Clayton County

Video shows struggle between inmate who died and deputies inside Clayton County Jail

CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. — For the first time, we’re seeing what happened before an inmate died inside the Clayton County Jail.

In surveillance footage from November, you can see deputies struggle with Terry Thurmond III, on the second floor of the Clayton County Jail.

Around 20 minutes later, the 38-year-old was dead and yellow crime scene tape filled the jail. It’s what happened in between that apparently led to the firing of several jail employees.

“It was heartbreaking to watch the fact that nobody cared to stop what was happening to Terry,” Thurmond’s mother, Lavoris Thurmond said.

Terry Thurmond was in the Clayton County Jail for a misdemeanor criminal trespass charge.

“What’s giving you strength?” Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne asked Lavoris Thurmond.

“God,” Lavoris Thurmond said.

Winne obtained the surveillance video from inside the jail on Monday. The video is time-coded.

At around 7:19:20, it appears that around five officers have gained control of Thurmond and Thurmond is face down, where he stayed until his death.

Around 7:26:45, Thurmond’s last movement was seen.

The total time is 7 mins and 25 seconds according to what is suggested by a timeline Winne received after an open records request to the Clayton County Medical Examiner’s Office.


Family attorney Thomas Reynolds says Thurmond died after suffocating under the combined weight of the officers on Thurmond face down in the prone position for an extended period of time.

“Five total officers, probably close to 1,000 pounds in weight on top of this guy face down in the prone position,” Reynolds said.

The medical examiner’s timeline indicates from that same starting point to 7:36, Thurmond’s legs fell with no signs of life, with a total time is 16 minutes and 40 seconds.

“The way they treated him … like he was an animal, or inhumane, or not even important,” Terry Thurmond’s sister said.

The timeline said from 7:26:45 when Thurmond’s last seen movement happened to 7:39 when the nurse started CPR, was a total time or 12 minutes and 15 seconds.

“My brother was such a loving person and I expect people to give love and to show love and to treat other people like they want to be treated. But it wasn’t that at all,” his sister said.

The incident seemed to have started with an attempt to help Thurmond, who Reynolds said was diagnosed as mentally ill.

The timeline suggests at 7:13:30, “Officers arrive, Thurmond seems to be pushing himself away from the 2nd floor to fall, he seems to be actually pushing more forcibly at this time.”

It appears the struggle to control him near the rail lasts a long time. Officers appear to lift him back over the rail, but he continues to struggle, backs away, and then works his way back under the rail as officers hold his legs to pull him back up.

In the video, it appears mats were placed on the floor in case he came down and at one point an officer appears positioned possibly to try to catch him if need be.

Reynolds said from watching the video, he’s not sure if Terry Thurmond was trying to harm himself or not.

“It seemed to me he might’ve been trying to swing down to the bottom level as opposed to trying to jump off. He certainly it appeared to me would’ve had the opportunity to do that,” family attorney Thomas Reynolds said.

The medical examiner’s timeline also indicates at around 7:17:42 Terry Thurmond was Tased. That seems to be in the period that officers were still struggling with him.

Reynolds said he believes all the officers involved were from the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office, but he’s still waiting on records to identify them.

“He needed help, he didn’t need to be treated like this,” Reynolds said.

The timeline indicates at 8:12, more than an hour after the incident began, Clayton County Fire Rescue leaves with Terry Thurmond on a stretcher to transport him to Southern Regional Hospital, about 15 minutes after the fire rescue’s arrival.

“My thing is, I wouldn’t want this to happen to anybody else’s child or anybody else’s relative or family member. So what changes are we going to bring about so this doesn’t happen again?” Terry Thurmond’s brother-in-law said.

“The Bible says let justice roll down like mighty water,” Winne said to Lavoris Thurmond.

“Like mighty water. And that’s what’s happening here,” Lavoris Thurmond said.

It appears one reason for the delay is deputies may have been waiting on flex cuffs that would fit over a cast on Terry Thurmond’s arm.

Reynolds says Thurmond’s death certificate will read the cause of death was “sudden death during altercation including prone position, physical restraint, and electro conductive device use.” And the manner of the death is homicide.

Weeks ago, a post indicated that then-Chief Deputy Levon Allen said he brought in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in to investigate and that all employees directly involved were terminated for policy violations. Winne has been trying to get records that would indicate who and how many.

The GBI confirmed its investigation is active and ongoing.


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