Independent autopsy released on Fulton inmate ‘eaten alive’ by bed bugs

Lashawn Thompson was found dead in his jail cell after being in the Fulton County Jail for three months on a misdemeanor charge.
Lashawn Thompson was found dead in his jail cell after being in the Fulton County Jail for three months on a misdemeanor charge.
Published: May. 22, 2023 at 7:34 AM EDT|Updated: May. 22, 2023 at 5:43 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Attorneys and supporters of an inmate allegedly “eaten alive” by bed bugs last year inside the Fulton County Jail called Lashawn Thompson’s death “one of the most deplorable in-custody deaths in the history of America.”

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump led a news conference Monday in which he unveiled an independent autopsy that, supporters said, showed Thompson died from a fatal cardiac arrythmia due to dehydration, rapid weight loss, severe neglect and decompensating and untreated schizophrenia.

“This is inexcusable,” another attorney, Michael Harper, said. “This cannot happen in Fulton County.”

“It’s enough that the bed bugs and lice sat there and ate my brother to death, but neglect hurts me the most,” said Brad McCrae, Thompson’s brother. “That in 2023, we see people who leave people, let them torture, rot in a cell, that hurts me the most.”

The autopsy was conducted by Dr. Roger Mitchell, chair of pathology at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, now a civil rights activist, paid for the autopsy, Crump said.


An earlier report from the Fulton County medical examiner’s office found no obvious signs of trauma on Thompson’s body but noted a “severe bed bug infestation.” It lists his cause of death as “undetermined.”

The family’s lawyers and advocates gave credit to Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat, who has publicly called Thompson’s death “absolutely unconscionable.” They called on the Fulton County Board of Commissioners to take responsibility and act quickly to fix the problems at the jail and urged the district attorney’s office to bring criminal charges. They also called on Gov. Brian Kemp to address a “mental health crisis” in the state.

Labat has said that once investigations into Thompson’s death — an internal one by his office and another by the Atlanta Police Department — are complete, they will be turned over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. He announced the resignations of three top jail staffers last month.

Thompson had lost 32 pounds, or about 18% of his body weight, during his three months at the Fulton County Jail and showed evidence of dehydration, the report says. In addition to an “innumerable number of insects” all over his body, his hands, feet, fingernails and toenails were filthy, it said.

Medical records from the jail indicate that Thompson received his last dose of the medications he’d been prescribed for his mental health issues 32 days before his death, the report said.

“This was not a natural death,” Crump said. He cited the autopsy’s findings that Thompson’s death was caused by severe neglect, untreated schizophrenia, poor living conditions, malnutrition and weight loss, dehydration and body-insect infestation.

Thompson, 35, was found dead in his jail cell in September after being in the Fulton jail for three months on a misdemeanor battery charge. He had been housed in the psychiatric wing of the jail because of mental health issues.

RELATED: Family wants answers after man ‘eaten alive’ by bed bugs in county jail, attorney says

Crump called the Fulton jail “a torture chamber” and that Thompson was “neglected to death. A postmortem toxicology showed negative results for schizophrenia medication/treatment.” He said a lawsuit has not been filed in the case.

Crump and Harper were joined Monday by Georgia NAACP President Gerald Griggs and Rev. Jamal Bryant.

Griggs said his organization has three demands: “Make this family whole. Someone needs to be charged. Policy and legislation must be made to prevent this from ever happening again.”

Sheriff Pat Labat issued the following statement in response to the report:

I have not had a chance to fully review the independent autopsy report. However, even before this report was issued it was painfully clear there were a number of failures that led to Mr. Thompson’s tragic death.

I have already held the executive staff responsible for jail operations accountable by asking for and receiving the resignations of the Chief Jailer, Assistant Chief Jailer of Housing and Assistant Chief Jailer, Criminal Investigative Division. Repercussions for anyone found to be negligent in Mr. Thompson’s care could come once the full investigation is turned over to the GBI for review.

I remain committed to making sure the Thompson family receives the answers they need and deserve about the unconscionable circumstances surrounding Mr. Thompson’s death.

A spokesperson for the Fulton County Board of Commissioners said “Commissioners are constrained from further communication at this time due to pending investigations and potential litigation. However, she noted Commissioners publicly expressed their condolences on the tragic death of Thompson on April 19.