Milwaukee Jail Commander Under Fire For Shutting Off Water Supply Before Inmate Died of Dehydration

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By NY Post

A Milwaukee jail commander failed to tell police about the existence of surveillance video showing a guard shutting off water to the cell well before an inmate died of “profound dehydration,” prosecutors say.

Terrill Thomas, 38, was alone in his cell for seven days without water before he passed away on April 24, 2016, according to authorities. A weeklong inquest will determine whether jail staff will be charged.

A current and a former jail captain both testified Tuesday that the video showed a guard turning off water to the cell on April 17, before Thomas was transferred there. The inmate had stuffed a mattress in a toilet to flood the cell he was previously in.

Capt. George Gold testified that jail commander Nancy Lee Evans directed him to review the video the day after Thomas died and report to her what he saw. Gold said after the guard turned off the water he didn’t see anyone turn it back on.

“They lock him up and then they never let him out until they take him out dead, correct?” Assistant District Attorney Kurt Bentley asked Gold.

Gold said Evans “was very surprised” to hear what the video showed. But when Evans took the stand later Tuesday she denied Gold ever told her about the water being shut off and said it was several months before she became aware that dehydration was the cause of Thomas’ death.

Evans denied withholding evidence, but Bentley said Evans failed to order staff to preserve the entire video and did not mention it to police until almost a year later.

The exterior of the Milwaukee County Jail in Wisconsin.

The exterior of the Milwaukee County Jail in Wisconsin.

(GOOGLE)

“Why were you withholding this crucial evidence from the Milwaukee Police Department?” Bentley asked.

“I was not, sir,” she said.

Detectives asked her in a questionnaire last summer if there was any documentation showing whether the water was turned off the whole time or if it was turned on intermittently. The document Evans signed off on answered that “there is no documentation indicating this.”

Prosecutors say Evans was aware of the tape and what it showed by that point.

Bentley said Evans lied to investigators last month when she told them it wasn’t until months later that she asked Gold to review the surveillance video to check for the water being shut off.

Footage is routinely erased after a certain time, and only the latter half of the video was available by then.

Terrill Thomas died after being denied water for one week in his cell, prosecutors say.

Terrill Thomas died after being denied water for one week in his cell, prosecutors say.

(POLICE HANDOUT)

Bentley said Evans changed her story and said she ordered the review of the video a few days after she learned a forensics unit was going to examine the computer server.

A jury hearing the evidence will recommend whether charges should be filed, but the decision will be ultimately up to the DA’s office.

Thomas was arrested on April 14 of last year for shooting a man in front of his parents’ house and later firing a gun inside a casino. His family said he was having a mental breakdown.

His family is suing the county and controversial Sheriff David Clarke for violating Thomas’ civil rights.

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