Milwaukee jail guard charged for in-custody death

By: - April 24, 2023 4:15 am
Milwaukee County Sheriffs deputies in the Milwaukee County Criminal Justice Complex. (Photo | Isiah Holmes)

Milwaukee County Sheriffs deputies in the Milwaukee County Criminal Justice Complex. (Photo | Isiah Holmes)

A correctional officer in the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office (MSCO) has been charged in the death of 49-year-old Octaviano Juarez-Corro, one of the FBI’s most-wanted fugitives, who was found unresponsive in the jail earlier this year. Laquisha Cowser, 32, is being charged by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office with misconduct in public office. The charge carries with it penalties of up to three-and-a-half years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Cowser has been accused of falsifying a record by reporting that she performed inmate safety checks that she did not in fact perform. Surveillance video shows that she skipped several cells during cell checks at 4:34 a.m. and 05:05 a.m. WISN reports.

“The office holds itself to high standards in its service to Milwaukee County, and no member of MCSO is exempt from those standards,” said Sheriff Denita Ball in a press release. “When a member of this agency is alleged to have broken the law in the performance of their duty, they will be subject to prosecution, and if they are convicted, they will face consequences as determined by a judge or a jury.”

Crowser has been relieved of duty with pay, the sheriff’s office  states, and will remain on this status pending an internal review, and the ongoing criminal case. “One death in our custody is one too many,” said Ball. “But we are confident these charges demonstrate the MCSO’s commitment to ensure that an independent investigation was conducted, regardless of the result.”

Since June 2022, the Milwaukee County jail has seen four people die in custody. Brieon Green, 21, was found dead in his cell just hours after arriving at the jail. In December, Green’s family had the opportunity to view footage they say shows Green taking his own life as a guard walked past his cell. Green’s death was condemned as a “preventable suicide.” That same month, 20-year-old Cilivea Thryrion died of an alleged suicide in the jail. In January video of Green’s arrest was released by the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department, which led to investigations into the Milwaukee jail deaths. Unlike in the case of officer-involved shootings, in-custody deaths are not required to be handled by an outside agency under Wisconsin state law.

Poor quality video was released of Green’s arrest, spurring criticism and questions from his family and their attorneys. Video of Green actually inside the jail was never released.

Juarez-Corro, who was on the FBI’s top 10 most wanted fugitive list, shot and killed two people, and injured three others at South Shore Park in 2006  WISN reported. In February 2022, he was arrested in Mexico and extradited back to Milwaukee.

He had been held on  $1.5 million bail since October. The Milwaukee County Jail has a long and troubled history with in-custody deaths. In 2020 and 2021, three guards resigned and others were fired following deaths in the jail.  In 2016 Terril Thomas died of dehydration while in custody in the jail.


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Isiah Holmes
Isiah Holmes

Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, the Progressive Magazine, Al Jazeera, and other outlets.