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Estate of Terrill Thomas files civil rights lawsuit against nearly 30 people, organizations

Terrill Thomas

MILWAUKEE — Relatives of a man who died of dehydration at the Milwaukee County jail last year said in a federal lawsuit that he lost 34 pounds (15.5 kilograms) during the week he was deprived of water.

The lawsuit filed Monday on behalf of the estate of 38-year-old Terrill Thomas is the second his family has filed against Sheriff David Clarke, members of his staff and the county. A separate federal lawsuit was filed in March on behalf of Thomas’ three sons.

Milwaukee County can’t discuss pending litigation, according to Melissa Baldauff, a spokeswoman for County Executive Chris Abele. Clarke didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The lawsuit is seeking an unspecified amount in damages and attorneys’ fees.

Milwaukee prosecutors are weighing criminal charges against some of Clarke’s staff who were working at the jail when Thomas was held from April 17 until his death on April 24, 2016. The Milwaukee District Attorney’s Office is considering charges based on the recommendation of jurors who heard evidence in the case in May.

Clarke is not facing charges because prosecutors said he wasn’t directly involved in the events that lead to Thomas’ death.

Investigators say Thomas shot a man in front of his parents’ house and later fired a gun inside a casino. His family has said he was having a mental breakdown when he was arrested.

Jail staff shut off Thomas’ water after he flooded his cell by stuffing a mattress in a toilet.

The lawsuits and evidence prosecutors presented to jurors in May allege staff ignored Thomas’ signs of distress during his time in jail. Thomas lost more than 10 percent of his body weight while he was in jail, the lawsuit states.

Monitor FOX6 News and FOX6Now.com for updates on this developing story.