‘He didn’t deserve to die like this,’ mom says after latest Fulton inmate death

Credit: Family photo

Credit: Family photo

The family of the 24-year-old man who died last weekend after spending five months in the Fulton County Jail is demanding answers and calling for an investigation.

Shawndre Delmore was pronounced dead at Grady Memorial Hospital on Sunday, days after he was found unresponsive in his cell. He was the 10th inmate this year to die in the custody of the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office.

“My son was so loving, he wouldn’t harm anybody,” his grieving mother, Natasha Holoman, told reporters Thursday morning. “He didn’t deserve to die like this. He had his whole life ahead of him.”

Credit: Olivia Bowdoin

Credit: Olivia Bowdoin

Delmore’s mother and grandmother said they weren’t notified until the following day that he was in intensive care. They traveled from Louisiana to find him on life support, and were told there was no brain activity.

“I want answers. I want to know what happened to my son,” Holoman said. “I want to know why he had to die.”

Preliminary findings show the otherwise healthy Delmore, who is also survived by a twin sister, died of cardiac arrest, the family’s lawyers told reporters.

“Lives remain in danger at the Fulton County Jail in ways that none of us could possibly imagine,” said attorney Mawuli Davis, who also represents the families of three other Fulton detainees who died in the past 18 months.

Davis is demanding “unfettered access” to inmates, guards and jail surveillance footage to learn what led to Delmore’s death.

“The world should be able to see what’s happening there,” he said. “We do not believe this was a natural death.”

Delmore was arrested April 1 by Atlanta police on charges of burglary and obstruction. He was granted a $5,000 bond two days later, and that amount was reduced to $2,500 in July.

Unable to gather the money for his release, Delmore remained in custody nearly three more months, Davis said. He was discovered unresponsive during a routine check by detention officers around 8:15 p.m. Thursday and taken to Grady, the sheriff’s office said.

He remained unresponsive until he was pronounced dead.

Credit: Olivia Bowdoin

Credit: Olivia Bowdoin

Records show Delmore was given a signature bond on Sept. 1, the day after being taken to the hospital.

“His release, even though he was on life support … possibly was an attempt to say that he did not die in the Fulton County Jail,” Davis said. “Well we know better than that. Whatever happened to him happened in the Fulton County Jail.”

Attorneys said inmates deserve humane conditions, even having been accused of committing crimes.

“They’re human beings,” Davis said. “Their lives matter.”

Delmore’s family said they may have an independent autopsy conducted.

The Rice Street jail is already under review by the U.S. Justice Department. Between 2009 and October 2022, more than 60 Fulton inmates died, the highest total for any jail in Georgia during that time, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found.

Fulton Sheriff Pat Labat has cited persistent overcrowding and said the jail’s crumbling walls are being crafted into weapons that detainees have used to attack each other and his staff.

“We have had an unfortunate series of deaths this year that range from natural causes, to pre-existing health conditions, to homicide,” Labat said in a recent statement.

Attorneys on Thursday accused Labat of using each new jail death as “political currency” in the sheriff’s ongoing quest for a new detention center.

Building a replacement jail is expected to cost at least $1.7 billion. Labat said a new facility would alleviate overcrowding, improve security and help save lives.

“What advocates warned was that adding more jail space, more beds, would not solve the humanitarian issues,” said Devin Franklin, Movement Policy Counsel at the Southern Center for Human Rights.

Davis said “the whole system is guilty as hell.”

“If you can’t take care of people who are accused and they have to die in your custody,” he said, “then free them all.”