Criminal Justice

Dehydration was cause of death for man who died in Milwaukee jail awaiting psych exam

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“Profound dehydration” was the cause of death for a Milwaukee man who died in custody while awaiting a court-ordered psychiatric examination.

Terrill Thomas’ April 24 death has been ruled a homicide by the county medical examiner’s office, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Inmates say they heard Thomas, whom the medical examiner said had bipolar disorder, beg for water days before he died, according to the newspaper. Officers reportedly turned off water in Thomas’ cell, six days prior to his death, because he’d flooded it and was acting erratically.

Thomas, 38, was arrested April 15 for shooting a man in the chest and allegedly firing a gun at a casino, according to the Journal Sentinel.

Charges against Thomas, 38, included first-degree reckless injury, possession of a firearm by a felon, recklessly endangering safety and theft of a dangerous weapon, Fox6Now reported in April.

Celia Thomas, his mother, has said that her son got upset when someone stole his Mercedes Benz on April 13. Terrill Thomas then caused a scene, because he couldn’t watch a gas station’s surveillance video. That prompted police to visit his mother’s home. She asked them to take him into custody, Fox6Now reports, but was told they couldn’t do that unless it appeared that he had committed a crime.

On April 14, he allegedly fired several shots toward a group of men when he thought he saw the man who made the theft; a 25-year-old man was taken to the hospital with a gunshot wound to the chest. Celia Thomas told police that the shooter was her son.

A few hours later, on April 15, he was arrested at the Potowatomi Hotel & Casino. Terrill Thomas told police he’d seen “a whole lot of snakes” in the casino. Witnesses told Fox6Now that Terrill Thomas had fired two shots, but no one was hit.

The homicide ruling in Thomas’ death does not mean that county jail employees committed a crime, the Journal Sentinel reports, and the medical examiner uses the term to indicated a death “at the hands of another.”

The district attorney’s office would not comment on whether it will press charges, according to the Journal Sentinel. A statement from the Milwaukee County sheriff’s office said it would not comment on the matter, or commence an internal investigation, until outside reviews and investigations, including civil lawsuits, were finished.

Tiffany Robertson, Thomas’ cousin, told the newspaper that her family was speaking about their options with a lawyer.

“I never want another family to have to feel like what we feel like right now,” she said.

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