Autopsy blames “neglect” in man’s death in bedbug-infested jail cell
An independent autopsy determined that a man who was “eaten alive” by bedbugs in a Georgia jail cell died because of “extreme neglect,” a lawyer for the man’s family said Monday.
Lashawn Thompson, 35, died in September, three months after he was booked into the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta following a June arrest. Outrage spread in April when one of the family’s attorneys, Michael Harper, shared disturbing photos of Thompson’s condition.
“The death of Mr. Lashawn Thompson resulted from severe neglect evidenced by untreated schizophrenia, poor living conditions, poor grooming, extensive and severe body insect infestation, dehydration, and rapid weight loss,” Dr. Roger A. Mitchell Jr., a former chief medical examiner in Washington, D.C., wrote in the independent autopsy report.
Thomson weighed 180 pounds when he was brought to the jail’s intake facility on June 12, 2022, according to the autopsy report. He weighed just 148 pounds during his initial autopsy on Sept 14, 2022.
The autopsy determined that Thompson also suffered from dehydration. Mitchell wrote that Thompson’s post-mortem toxicology report was negative for medication Thompson was prescribed for schizophrenia.
An earlier autopsy report, performed by the Fulton County medical examiner’s office, found no obvious signs of trauma on Thompson’s body. While the report noted a “severe bed bug infestation,” it listed Thompson’s cause and manner of death as undetermined.
Mitchell’s autopsy listed the cause of death as complications due to severe neglect. He reported the manner of death as homicide, which means Thompson’s death was caused by the actions of another. It is not a legal conclusion.
“This man endured a torturous death,” Ben Crump, another attorney for Thompson’s family, said Monday. “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. Their inaction, cruelty and inhumanity killed him.”
Gerald Griggs, president of the NAACP of Georgia, called on the Fulton County district attorney to file criminal charges in the case. Sheriff Patrick Labat in April said Thompson’s death was still being investigated by the Office of Professional Standards and the Atlanta Police Department. He said the results will be handed over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI) once complete.
The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, which is responsible for the administration and operation of the Fulton County Jail, previously said they would make “sweeping changes” at the jail after the tragic death. Sheriff Labat in April said that after a preliminary investigation, he asked for the resignations of the chief jailer, assistant chief jailer and assistant chief jailer of the criminal investigative division. They all resigned.
Labat on Monday said that while he had not yet fully reviewed the independent autopsy report, it was “painfully clear” even before it was issued that a number of failures led to Thompson’s death.
“Repercussions for anyone found to be negligent in Mr. Thompson’s care could come once the full investigation is turned over to the GBI for review,” he said. “I remain committed to making sure the Thompson family receives the answers they need and deserve about the unconscionable circumstances surrounding Mr. Thompson’s death.”
The independent autopsy was paid for by the Know Your Rights Camp, an initiative started by former NFL star Colin Kaepernick.