Man skirted security at Atlanta airport, harassed restaurant worker before arrest, TSA says

Terry Lee Thurmond III died a day later after struggling with Clayton County jailers

The 38-year-old Hapeville man who died following a struggle with officers in the Clayton County Jail Monday had been arrested after gaining access to secure areas of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport without a ticket.

Terry Lee Thurmond III got through airport security Sunday without showing proper identification while “posing as an airport employee pushing a passenger in a wheelchair” at the main security checkpoint in the domestic terminal, according to the Transportation Security Administration. Thurmond and the passenger in the wheelchair were both screened with TSA security equipment before entering the secure area of the airport, the TSA said.

“TSA is investigating this incident further and taking corrective actions to ensure appropriate credentials are fully inspected at ticket and document checking stations,” the agency said.

Police responded after a woman asked an employee at the Atlanta Bread Company on Concourse C to call 911, according to an Atlanta Police Department arrest report. The woman told police she was scared and that Thurmond approached her, made “aggressive advances towards her and followed her from C30 to C41, and back to C30,” the police report says. She also said that he called her names, according to the report, and attempted to intimidate her to have sex with him.

“While speaking with Mr. Thurmond, he informed me that he was not flying out, he did not have a boarding pass and he was not an employee, nor had he ever been an employee at the airport,” the police report says. “Mr. Thurmond said that he went through security at the metal detectors, where he was pushing a male in a wheel chair and that’s how he was able to get to the concourse. He said that security waved him right on through.

“Mr. Thurmond did not have any ID on him, no boarding pass, no gate pass or any other type of documentation that would allow him to be in the secured area of the airport,” the report continues. ”Since Mr. Thurmond was not supposed to be on the concourse and was unable to provide any information on how he bypassed security, unable to provide the date and time of when he arrived on the concourse, he was charged with criminal trespass and was transported to Clayton County Jail.”

On Monday, Thurmond attempted to jump from the second floor of the jail and was tased after a struggle with detention officers who tried to stop him, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. During the struggle, the jailers restrained Thurmond by “placing hands, knees and their weight” on him “while he was laying face down for about 10-15 minutes,” according to a Clayton County Medical Examiner office report, which does not say whether those actions played a role in his death. Minutes later, according to the report, Thurmond was found to be unresponsive. A nurse sought to revive him with chest compressions.

Thurmond — who had a history of bipolar, paranoid schizophrenia and hypertension — was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the report says. The GBI said an autopsy would be conducted.