A man ‘eaten alive’ by bed bugs and insects dies in Georgia jail, family lawyer says

A man has been found dead in a Georgia jail cell after being “eaten alive” by bed bugs and insects, his family’s attorney says.

Lashawn Thompson, 35, was sent to the psychiatric wing of the Fulton County jail for mental health issues and was found dead in a filthy cell three months later on Sept. 13, 2022, according to an April 12 press release from the Harper law firm.

Thompon’s body was “covered with bites” at the time of his death, his family attorney Michael D. Harper said at an April 13 news conference.

Thompson’s family is demanding changes, such as the prison closing and replacing it with a new facility, and wants to draw attention to the “deplorable” conditions, Harper said at the conference. He is also calling for a criminal investigation into Thompson’s death.

In a statement provided to McClatchy News on April 14, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, which oversees the prison, said a “full investigation” into Thompson’s death has been launched and is ongoing.

“First and foremost, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office would like to offer its condolences to the family of (of) Lashawn Thompson,” the statement said.

Upon completion of the internal investigation, Sheriff Patrick Labat will ask the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to determine whether criminal charges are warranted, the statement said.

“There is no excuse for a mentally ill inmate to be left alone in a prison” and “exposed to die,” Harper said at the conference.

Photos shared by Harper show an automated external defibrillator placed over Thompson’s chest and what appear to be several insects crawling on top of him. Additional photos appear to show the inside of the cell, with rusted furniture, dirty floors, and trash strewn about.

Lashawn Thompson’s prison cell, according to his family. Michael D Harper

“It’s no secret that the (Fulton County Jail’s) dilapidated and rapidly eroding conditions make it incredibly difficult to achieve the goal of providing a safe, clean, well-cared for and healthy environment for all inmates and staff,” the office of the sheriffs .

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“It is fair to say that this is one of many cases that illustrate the urgent need for expanded and better mental health services,” the statement said.

Body “infested with an enormous number of small insects”

According to the press release, Thompson was booked into the county jail after being arrested on June 12, 2022 in Atlanta for basic battery charges.

Months after Thompson’s death, the Fulton County coroner released an autopsy report Jan. 12 that listed his cause of death as “undetermined.” The report was provided by Harper to McClatchy News.

“The body is infested with an enormous number of small insects as small as 2 mm in length,” wrote coroner Dr. Michael M. Heninger.

In a summary of the report’s findings, he also wrote:

  • “No anatomical cause of death.”

  • “Extremely heavy infestation with insects in the sense of lice.”

  • “Pale organs.”

  • “Toxicologically negative.”

Heniger wrote that, rarely, a severe lice infestation “may cause a clinically significant anemia that is not readily diagnosed at autopsy.”

The report also noted that Thompson was suffering from “severe schizoaffective disorder with bipolar and acute exacerbation” at the time of his death.

In response to Thompson’s death, the sheriff’s office said $500,000 was approved to help control the facility’s insect infestation and “other vermin” at the prison.

In addition, over 600 inmates have been relocated to other counties to “help with overcrowding,” the sheriff’s office said.

Meanwhile, Harper told McClatchy News that he plans to file a lawsuit over Thompson’s death in the future.

“The prison cell that housed Mr. Thompson was not suitable for a sick animal,” the press release said. “He did not deserve that. Someone needs to be held accountable for their death. The Fulton County Jail needs to be closed and replaced.”

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