The family of a Milwaukee man who died of dehydration after jailers shut off water to his cell has been paid $6.75 million in a settlement with the county and others, an attorney for the man’s estate said.
Terrill Thomas died April 24, 2016, after being deprived of water for seven days.
In a 2017 inquest, inmates testified that they heard the 38-year-old begging for water for days, and jail officials said they were unaware the water to his cell had been turned off. Three county officials have since been sentenced to jail, according to local reports.
Ed Budge, a Seattle-based attorney who was part of the legal team representing Thomas’ estate, declined to comment on the negotiations or timing of the settlement, but he confirmed that the money has been delivered to the estate. He called the settlement one of the largest in history for a federal civil rights case involving an in-custody death.
“It reflects the callous disregard for Terrill Thomas’ life,” Budge told CNN on Wednesday. “We are satisfied that the settlement reflects the atrociousness of what happened, and it’s an appropriate result for this case.”
The lawsuit named Milwaukee County, then-Sheriff David Clarke, Armor Correctional Health Services, which was contracted to provide health care at the Milwaukee County Jail, and several other defendants.
Budge declined to say how much each entity is paying, but he said all defendants in the case have been dismissed. Court records indicate US District Judge Pamela Pepper dismissed the case May 13.
‘Just the toilet water’
Thomas was arrested April 15, 2016, and charged with reckless endangerment and felony firearms violations after he fired shots in a casino, according to court documents. He reportedly suffered from a mental disorder. All charges were dismissed after his death.
After Thomas was placed in a cell, he stopped up his toilet, causing the cell to flood. Lt. Kashka Meadors of the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office had Thomas moved to another cell and ordered that his water be cut off, she testified during the 2017 inquest.
“It should have been the toilet water, just the toilet water,” she said.
Officer James Ramsey-Guy shut off all water, as ordered, according to a criminal complaint, but he neither logged the action nor informed other corrections officers that the water had been turned off.
The jury in the inquest recommended that Meadors and Ramsey-Guy be criminally charged, along with then-jail administrator Nancy Evans, who was accused of covering up key portions of the surveillance video from Thomas’ cell.
According to the criminal complaint, Evans did not take steps to preserve footage that showed the water being shut off, and she did not tell investigators about the footage when asked.
Jailers sentenced to jail
Meadors and Ramsey-Guy were charged with felony neglect, and Evans faced a count each of felony misconduct and misdemeanor obstruction.
Meadors pleaded no contest to abuse of residents in a penal facility, and Ramsey-Guy pleaded no contest to obstruction, ending their criminal cases, according to CNN affiliate WITI.
Earlier this year, Meadors was sentenced to 60 days at the Milwaukee County House of Correction and was granted work release privileges, while Ramsey-Guy was sentenced to 30 days with the same privileges, the TV station reported.
Evans – whom WITI says Clarke handpicked to run the jail, which saw seven in-custody deaths in two years under her leadership – resigned last year. Her obstruction charge was dropped, but she pleaded no contest to the more serious charge. She was sentenced to nine months in the House of Correction in March.
Wellpath took over health care at the Milwaukee Jail and Milwaukee House of Correction on April 1.
CNN’s Linh Tran contributed to this report.