The man accused by Milwaukee police of opening fire at the Potawatomi Bingo Casino was found dead in jail early Sunday morning. Thirty-eight-year-old Terrill Thomas was in custody on "five counts, including first-degree reckless injury and possession of a firearm by a felon" for shooting a man in the chest just hours before he opened fire at the casino, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
According to the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office, a correctional officer discovered Thomas unresponsive inside his cell around 1:30 a.m. Jail nursing staff attempted to resuscitate him until first responders arrived to the scene, but once they arrived, he was pronounced dead less than half an hour later.
Terrill Thomas, accused of opening fire at Potawatomi casino, was found dead in his cell. https://t.co/QSkILW7tKj pic.twitter.com/sjwhnuvVuWThomas was accused of firing a Glock 9 mm handgun in the High Roller area of Potawatomi casino around 3:30 a.m. on April 15. He ordered customers to the floor and began stealing their poker chips -- nearly $5,000 worth. A police officer confronted Terrill and ordered him to drop his weapon, according to court records. No one was shot at the casino, but several people were hurt as they tried to run away. After dropping his gun into a garbage can, Thomas surrendered and told police that he opened fire "because suspicious people, whom he called 'snakes,' were inside the casino."
— Journal Sentinel (@journalsentinel) April 24, 2016
Potawatomi Hotel & Casino is owned and operated by the Forest County Potawatomi Community. The website boasts that it's "different than other businesses," because "The gaming and hospitality revenues generated here have always served a greater purpose of preserving heritage, tradition and providing vital services. This unique purpose is captured in the mission of Potawatomi Hotel & Casino: Entertain our guests and create opportunity for our tribe, team members and community."
A 2013 shooting incident at the casino shares eerie similarities to that of the Thomas incident. Just as Terrill was found dead inside his jail cell on Sunday, at 1:30 am. A young woman was shot in the leg by her boyfriend inside the Potawatomi Bingo Casino at about 1:30 am on a Sunday. She was taken to the hospital to be treated for her non-life threatening injury.
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Celia Thomas, Terrill's mother, said the last time she saw her son, he was leaving the house with a gun, TMJ4.com reports.
"I can't believe it. I can't believe he did that. I can't believe Terrill did that," said Celia Thomas. "I seen Terrill come out with the gun like that and started shooting," she said, adding that the person Thomas shot outside her house was a family friend.
When she saw her son with the gun, Celia said she was worried he was about to have a mental breakdown, so she alerted police. However, because no crime had been committed at the time, cops were unwilling to respond to a mother's call for help. Celia alleges law officials told her, "We cannot arrest your son until your son do something."
"I said what do you want him to do, kill somebody?" Celia explained.
Milwaukee Police claim they aren't aware of this specific conversation with Celia. However, when Thomas appeared in court last week, his defense attorney told the judge he wasn't mentally competent to proceed with further court hearings. A competency exam was ordered and was expected to be done by May 11.
When suspects are found dead in jail, the circumstances are usually shrouded in suspicion and accusations of police corruption. Could there be something foul at play here? Did the suspect commit suicide? In the meantime, Milwaukee police will investigate Thomas' death, and an autopsy will be performed by the Milwaukee County medical examiner's office.
[Image courtesy Dabarti CGI/ShutterStock]