Home / Badge Abuse / ‘Hero’ Sheriff Clarke Sued for Dehydrating Man to Death as He Begged for Water

‘Hero’ Sheriff Clarke Sued for Dehydrating Man to Death as He Begged for Water

Milwaukee, WI — Terrill Thomas’ life gradually slipped away as he languished behind the bars of a solitary confinement cell begging guards for water after they shut it off — a request repeated vociferously by fellow inmates nearby — but for at least six days, at least ten jailers ignored his cries for the most basic human need.

“Prisoners confined near Terrill Thomas’s cell overheard his cries for water for days,” court documents state, “yet correctional, medical and psychological personnel ignored those cries and never gave Terrill Thomas water, presumably as some misguided form of punishment or retribution for the alleged crimes that brought him to the justice facility.”

Thomas eventually succumbed to dehydration — he died because guards in the Milwaukee County jail never bothered to turn the water that had stopped flowing to the 38-year-old’s cell back on.

Now, Thomas’ children — Terrill Barnes, Curtis Piggee, and Amari Thomas-Acosta, a minor, and his mother Michelle Thomas-Acosta — have filed a lawsuit against Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, Jr., saying their beloved family member endured appalling torture by dying of thirst.

In fact, guards systematically shut off water to Thomas and other inmates, the lawsuit contends, meaning his death was not only preventable, but cruel.

According to the complaint, Sheriff Clarke “was deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs and Constitutional rights” of Thomas, and “ignored the Justice Facility’s staff’s lack of sufficient training in policies and procedures, both written and unwritten, to adequately address” Thomas and “other inmates in need of medical care.”

Clarke, who did not comment publicly on the lawsuit, has been particularly indurate in discussing the death of Terrill Thomas — despite contention and negative publicity surrounding the case, the sheriff has claimed to the media he doesn’t even know the name of the man who perished in the jail he oversees under horrific, inhumane conditions.

Instead of offering condolences to the family, Clarke arrogantly scolded the press — and suggested the crime Thomas committed was befitting the death penalty.

“I have nearly 1000 inmates. I don’t know all their names but is this the guy who was in custody for shooting up the Potawatomi Casino causing one man to be hit by gunfire while in possession of a firearm by a career convicted felon?” Clarke reportedly stated in an email to the Associated Press, according to Courthouse News Service. “The media never reports that in stories about him. If that is him, then at least I know who you are talking about.”

Milwaukee County, the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division, Armor Correctional Health Services Inc., Richard E. Schmidt, inspector for the sheriff’s office, and two corrections officers are also named in the wrongful death lawsuit.

Milwaukee police arrested Terrill Thomas after responding to calls of shots being fired at the Potawatomi Casino on April 14, 2016. Once charged, Thomas was transported to the Milwaukee County jail, where corrections officers immediately placed him in the special housing unit — comprised of one-man cells locked down 24 hours per day — due to both his charges and alleged behavior.

Because inmates in the unit never leave their cells, corrections staff must diligently monitor their welfare and ensure no physical, psychiatric, or other issues go unanswered.

But, in the case of Thomas, that didn’t happen.

In fact, as the lawsuit explains, the water to the man’s cell was turned off at some point — leaving him without a drinking source or even water to flush the toilet. Fellow inmate Marcus Berry also yelled for corrections staff to procure water for Thomas — particularly throughout the day before the man died.

“Mr. Berry was in a cell across from Terrill Thomas the last six days of Terrill Thomas’s life. Mr. Berry’s urging and pleas were repeatedly ignored by the defendants,” the 25-page court document states.

A guard discovered Thomas “lying naked on the floor of his cell” — a detail characterized as “normal behavior” by the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office — during a routine check on April 24, ten days after his arrest.

“They found Mr. Thomas at 1:37 in the morning,” said the family’s attorney during a recent press conference, as quoted by the Daily News. “He was in full rigor. That means for at least for to eight hours, this man was dead in that cell.”

