Clayton County

Family of inmate who died in Clayton Co. Jail calls for federal oversight

CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. — Channel 2 Action News is hearing from the family of an inmate who lost his life inside the Clayton County Jail.

On Monday, a Grand Jury decided not to indict the corrections officers who sat on top of Terry Thurmond, III for 16 minutes.

The 38-year-old died a short time later.

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An attorney tells Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Mark Winne that he and Thurmond’s family will continue to push for action even after a Grand Jury last week declined to indict officers.

“What is your reaction to the no-bill?” Winne asked Thurmond’s sister, Laterral England. “Very, very disappointed. Heartbreaking,” she said.

“I respect the law, I really do. I try my best to obey all the laws and the rules and to be a great citizen,” Thurmond’s mother, Lavoris Thurmond said. “But this right here. What about me? What about my family? What are we supposed to do at this point without my son?”

Attorney for the family, Thomas Reynolds believes the weight of the federal government should be brought to bear on the Clayton County Jail in light of Thurmond’s death after jail officers placed their weight on him for at least 16 minutes in November and particularly in light of a Clayton County Grand Jury’s decision to not charge them with involuntary manslaughter, reckless conduct, and violation of oath by public officer.

“They didn’t believe criminal charges were warranted under these circumstances. We obviously disagree with that,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds says information he received from someone familiar with deliberations suggested there was concern that training procedures and other issues at the jail were to blame.

That, for instance, officers held him down at least in part because they were waiting on so-called “flex cuffs” that could fit over a cast on Thurmond’s arm as they tried to stop him from jumping to a lower floor in an apparent mental health crisis.

“I am hopeful that someone will investigate Clayton County Jail and some laws will be changed,” England said. “Something will happen and Terry’s death will not be in vain.”

By phone, Clayton County Sheriff Levon Allen said while he was not sheriff when the Thurmond incident occurred, he has no comment on the case beyond that the investigation speaks for itself.

England says her brother, who had been arrested on a misdemeanor criminal trespass charge, had struggled with diagnosed mental issues for years and she suggests his case shines a light on the dangerous intersection between mental illness and criminal justice.


“He didn’t belong in jail,” she said.

“You believe the system failed him?” Winne asked.

“I believe the system failed him from the beginning,” England said.

“This crisis can be fixed. This was an avoidable death,” Reynolds said.

Months ago Channel 2 Action News reported on a US District Court Grand Jury subpoena to the Clayton County Medical Examiner’s Office dated January 30.

What appears to be an attachment says, “Produce all records (without redaction) maintained by the Clayton County Medical Examiner’s Office, of any type and in any way related to the death of Terry Thurmond at the Clayton County Jail on or about November 28, 2022, including, but not limited to, any autopsy report.”

Winne reached out to the FBI today.

A text said, “The FBI is aware of the incident. However, the FBI does not comment upon the existence or the nonexistence of any investigation.”

Chris Harvey, Deputy Executive Director of the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council Post (POST) told Channel 2 Action News that all six of the officers named in the no-bill had been terminated by the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office in connection with the Thurmond death and POST is investigating whether action should be taken against their certification.

“I just trust and believe in God and I know that something is gonna happen,” Thurmond’s mother said.

Channel 2 Action News will continue our efforts to hear from the officers or their attorneys.

The Thurmond incident seemed to have started with an attempt to help Thurmond.

A document suggests Thurmond seemed to be pushing himself away from the second floor to fall.

It appears the struggle to control him near the rail lasted a long time.

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