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Man died of ‘gross neglect’ at Fulton County Jail, including bed bug infestation, autopsy shows


May 22, 2023

A private autopsy conducted on the case of Lashawn Thompson, who died in the Fulton County Jail last year, found that weeks of neglect caused his death.

Thompson was found unconscious slumped over a toilet in his jail cell on September 13, 2022, according to the independent autopsy, and was pronounced dead after 24 minutes of CPR. A copy of the report was provided to NBC News by attorneys for the Thompson family, Ben Crump and Michael Harper, who announced the results at a news conference Monday.

Roger A. Mitchell, a board-certified forensic pathologist, concluded that several factors led to Thompson’s fatal cardiac arrhythmia, including dehydration, malnutrition, and rapid weight loss. A toxicology report appeared to show that Thompson was not receiving medication for his diagnosed schizophrenia disorder at the time of her death.

Lashawn Thompson.WXIA

It also showed signs of «severe insect infestation on the body,» according to the autopsy report.

“I want to put it on the record: This is the most deplorable death and custody case in history,” Crump said Monday.

Thompson’s brother, Brad McCrae, said WXIA, an NBC affiliate in April that her brother was in jail custody from June to September on an assault charge. He says his sister was unrecognizable in the photos he saw after Thompson’s death.

«The loss was unbearable,» McCrae said. «No one should see those kinds of images.»

The independent autopsy report included a review of Thompson’s custodial medical records, the county medical examiner’s autopsy and the jailhouse incident report.

During his admission on June 13, 2022, Thompson weighed 180 pounds and showed no signs of impairment, according to Mitchell’s independent report. She was also prescribed 5 mg of Haldol, an antipsychotic used to treat schizophrenia, and 50 mg of Benadryl, according to the report.

Thompson’s medical report shows that he was checked five days later and appeared to be fine. He was rechecked by a provider on July 14, 2022, where he was «selectively mute but not in distress» and was compliant with his medications.

But then there is a «significant gap» between a record on July 27 and September 8, 2022,» according to the Mitchell report.

«This represents 43 days in which minimal documentation was found within the records showing that care was provided,» the report said. «The medication administration record showed that no medication was administered from August 11, 2022 to September 13, 2022.»

Thompson was placed on psychological observation after a mental health provider found him in a fetal position in his neglected cell on September 8, 2022. His medical notes include a deputy sheriff’s observation that he appeared to have lost a significant amount of weight.

Lashawn Thompson.
Lashawn Thompson.WXIA

He was seen twice over the next four days, where providers noted that he «continued to decompensate» and was awaiting transfer to a mental health clinic, according to Mitchell’s report.

Thompson weighed 148 pounds at the time of her death with matted hair, dirt under her fingernails and on the bottoms of her feet, and a «severe insect infestation on her body,» according to the report.

Mitchell found that the cause of death in Thompson’s case was complications due to gross negligence, with untreated decompensated schizophrenia as a contributing cause.

«Had Mr. Thompson received proper care during his incarceration in the Fulton County Jail, he would not have died at the time he did,» Mitchell concluded.

The Fulton County Medical Examiner said Thompson’s cause of death was «undetermined» but noted a serious bed bug infestation, WXIA reported at the time. The medical examiner’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News on the independent findings on Monday.

The private autopsy was made possible by NFL quarterback and social justice activist Colin Kaepernick, according to Thompson’s family. Kaepernick launched the Autopsy Initiative last year to fund secondary autopsies in «police-related death» cases.

A lawyer for Kaepernick did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.

The Atlanta Police Department is investigating Thompson’s death, but referred media inquiries to the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office.

Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, Georgia.
Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, Georgia.google maps

Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat said WXIA last month who called for the resignation of several Fulton jail staff following the inquest into Thompson’s death.

Labat, who took office in January 2021, also said he expressed his concerns about jail overcrowding, facility issues and the need for a new health care provider to the Fulton County Board of Commissioners.

«A lot has to happen. We need to build a new facility,» Labat said. «I’ve been yelling this…since before I was elected. We need a new way of thinking.»

Labat did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News. Neither did the clerk of the county commissioners office.

The Fulton County Jail has been plagued by problems over the course of nearly two decades and was placed under a consent order after a lawsuit was filed in 2004 alleging the conditions amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

The order, which set population limits and staffing levels, was lifted in 2015 after nearly $1 billion was spent to enforce it, according to calculations by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

An analysis of the 2022 data by the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia recommended a series of measures to reduce overcrowding and improve prison conditions. The report argued that the jail will continue to face these problems without serious criminal justice reform.

The organization suggested that Fulton County eliminate wealth-based detention, release people charged only with misdemeanors, ensure timely prosecution, and refer eligible people to community diversion programs to solve their long-term problems.