Man Died of ‘Severe Neglect’ in Bug-Infested Jail Cell

An independent autopsy determined a man who was found unresponsive and covered in bug bites at a Georgia jail died due to “severe neglect” from jail staff, and attorneys for his family are calling for criminal negligence charges.

LaShawn Thompson, 35, was housed in the psychiatric wing of the Fulton County Jail after a June arrest on a misdemeanor battery charge in Atlanta. Local officials said Thompson had diagnosed mental health issues.

Three months later, he was found in his cell dehydrated and malnourished, and his body “was infested inside and out with insects,” according to attorneys Ben Crump and Michael Harper.

“This is the most deplorable death in custody case in the history of America,” Crump said at a news conference Monday morning on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol, alongside Thompson’s family and community leaders.

Independent autopsy cites neglect, untreated schizophrenia in death of LaShawn Thompson

Crump on Monday held up an enlarged printed copy of the autopsy, conducted by the head of pathology at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and paid for by civil rights activist and football player Colin Kaepernick.

Crump read through multiple portions of the report, which found Thompson had “innumerable” bug bites and was not receiving medication for schizophrenia at the time of his death. He also suffered from poor living conditions, poor grooming, dehydration and rapid weight loss, according to the report.

“The cause of death should be listed as complications due to severe neglect with the contributing cause stated as untreated decompensated schizophrenia,” the autopsy reads.

The autopsy determined the manner of death to be homicide, meaning Thompson’s death was caused by the actions of another. The medical term does not draw a legal conclusion.

Crump said the findings of the independent autopsy amount to criminal negligence. He attributed Thompson’s death to the “inaction, cruelty and inhumanity” of the jail staff.

“It is unfathomable that no one working in this facility lifted a finger to help Lashawn as he slowly died for three months on their watch,” Crump said.

Brad McCray, Thompson’s brother, described the difficulty of seeing images of his brother and the conditions of his brother’s jail cell circulating online.

“These images all over the internet, all over the media – it’s disturbing,” McCray said. “I have another brother, and seeing these images and going through this as a family sent him into a mental breakdown.”

Gerald Griggs, president of the NAACP of Georgia, said the findings are “appalling.” He called on the Fulton County District Attorney to file criminal charges. He also urged Georgia’s governor to meet with the Thompson family and to fully fund mental health facilities in the state.

Medicial examiner’s report on LaShawn Thompson noted ‘severe bed bug infestation’

A Fulton County Medical Examiner’s report obtained by USA TODAY last month said Thompson was found unresponsive in his cell on Sept. 19 and pronounced dead after failed life-saving attempts by responding local police and medical personnel.

The coroner’s report listed Thompson’s cause of death as undetermined. The report said there were no obvious signs of trauma on Thompson’s body, but his entire body was covered in bed bugs. It also noted a “severe bed bug infestation” in the cell.

Fulton County Jail ‘dilapidated and rapidly eroding’

The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office previously said it launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Thompson’s death and outlined a series of proposed changes at the jail.

Last month, the office said in a statement it is “no secret that the dilapidated and rapidly eroding conditions of the current facility make it incredibly difficult to meet the goal of providing a clean, well-maintained and healthy environment for all inmates and staff.”

Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat has called for building a new Fulton County Jail and Criminal Justice Complex.

Crump said he believes what happened to Thompson is part of a larger pattern at the jail.

The sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to a USA TODAY request for updated comment Monday.

One thought on “Man Died of ‘Severe Neglect’ in Bug-Infested Jail Cell

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  1. It was Thompson’s job to keep his area picked up, neat, and clean… obviously he didn’t do that and attracted bugs… but, junkies/blacks have to blame someone else… not take responsibility…

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