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Corrections officers observed “dried blood around [Thomas’] groin and trailing down his right leg, which was clearly visible upon inspection of his naked body.”

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner ruled Thomas’ death by dehydration a homicide — but his children go further, saying in the lawsuit he had been “subjected to a form of torture by being intentionally and/or recklessly denied hydration.”

Notably, the lawsuit contends that — because Thomas had an extensive record, including multiple occasions incarcerated by the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office — authorities “had a well-documented history of medical and psychological issues or disorders,” and thus should have been familiar with the man and prepared to handle him appropriately.

Clarke, in particular, has faced a string of lawsuits related to inexcusable and inexplicable deaths in custody — including that of a newborn baby.

“[I]nmate Shadé Swayzer, who was eight months pregnant, gave birth alone in her maximum-security cell and her baby died hours later as a result of correctional staff’s alleged refusal to provide care,” Courthouse News reports.

Known for unabashed ambivalence to protesters, hatred of criminals, and authoritarianism paralleled only by Arizona’s notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Sheriff David Clarke is an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump and was recently passed over to head the Department of Homeland Security.

But the radical authoritarian naturally finds himself embroiled in controversy time and again, with such incendiary statements as what he told FOX News host, Jeanine Pirro, in 2015, on the subject of protesters:

“This slime needs to be eradicated from American society and American culture.”

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Thomas’ family seeks compensatory and punitive damages — and emphasize people experience difficulties, but they still have human, civil, and constitutional rights.

“In life you encounter times where you might not be yourself,” Terrill Thomas, Jr., noted during a press conference Friday. “People might judge you; they might think that you’re something that you’re not. This is the case where the people thought that my dad was something that he wasn’t.”

  • David Daisy May Boldock

    How to be your own one man judge, jury and executioner!

  • The Cat’s Vagina

    Even if the man’s crime actually DID warrant the death penalty, condemned prisoners aren’t put to death just any way you can make them die.

    • this is the product of a corrupt justice system based on retribution instead of rehabilitation. there is no money to be made by releasing productive citizens back into society only in a revolving door and job security that increases violent crime and endangers the rest of us .

      • The Cat’s Vagina

        Indeed. This is what comes of people hearing about someone being tortured almost to death in jail and flippantly remarking, “well it’s not supposed to be a fun place – don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”

        • not only does the US have the largest prison/jail population on the planet we also prosecute and imprison more citizens for none violent victimilless crimes against the state than the communist and totalitarian regimes.

        • Zackknowitall

          Then they can’t believe that innocent people end up in jail.

          • There’s only 17 million laws, regulations, ordinances, etc. to follow… it’s not that hard to be a criminal these days.

          • Zackknowitall

            What if the ppl who didn’t victimize anyone started drawing blood from ppl who are running the system do you think it would stop? What if cops, prosecutors, judges and juriors stayed getting popped for arresting, convicting and caging pot users and other victimless crime offenses?

    • 17

      Except for Uncle Ruckus. We already KNOW he’s guilty, so there’s no need for a trial, and we should take a vote as to how he be exterminated.

      • Guy

        Who ?

        • Anonymous

          Uncle Ruckus. “An old angry man who claims to have had a disease that started when he was a baby turning his skin color from white to black, he disassociates himself from other African Americans as much as possible as a result of this excuse, and is outspoken in his support of what Huey calls the “white supremacist power structure.” He is voiced by Gary Anthony Williams.” –Wikipedia

          Funny, that sounds just like our sheriff clarke friend!

          • Guy

            Then they could be long lost brothers or cousins ! Or Michael Jacksons clone for that matter ?

          • Anonymous

            sheriff Clarke IS Uncle Ruckus.

    • Anonymous

      Especially when you consider that the death penalty has to be adjudicated by a court of law. When members of your department do it without judicial sanction, then you are vigilantes. Yet, he hates vigilantes…But then, only blue lives matter to him. Well…blue LIES matter to us!

