Waycross, GA – A now-former juvenile correctional officer has been charged with murder after a juvenile inmate was killed during a “fight game” the correctional officer allegedly allowed to take place inside the lockup facility.
The investigation into the incident began at approximately 9 a.m. on Aug. 9, when the Waycross Regional Youth Detention Center contacted the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s (GBI) Douglas Regional Office for assistance, the GBI said in a press release.
Investigators determined that a juvenile inmate “lost consciousness” while “in the presence of a staff member and other juveniles at the facility,” and became unresponsive.
The juvenile inmate was rushed to Memorial Health Hospital in Savannah, where he was pronounced dead.
The GBI determined that the inmate was killed during a “fight game” that 30-year-old Waycross Correctional Officer Thomas Lee “allowed juveniles to participate in” while he was present, according to the press release.
The GBI did not release the juvenile’s name or age, but his family identified him as 17-year-old Loyce Tucker, WTLV reported.
Hicks was arrested on Aug. 16 on charges of second-degree murder, two counts of second-degree cruelty to children, and one count of violation of oath of office, the GBI said.
He was booked into the Ware County Jail.
Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Tyrone Oliver said in a statement on Tuesday that he “immediately terminated Mr. Thomas Hicks from employment” when he learned of the GBI’s investigative findings.
“The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) is deeply saddened by the passing of one of our youths. We send our heartfelt condolence to the youth’s family, friends, and loved ones, and they remain in our thoughts and prayers,” Commissioner Oliver wrote.
The commissioner said the now-former correctional officer’s actions were “deplorable” and noted that they “do not represent the core values” of the department.
“DJJ takes the responsibility of operating safe facilities for youth and staff seriously,” Commissioner Oliver added. “Should there be any evidence of staff or youth misconduct or criminal activity, we will take all appropriate measures.”
DJJ Spokesperson Glenn Allen told WTLV that Hicks worked for the agency periodically since 2014.