The GBI has referred the case of a man who died after a struggle with officers in the Clayton County Jail to the Clayton County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
Terry Lee Thurmond, 38, of Hapeville, died in custody November 28, 2022, the day of his first appearance. He was arrested November 27 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and charged with criminal trespass after he had pushed a passenger in a wheelchair through airport security.
The GBI had said Thurmond, whose alleged history of mental illness was not documented during intake, jumped from the tier after a prolonged struggle with officers, during which he had been Tased. According to CCSO incident reports, officers were trying to keep him from jumping off a tier. After he was Tased, Thurmond lay unresponsive for about 20 minutes before he was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His case was transferred to State Court on December 12, 2022, where online records show it was finally nolle prossed on March 23, 2023.
The Clayton County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Thurmond’s death a homicide. A homicide means one person caused another person’s death. A murder is when someone kills another person on purpose and with malice.
Then-Interim Sheriff Levon Allen fired six CCSO staff who were involved in the incident. According to CNN, a second source confirmed those former officers include Ellonte Johnson, Randy Gaddy, Dionte McCauley, Fred Denson, Derrick Doyle and Danilo Jones. CNN also spoke with Georgia POST Deputy Executive Director Chris Harvey, who confirmed the six are under investigation for possible loss of their POST certification.
According to CNN, the source said the case could go before a grand jury before the end of this month.
A check of the Clayton County Courts grand jury page at press time after business hours on Friday shows it has not been updated since 2021. Grand juries in Clayton County met for three months at a time in February, May, August and November; however, guidelines the Clayton Judicial Circuit issued in April 2021 for resuming grand jury in May 2021 had four grand juries meeting in May: one on Mondays, one on Tuesdays, one on Wednesdays, and one on Thursdays. We are working to clarify when Clayton County’s grand juries are meeting since the end of the COVID-19 emergency.
Grand juries decide whether or not the state should indict a person on a charge. They do not decide cases against defendants. Under Georgia law, they also inspect the Clayton County Jail once a year and are allowed to make any necessary inspections or investigations of any county office or building.