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No indictments for 6 Georgia sheriff’s deputies fired after man’s in-custody death, according to court documents

<i>Family of Terry Lee Thurmond</i><br/>Terry Lee Thurmond was being held at the Clayton County jail south of Atlanta.
Family of Terry Lee Thurmond
Terry Lee Thurmond was being held at the Clayton County jail south of Atlanta.

By Nick Valencia, CNN

(CNN) — A Clayton County, Georgia, grand jury chose not to indict six former sheriff’s deputies in the in-custody death of a man after a struggle at a county jail last year, court documents show.

The six deputies were fired after the November death of 38-year-old Terry Lee Thurmond, who was being held at the Clayton County jail south of Atlanta. His death was ruled a homicide by the county medical examiner’s office.

Surveillance footage of the November 28 incident shows deputies appearing to try to stop Thurmond from falling from the jail’s second floor. Eventually, they place him on the second-floor walkway. A violent struggle ensues, which ultimately resulted in Thurmond’s death.

He died just one day after he was arrested and held on suspicion of criminal trespassing at an airport and just over an hour after his encounter with jail employees, according to a review of the video and records obtained by CNN.

Less than a month later, the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office announced it had terminated some of its employees following an investigation into Thurmond’s death.

The six former deputies – Ellonte Johnson, Randy Gaddy, Dionte McCauley, Fred Denson, Derrick Doyle and Danilo Jones-Lamont – were facing potential charges of involuntary manslaughter, reckless conduct and violation of oath by public officer, according to a court document.

Thurmond family attorney Thomas Reynolds told CNN the family plans to pursue a civil lawsuit. The civil rights attorney added that after watching the video the incident was in his opinion “a clear abuse of power.”

A timeline document from the county medical examiner’s office said Thurmond continued to be “combative” after the deputies placed him on the walkway. The deputies and Thurmond struggle for several minutes until the deputies gain control of him.

At that point, Thurmond is face down and “most/all of the officers appear to be placing their knees and their body weight on him,” according to the medical examiner’s timeline document.

This continues for about 10 minutes, according to the medical examiner’s report and CNN’s review. An officer close to Thurmond’s head “seems to be placing a knee or knee(s) in Thurmond’s neck/shoulder area,” the timeline reads.

Reynolds previously told CNN that Thurmond was left unconscious for at least 15 minutes before being transported by first responders to a hospital.

CNN’s review of the video shows that a first responder began performing CPR on Thurmond about 12 minutes after his last noted movement.

The former deputies are being investigated by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, according to Chris Harvey, the deputy executive director of the council.

The training council’s investigation is “independent of the criminal process” and relates to whether the former deputies would retain their accreditation to work in law enforcement in Georgia, Harvey told CNN.

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