Lashawn Thompson, 35, was “eaten alive” by bed bugs and insects at the Fulton County Jail in Georgia, according to his family's attorney.

Lashawn Thompson, 35, was “eaten alive” by bed bugs and insects at the Fulton County Jail in Georgia, according to his family’s attorney.

Michael D. Harper

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

[–>

Lashawn Thompson, 35, was placed in the Fulton County Jail’s psychiatric wing due to mental health issues and was found dead three months later in a filthy cell on Sept. 13, 2022, according to an April 12 news release from the Harper Law Firm.

[–>

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

[–>

Thompson’s family is calling for changes to be made, such as the closure and replacement of the jail with a new facility, and wants to bring awareness to its “deplorable” conditions, Harper said at the conference. He’s 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 jail, said a “full investigation” was launched into Thompson’s death and is ongoing.

[–>

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

[–>

When the internal investigation is completed, Sheriff Patrick Labat will ask the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to determine if any criminal charges are warranted, according to the statement.

[–>

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

[–>

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

[–>

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

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

[–>

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

[–>

Body ‘infested with an enormous number of small insects’

[–>

Thompson was booked into the county jail after he was arrested on simple battery charges in Atlanta on June 12, 2022, according to the news release.

[–>

Months after Thompson’s death, the Fulton County medical examiner published an autopsy report listing his cause of death as “undetermined” on Jan. 12. The report was provided to McClatchy News by Harper.

[–>

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

[–>

In summarizing the report’s findings, he also wrote:

[–>

  • “No anatomic cause of death.”

  • “Extremely severe infestation of insects consistent with lice.”

  • “Pale organs.”

  • “Toxicology negative.”

[–>

Heniger wrote severe lice infestation can rarely cause “clinically significant anemia which is not easily diagnosed at autopsy.”

[–>

The report also noted Thompson had “severe schizoaffective disorder bipolar and acute exacerbation” at the time of his death.

[–>

In response to Thompson’s death, $500,000 was approved to deal with the facility’s insect infestation and “other vermin” inside the jail, according to the sheriff’s office.

[–>

Additionally, over 600 inmates were transferred to other counties to “help relieve overcrowding,” the sheriff’s office said.

[–>

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

[–>

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

[–>[–>[–>

this story was originally published April 13, 2023, 4:38 PM.

Profile Image of Julia Marnin

Julia Marnin is a McClatchy National Real-Time reporter covering the southeast and northeast while based in New York. She’s an alumna of The College of New Jersey and joined McClatchy in 2021. Previously, she’s written for Newsweek, Modern Luxury, Gannett and more.

By zonxe