Family say man was 'eaten alive' by bed bugs in US jail

The Georgia jail cell where Lashawn Thompson was found dead, according to Thompson's family.
The Georgia jail cell where Lashawn Thompson was found dead, according to Thompson's family. Photo credit: Michael Harper Law Firm

The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office addressed concerns on Thursday surrounding the death of an inmate whose family and attorney claim was “eaten alive by insects and bed bugs” at the jail.

Lashawn Thompson was found dead in a Fulton County jail cell on Sept. 13, 2022, three months after the 35-year-old was arrested for misdemeanor battery. Disturbing pictures, provided by attorney Michael Harper, appear to show Thompson’s body riddled with sores believed to be from bed bugs and insects.

“We want a full investigation,” said Brad McCrae, Thompson’s brother. “I thought about Emmett Till, comparing those photos. It was heartbreaking, hard to look at it.”

“There is no excuse for a mentally ill inmate to be left alone in a jail, abandoned to die,” Harper added. “There is no way this man was being monitored every two hours. It seemed like he wasn’t monitored for months.”

The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office released the following statement in response to Thompson’s death:

First and foremost, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office would like to extend condolences to the family Lashawn Thompson.

The manner and cause of death was listed as ‘undetermined’ by the county medical examiner. A full investigation was launched into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Thompson’s death. As a part of that ongoing investigation, immediate action was taken, including but not limited to:

approving an additional expenditure of $500,000 to address the infestation of bed bugs, lice, and other vermin within the Fulton County Jail which was done in addition to prior cleaning operations targeting communicable diseases that are common in congregant settings and updating protocols for security rounds to include addressing sanitary conditions.

The ongoing investigation is examining details regarding the medical care provided and ultimately will determine whether any criminal charges are warranted in this case.

The health, well-being, and security of inmates in our care is our top priority. 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 a clean, well-maintained, and healthy environment for all inmates and staff. That is precisely why Sheriff Labat continues to call for building a new Fulton County Jail and Criminal Justice Complex which will provide an elite level of care, mental health services, security and cleanliness.

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A man died at the Fulton County Jail from being eaten alive by insects and bed bugs, according to his family’s attorney.

LaShawn Thompson, 35, was arrested for misdemeanor simple battery in Atlanta on June 12, according to police. Thompson was taken to the Fulton County Jail and placed in the psychiatric wing after officials determined he had mental health issues. According to his family, Thompson was diagnosed with depression and schizophrenia and the jail was aware of his illness.

Family attorney Michael D. Harper released a statement, saying Thompson was in jail for three months when he was found dead in a jail cell after being eaten alive by bed bugs and insects. Thompson’s family also said they obtained open records, stating the detention officers and medical staff at the jail noticed Thompson was deteriorating, but did nothing to administer aid to him or to help him.

“They literally watched his health decline until he died,” said the family in a statement.

The report also states that when Thompson’s body was found, one of the detention officers refused to administer CPR because, in her words, she “freaked out.”

“Mr. Thompson was housed in was not fit for a diseased animal,” Harper said. “He did not deserve this. Someone has to be held accountable for his death. The Fulton County Jail must be closed and replaced.”

A report from the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office, provided by Harper, stated there were no signs of trauma on Thompson. While his death is listed as “undetermined” the report noted a “severe bed bug infestation.”

The family has not filed a lawsuit but has been in contact with the District Attorney’s Office, according to Harper.

The Fulton County Board of Commissioners recently authorized a study to look into the feasibility of building a new jail. While, the study found there is a need, it would cost about $2 billion to build. Chairman Rob Pitts said the commission could possibly look at legislation at its next meeting to decide on future action realted to the jail.