    • rtb61

      The law is clear, innocent until proven guilty, an innocent individual was tortured to death for fun.

  • no place is the fallacy of “innocent until proven guilty” more evident than this nations jails ………………………Citizens awaiting their day in court are treated as convicted hardened felons mostly effecting the poor and destitute who can not afford the right of bail.

  • JayGoldenBeach

    Regardless of the alleged actions of detainees, it is not Clarke’s place to decide who deserves water.

    The true character of a society is revealed in the treatment of its prisoners.

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    • Lord Humungus

      No, it’s his job to ensure his jails are being run properly… and see how this is far from the first incident in his jails and within his staff, his innocence is hardly plausible anymore. He allows this to happen.

  • I highly doubt that he went six days without water, although it is just barely possible. Let’s call it unlikely. Rule of threes says you can live three days without water. So this claim makes me think the lawyer is inventing and I would like to hear the other side of the story.

    • TechGump

      There are many people who’ve gone more than a week without water and survived. The standard is 3-5 days. 6 days is a push, but not crazy nor at all impossible. Considering his lack of sun exposure, sitting in an air conditioned building, and minimal activity levels from being in a cage, it actually is quite logical.
      Seeing the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner ruled Thomas’ death by dehydration, the lawyer doesn’t need to “invent” anything.

      • The Cat’s Vagina

        But… but… let’s hear the OTHER side of the story, the one that’s full of ass-covering rationale and straight-up bullshit!

      • permalink

        “sitting in an air conditioned building”

        They air condition buildings in Wisconsin during the winter?

        • TechGump

          Believe it or not, since I know it’s commonly assumed wrong, heating is also “air conditioning”, not just cooling, although I will grant you most people in the US and Canada use the word only to mean cooling only. To suit your semantics or ignorance, I can instead use the word “climate controlled”. Happy now?
          To air condition:
          to equip (something, such as a building) with an apparatus for washing air and controlling its humidity and temperature; also : to subject (air) to these processes

        • Anonymous

          Yes. Considering that if you have a thermally insulated building, even though it may be very cold outside, the heat produced by the bodies inside can cause it to become very hot without any cooling.

    • The Cat’s Vagina

      If they fed him during this time, it’s HIGHLY probable that he survived the extra days from whatever moisture was in the food.

      • Why would they feed somebody they were trying to kill?

      • Anonymous

        Actually, eating would cause you to dehydrate quicker.

    • roberto ribas

      the other side of the story? so if he died after only 3 days without water that is somehow ok??? There is no other side of a story to killing someone by depriving water, how are you so utterly stupid???

      • Yes, the other side. Anybody who thinks the only side is what they see in a lawyer’s brief is foolish. I simply do not find this story credible. They can turn off the water to individual cells? I doubt it. They let a toilet run dry, allowing sewer gas, rodents, and bugs into the whole building? I doubt it.

        • ^ psychotic right wing garbage

          • I’m sorry nobody ever took the time to explain to you why there is a bend in the toilet drain. Maybe you could Google it since you have so much free time.

    • I doubt that you have an IQ above room temperature.

      • It’s about 296 K in my room right now so you might be right, but it’s close…

    • billdeserthills

      At the age of 93, my Grandma decided she was done with the hassle of living and quit eating and drinking water, it took her 5 days to finally die.

    • Anonymous

      It depends. If it is really hot, then you will dehydrate faster. If it is cold, you will dehydrate slower. It is entirely possible to live 10 or more days without water.

  • Mark Skinner

    This is of course, an outrage. It needs to be challenged just as it is. I hope that justice prevails, but in America, cases like these have little chance of success. It’s not much better in Australia….my own country that I used to be so proud of. But it seems that the scum that has floated to the top, by robbing people under the protection of this apathy toward common man, always win because by floating to the top they have become a law unto themselves.
    I hope the lawsuit is successful, and by rights it should be. But I would not bet any money on it.

