OAN Brooke Mallory
UPDATED 2:49 PM – Thursday, April 20, 2023
Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat says that he has made significant adjustments in response to a family’s claims that one of their relatives, Lashawn Thompson, was eaten alive by bed bugs and insects in an Atlanta, Georgia jail cell.
The chief jailer, assistant chief jailer, and the Fulton County Jail Criminal Investigative Division’s assistant chief jailer have all since tendered their resignations, according to the sheriff in a statement released on Monday.
The resignations came as comments made last week by the family attorney for LaShawn Thompson claimed that medical professionals reportedly overlooked Thompson’s deteriorating condition until his deceased body was found on Sept. 13th, 2022, in a “filthy jail cell.”
Authorities discovered Thompson with more than 1,000 bug bites “all over his body,” stated Lawyer Ben Crump.
“They literally watched his health decline until he died. When his body was found, one of the detention officers refused to administer CPR because in her words, she ‘freaked out,’” the family’s attorney, Michael Harper, wrote in an April 12th Facebook post. “He did not deserve this. Someone has to be held accountable for his death.”
According to the family attorney, the medical examiner claimed they were unable to pinpoint the cause of death, despite having detailed photographs of Thompson’s detention cell, his body, and his face when he was discovered.
Jail records noted that Thompson was detained on June 12th, 2022, for “simple battery” against police officials.
The sheriff’s office said in their statement that the executive team in place “has more than 65 years of jail administration and law enforcement experience.”
“When leveraged at its very best, that experience can be invaluable. However, it can also lend itself to complacency, stagnation and settling for the status quo.”
“It’s clear to me that it’s time, past time, to clean house,” Labat said.
The family’s attorney also claims that Thompson had schizophrenia and other mental health problems. Three months before to his passing, he was admitted to a mental health unit in the jail.
During a press conference on Thursday, Thompson’s family members, attorneys, and others from the community demanded that the Department of Justice (DOJ) further investigate the facility and their methods of operation. The closure of the jail has also been demanded by the Thompson family.
“He wasn’t the only one who was affected by those insects and bedbugs in that entire wing, but he was the only one that we know of who died,” Harper said during the press conference.
Shenita Thompson, Lashawn Thompson’s younger sister, spoke at the conference and revealed that she had been calling the police for months in an effort to learn more about her brother’s death, but had been unsuccessful until their attorney stepped in to help.
“I want to get down to the truth of what happened to my brother,” she said.
Thompson’s aunt also spoke out, describing the severity of bites that she discovered on her nephew’s body while at the funeral home.
According to officials, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office is considering its options for switching medical providers and partnering with one that can better “compassionately” offer care.
At Thursday’s press conference, Sheriff Labat joined the family, expressed his sympathies, and responded to more inquiries from the public.
“The family asked me to come out here and stand with them. We have prayed together. We understand and I’ve said this publicly. This is absolutely unconscionable. Point blank,” Labat expressed.
The Atlanta Police Department and the Office of Professional Standards are now conducting an investigation. After the investigations are finished, a “full investigative package” will be reviewed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations.
Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) requested that the DOJ launch an investigation, according to Harper. Sheriff Labat revealed that he has been in contact with Ossoff’s office.
“In terms of the timeline, it’s important to know what I don’t want to do is, I don’t want to for the sake of expediency rush through. I want to get it right… The family deserves it. We need to make sure we get it right every step of the way,” Labat said.
It was also revealed in the press conference that Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL player and uninhibited activist, planned on financially helping Crump conduct an independent autopsy on Thompson to learn more information. Kaepernick assured Thompson’s family that he would fund the autopsy “no matter what.”
“We didn’t want our brother to be shown to the public like this, but the public need to see… Everybody need to see. Everybody needs to wake up and somebody needs to be held accountable,” said Brad McCrae, the younger brother of Thompson.
It is widely believed that Thompson’s death could have been avoidable. Last year, the Southern Center for Human Rights issued a press release titled, “Uncontained Outbreaks of Lice, Scabies Leave People at Fulton Jail Dangerously Malnourished,” highlighting many of the issues that the facility was experiencing and offering suggestions to “contain future outbreaks” and improve “hygiene practices.”
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