Family seeks action after deceased Fulton inmate found covered in bed bugs

Lashawn Thompson’s family calls for investigation, closure of jail
Lashawn Thompson, 35, of Winter Haven, Florida, was discovered unresponsive in the psychiatric wing of the Fulton County Jail on Sept. 13, according to a Fulton County Medical Examiner report, which says his body showed no obvious signs of trauma and that his cause of death was undetermined. Thompson’s brother, Brad McCrae, center, called his death “heartbreaking.” “The jail should be closed because nobody should be housed like this. It was a crazy incident that happened and we want justice for it,” McCrae said.

Credit: Jeremy Redmon

Credit: Jeremy Redmon

Lashawn Thompson, 35, of Winter Haven, Florida, was discovered unresponsive in the psychiatric wing of the Fulton County Jail on Sept. 13, according to a Fulton County Medical Examiner report, which says his body showed no obvious signs of trauma and that his cause of death was undetermined. Thompson’s brother, Brad McCrae, center, called his death “heartbreaking.” “The jail should be closed because nobody should be housed like this. It was a crazy incident that happened and we want justice for it,” McCrae said.

The family of a mentally ill man found covered in bed bugs after he died in the Fulton County Jail last year wants the lockup closed and his death investigated.

Lashawn Thompson, 35, of Winter Haven, Florida, was discovered unresponsive in the jail’s psychiatric wing on Sept. 13, according to a Fulton County Medical Examiner report. His body showed no obvious signs of trauma and the cause of death was undetermined, the report said, noting a “severe bed bug infestation” in the jail.

Thompson’s brother, Brad McCrae, called his death heartbreaking.

“The jail should be closed because nobody should be housed like this. It was a crazy incident that happened and we want justice for it,” McCrae told reporters gathered outside the Fulton County Courthouse Thursday.

Fulton Sheriff Patrick Labat’s office released a statement Thursday expressing condolences and saying an investigation had begun.

“The ongoing investigation is examining details regarding the medical care provided and ultimately will determine whether any criminal charges are warranted in this case,” the office said. “The health, well-being and security of inmates in our care is our top priority.”

Officials approved a $500,000 expenditure “to address the infestation of bed bugs, lice and other vermin within the Fulton County Jail, which was done in addition to prior cleaning operations targeting communicable diseases that are common in congregant settings,” the statement said.

“It’s no secret that the dilapidated and rapidly eroding conditions of the current facility make it incredibly difficult to meet the goal of providing a clean, well-maintained and healthy environment for all inmates and staff. That is precisely why Sheriff Labat continues to call (for) building a new Fulton County Jail and Criminal Justice Complex, which will provide an elite level of care, mental health services, security and cleanliness.”

A spokesman for Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis said he could not comment on “any investigation at this stage. I can confirm that we do investigate alleged crimes occurring at the Fulton County Jail, whether the allegations are against inmates or personnel employed there.” A GBI spokeswoman said her agency had not received a request to investigate.

Lashawn Thompson, 35, of Winter Haven, Florida, was discovered unresponsive in the psychiatric wing of the Fulton County Jail on Sept. 13, according to a Fulton County Medical Examiner report, which says his body showed no obvious signs of trauma and that his cause of death was undetermined.

Credit: Family photo

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Credit: Family photo

Michael Harper, an attorney who represents the family, displayed what he said were photos from Thompson’s cell.

“This is inexcusable and it is deplorable,” he said of the filthy conditions the photos show.

Thompson had no preexisting physical health conditions but was diagnosed with schizophrenia, Harper said. Thompson was arrested on a misdemeanor simple battery charge in June 2022 and was a “fugitive from justice” in Houston County, Alabama, booking records show. Asked about the Alabama case, Harper said Thompson had a history of charges for low level offenses probably connected to his mental illness.

Thompson attended Winter Haven High School in Florida, worked at grocery stores and enjoyed cooking, listening to music and dancing, McCrae said.

“He was a playful person and a goodhearted person. He didn’t deserve this,” McCrae said.

Between 2009 and October 2022, 64 people held in the Fulton jail died, the highest total for any jail in Georgia during that time, according to records gathered by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In November, the Southern Center for Human Rights said in a report that Fulton’s jail was “dangerously understaffed and overcrowded” and that it had outbreaks of lice and scabies.

“The jail is a public health nightmare,” said Terrica Ganzy, the center’s executive director, “and instead of exporting the dangerous mismanagement of disease and inhumane treatment of people to the city of Atlanta, Fulton officials should be using every tool available to them to quickly decarcerate.”

Lashawn Thompson attended Winter Haven High School in Florida, worked at grocery stores and enjoyed cooking, listening to music and dancing, said his brother, Brad McCrae. “He was a playful person and a good-hearted person. He didn’t deserve this,” McCrae said.

Credit: Family photo

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Credit: Family photo

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