  • Guy

    To; Mr. David Clarke Jr. Sheriff, Milwaukee County, WI. U.S.A.

    It has come to our attention, that due to your direct and indirect actions while Sheriff & Supervisor Of Milwaukee County Jail. You have allowed inmates to die, due to lack of basic human needs, under the guise of and other forms of human torture, as the result of serving retribution for the crimes that they allegedly have committed, in one form or the other, against humanity.

    It is also noted Sir. That even though you state you do not know the name of every inmate at your facility, you are aware of the crimes they have allegedly committed, as well you attitudes, of thouse you are in charge of, as quoted by you, while giving interviews for National Television Broadcast, “This Slime Needs To Be Eradicated From American Society And American Culture!”

    You speak of people and your inmates from a viewpoint, that reduces them to the lowest form of insect, namely The Cockroach, as a form of vermin that needs to be eradicated from Human Society, and off the Planet, insinuating that we, would all be better off if they were gone and gotten rid of as a whole, similar to what was Adolf Hitlers & Gorings final solution was to the *Jews Problem* in 1938, that cause mass exterminations of 11 million people in the *Natzie Death Camps,* during the WW II War !

    Fortunately for us The American People, we see *You* for what you truly are, as the Devil’s Monster, while wrapped in the form of a human being, who is free to spout your hate, loathing and bigotry of mankind, who in your opinion, is anything less than what you are, in the form of A Perfect Man !

    Perhaps, it is now time for you to realize it is Yourself, that is less than perfect, who is viewed by us, The American People, as the blight on humanity, and encourage you to take “Yourself Out,” to do us all the most good of not having to deal with you any longer, as a overstuffed, conceded, igosticiale blowhard, fool of a man, such as yourself, that we would could all do a lot better without !

    Enjoy your brief, but miserable time on Earth, and don’t forget to write us all about it, when you shake hands with the Devil after you get to Hell !

    Regards and Salutations, You Miserable Old Fart !

    • permalink

      You do realize that a County Sheriff is only responsible to the “voters of the county” in which he is elected.

      Why do you think Sheriff Joe in AZ stayed on-the-job so long.

      All your social justice warrior whining will do little good in Sheriff Clarke’s jail.

      • Guy

        So what am I suppose to do or say ? Or is it nothing, that would satisfy and be more preferred by you, so as to be more Politically Correct in your opinion, rather than shake the tree and cause the rotten fruit to fall off. By saying nothing, we allow this to continue on and become as guilty as the Sheriff is !

        That’s the second time you have called me a “Social Justice Warrior Who Whines” Is that a new catch phrase of yours or did you just make it up. Simply amazing that you can put others down, having nothing good to say about em, while offering nothing in return. I suggest that you go *Suck On A Rock*

        • permalink

          You are supposed to say “Thank You” when I tell you a fact that you do not know.


          • Anonymous

            Whatever…you self-righteous snowflake.

      • random456

        Bitching about micro-aggressions and wanting to not have your gender assumed is “social justice warrior whining.” — Being upset that a man was tortured to death is not “social justice warrior whining,” and if you think so, you are a fucking psychopath that deserves the same fate as that psychopathic sheriff. Namely, a bullet to the head (humane death, not torture, for fucking horrible human beings).

        • permalink

          So in other words you cannot express any cognizant thought without the use of profanity…

          My, aren’t you the smart one.

          • random456

            Nope. I’m perfectly capable of expressing thoughts without profanity. The profanity is to get across the depth of outrage — something you would already understand if you had a slice of humanity inside of you. Please go die a slow death of dehydration.

    • Anonymous

      Hermann Goering.

    • Zackknowitall

      Do bad those going to hell cant get their quickly.

