmate's water because flooding happened often.

She claims that at the time, she was overworked, and the only lieutenant covering four floors of the county jail. Her responsibility was to respond to any disruption in the jail and says she was very busy that day.

"I don't know if I could have prevented it," Meadors said. "I think if I wasn't so busy that day that if I would have had time I probably would have gone back."

Court testimony revealed that there was no record of Thomas' water being shut off in the jail logs. And there reportedly was no communication  between lieutenants about anything regarding Thomas' water while he was there.

Testimony also revealed that jail policy states an inmate should have 24 hour access to water in their cell. There is no standard operating procedure at the jail for turning off an inmate's water.

Following Thomas' death, policies have changed at the jail. Only a lieutenant has keys to the water chase where valves can be accessed. At the time, the keys were located centrally and any officer could access them.

Additional testimony is set to take place in this inquest Friday and Monday. The judge presiding over the case said it will likely go to the jury for a decision on Monday.

The jury will decide if a crime was committed and if any jail staff should face charges. Though the District Attorney's Office requested this inquest, they are not required to act on the jury's decision. 

The inquest began Monday into Thomas' death to determine if anyone should face charges. A six-person jury has been listening to testimony all week.

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