Prince George’s Co. sued by family of man stabbed to death in correctional facility

Domonique Thurston. (Courtesy Jonathan Gitlen)

The family of a man stabbed to death while awaiting trial in a correctional facility is suing Prince George’s County, arguing the county was negligent and indifferent to the needs of 27-year-old Domonique Thurston in the months preceding his killing.

Thurston’s father, Douglas Lloyd, says his son long suffered from severe mental illness, including schizophrenia and psychosis, and said Thurston also had an extremely low IQ.

A prior arrest in D.C. led his son to spend more than a year committed to St. Elizabeths, he said. Then in August 2021, Thurston was arrested and charged with carjacking and other offenses in Prince George’s County after which he spent several months in solitary confinement with no medication, his father said.

“I know if my son was properly medicated, the issues probably wouldn’t have happened,” Lloyd said. “Because, you know, when he gets off his medications, he’s kind of all over the place.”

Lloyd said when his son was finally put back in a block with other inmates, he was with others who are charged with the most violent of crimes. That included Brandon Smothers, who was already being held ahead of a trial for murder. Lloyd says Smothers stabbed his son 14 times, and then seemed indifferent about it when he spoke with detectives.

“To have him function around people like this, and not properly medicated, it definitely led to something, to an incident that ultimately cost him his life,” Lloyd said. that’

A spokeswoman for Prince George’s County declined to comment, citing a policy not to issue statements about pending litigation.

Lloyd said the only thing he ever heard from the Department of Corrections was that he could go and pick up his son’s property. He says he couldn’t get any more details until he attended the sentencing hearing for his son’s killer. That’s when he saw the videotape of the incident.

It showed the stabbing took place in full view of facility cameras.

“It was right there in the rec yard for the camera to see,” said Lloyd, who said the facility needs to address staffing and other policies.

“You need to have more staff on it to be visual. Because my son … could have been saved,” Lloyd said.

He added, “But no, you didn’t see it. He was stabbed 14 times.”

Lloyd said Thurston was carried back to a jail cell by other inmates who had to call for help.

“When you’re in these places of incarceration, you’re property of the state and they should protect you and they should get you the medical service you’re supposed to have,” said Lloyd.

He said his son was failed by the facility multiple times over — including by not having access to medication to treat his mental health.

“You didn’t have enough eyes watching to make sure that he was being safe, and that he was safe and others were safe.”

Lloyd said he worries the county is trying to sweep this under the rug.

“What we’re looking for here is justice. It’s justice for Mr. Thurston. It’s justice for his family,” said Jonathan Gitlen, an attorney representing Lloyd. “This is one of those things where we have lawsuits to basically ask the community, ask a jury, you know, to do the right thing. The other part about this also is — it’s to send a message.”

The Prince George’s County Department of Corrections has a responsibility to individuals with severe mental illness, he said.

“There is a night and day difference between Mr. Thurston on his meds versus him off his meds. And that’s something that everyone had seen,” said Gitlen. “Anyone who interacted (with) him would know something’s wrong. Would they say, ‘Oh, he’s psychotic?’ Perhaps not. But they are going to know — training or no training — there’s something wrong with this guy.”

The lawsuit filed in the federal courthouse in Greenbelt doesn’t request any specific payout. Gitlen said it will up to the jury to decide if the county violated Thurston’s constitutional rights — and then determine how much the county should have to pay.

“You can’t treat people with mental health issues the same as you would with a person that is normal,” said Lloyd. “And when you do this, you are setting them up. You setting them up for to be killed, or to be seriously hurt, or to seriously hurt someone because you’re not tending to their mental health issues.”

His son’s death is yet another example of what happens when the system fails people with serious mental health challenges.

“Nobody looks at this until it happens to them,” Lloyd said. “And I never thought this would happen to me — but it happened.”

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John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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