  • Gordon Klock

    One of the worst things about sheriff Clarke, is his ignorant sense of ‘moral righteousness’ affording him, a sense impunity behind his psychotic, malevolent, & blatantly cruel bullshit….
    Overgrown mean little kid, doesn’t give a damn about his prisoners, really comes across as though, would torture a little old lady to death, over an innocent misunderstanding…..
    (as long as he could accuse her of being “guilty”, of something, & it matters not, if she really was)…

  • doucyet

    If what they’re saying is true…….it’s so wrong. No matter how much I fuss with some of you folks about other shit. This depriving a man of water (and no doubt food) until he dies is beyond comprehension.

    • Jason Werner

      Wow, fascism you can’t even find a way to defend? It must be bad indeed….

      • doucyet

        Pretty bad! Did you read it?

  • Jabsdna

    Oh I see now, the key is, he was chosen by the REAL President , and MUST be punished now !!! If this has gone on for so long, why bring it up now ??????????? I DON’T BELIEVE ONE WORD OF THIS, about Clarke !!!!!!!!!!!

    • Guy

      While the Jew’s were being cremated in the ovens in Auschwitz and other death camps located in Germany and elsewhere in 1938. Adolph Hitler was their President, and the local populations to these camps had no clue to what was happening, except they did complain about *About A Strong Odor* coming from the direction of the camps ! After the liberation and defeat of the Natzies, the German people were led into the camps to see for themselves the atrocities committed by the soldiers and guards to the Jews and others, that Hitler, Goring, Goebbels and his other Generals thought up, as the Final Solution To The Jewish Problem !

      Those that refuse to believe or accept the History Of Our Past, are Condemned To Relive It In Our Future !

      • Anonymous

        They also were told that THEY themselves were doing it.

    • ^ dumber than a sack of rocks, typical right winger and Trump supporter

      • Guy

        I am a “Trump Supporter,”so see nothing wrong with that ! But as you said “Dumber Than A Sack Of Rocks,” That to me, just proves the point that you don’t have to be either a Democrat or Republican to be an *Idiot.* The only requirements needed, is to be both Blind & Stupid, and to believe everything that is feed to you by the media, as gospel truth !

    • Anonymous

      What? It has nothing to do with who chose him for anything. He is an Uncle Tom.

  • Bob Btme

    let’s face it, the murderers won’t stop until we stage a general strike. Everything else is just whining.

    We are all continuing to pay this sadist’s paycheck every week. Don’t forget that.

  • anonomyssy

    This is horrific, but this may also be what happens when you cut wages for the guards, These guys earn somewhere around $15 an hour (more or less), as inhuman as this all is, maybe if they paid a decent wage, they’d get decent people working there. It had to have been a group effort, dying of dehydration doesn’t happen overnight, and the response from the jail is sociopathic. Some heads need to roll, and some charges need to be pressed.

    • Guy

      My Brother-In- Law’s Brother, who worked and retired from San Quentin Prison here in Calif, as a Guard. Made as a starting salary of over $70.000.00 per year plus benefits, not including overtime, that pushed it well above $100 K per year ! When he retired 20 yrs later, he was well over $175 K per year at the age of 57.

      • Anonymous

        And a guard working for a private prison makes a whopping $9.50 an hour. Starting salary of $70k a year? That puts him in the top 10% of pay. Typically starting pay is less than $27k a year.

  • Zackknowitall

    Let’s say hypotheticaly it was my kid who these pigs murdered. Those pigs would need to build new family’s and learn how to eat through a straw.

  • Brett Rapley

    That scum bag piece of shit need a fucking lesson in humility. Who the fuck does he think he is. I hope they throw that bastard in prison, because he won’t last 5 minutes in there, He is one complete twat and it’s about fucking time, your piece of crap government did something about it. ARSEHOLES !

  • NON beliver

    When Reprisals Do come, they rarely wait for you to clock-on…they come right to your doorstep and kill everything you love. Watch your backs Oinkers.