Independent autopsy results released Monday by the family of a Fulton County inmate who says their relative was “eaten alive” by bed bugs confirmed the man died of neglect.
Lashawn Thompson, 35, was arrested on June 12, 2022, for a misdemeanor simple battery charge. He was sent to Fulton County Jail and placed in the psychiatric wing because he had mental health issues. Three months later, on September 19, Thompson “was found dead in a filthy jail cell after being eaten alive by insects and bed bugs,” family attorney Michael Harper said in a statement on Facebook (WARNING: disturbing images).
On Monday, attorney Benjamin Crump, who is also representing Thompson’s family, held a press conference and said Thompson had schizophrenia and didn’t receive the medication he needed. Crump added that Thompson was neglected for 93 days and became malnourished and dehydrated, losing 30 pounds.
“…[I]t is the opinion of this forensic pathologist that Mr. Lashawn Thompson died due to severe neglect,” wrote the pathologist hired by Thompson’s family to conduct an autopsy. “The combination of dehydration, rapid weight loss, and malnutrition complicated by untreated decompensated schizophrenia led to a fatal cardiac arrythmia of Lashawn Thompson. Had Mr. Thompson received adequate care during his incarceration at the Fulton County Jail then he would not have died at the time that he did.”
The Fulton County medical examiner listed Thompson’s cause of death as “undetermined.”
Harper, the attorney for Thompson’s family, said in his Facebook post that jail records show that officials at the facility, as well as medical staff, “noticed that Mr. Thompson was deteriorating, but did nothing to administer aid to him or to help him.”
“They literally watched his health decline until he died,” Harper added. “When his body was found one of the detention officers refused to administer CPR because, in her words, she ‘freaked out.’”
First responders attempted to save Thompson’s life, but were unsuccessful, USA Today reported.
Harper described the cell where Thompson was kept as “not fit for a diseased animal.”
“He did not deserve this. Someone has to be held accountable for his death,” Harper continued.
Before the press conference, Crump released a statement blaming the Fulton County Jail for Thompson’s death.
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“These autopsy findings confirm that Lashawn Thompson was killed by the extreme neglect of the Fulton County Jail and its staff,” Crump said in the statement. “He was dehydrated, malnourished, and his body was infested inside and out with insects – it is truly one of the most horrific cases we have seen.”
In mid-April, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) posted a statement to Twitter saying it would launch “a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding [Thompson’s] death.”
After the internal investigation is complete, the statement said, Sheriff Patrick Labat will ask the Georgia Bureau of Investigations to determine whether any criminal charges are warranted in Thompson’s death.
“The health, well-being, and security of inmates in our care is our top priority,” the statement said. “It’s no secret that the dilapidated and rapidly eroding conditions of the current facility make it incredibly difficult to meet the goal of providing safe, clean, well-maintained, and healthy environment for all inmates and staff. Without making any explicit statements about Mr. Thompson’s health, it’s fair to say that this is one of the many cases that illustrate the desperate need for expanded and better mental health services. That is precisely why Sheriff Labat continues to call [for] building a new Fulton County Jail and Criminal Justice Complex which will provide humane care in a safe and clean environment that offers mental health and other services that provide a strong foundation for rehabilitation.”
The FCSO stated that it couldn’t share information about Thompson’s health condition when he was arrested “or what decisions he made regarding his right to accept or refuse medical care,” but that it would be taking multiple steps to improve the jail even before the investigation into Thompson’s death was complete.
The FCSO said it had approved an additional $500,000 to address “the infestation of bed bugs, lice and other vermin” in the jail. The sheriff’s office will also update protocols for security rounds, add additional staff for the mental health unit, and transfer more than 600 inmates to other jails to reduce overcrowding.