Family wants federal investigation after man’s death in jail

Apr 20, 2023, 1:21 PM | Updated: 5:28 pm

ATLANTA (AP) — The family of a man who died in a bedbug-infested cell in a Georgia jail’s psychiatric wing is calling for the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the facility.

Lashawn Thompson, 35, died in September, three months after being booked into the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta. Prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents Thompson’s family, called for those responsible for his death to be held accountable.

“What you’re looking at, I think, is not just a deplorable jail cell, but this is a crime scene. This is criminal,” Crump said as he held up a photo of Thompson’s dirty, trash-strewn cell during a news conference and rally Thursday in front of the jail.

Photos of the cell and of Thompson’s face and body covered in insects sparked outrage last week when they spread on social media after his family’s local attorney, Michael Harper, released them to news outlets. The medical examiner’s report lists Thompson’s cause of death as “undetermined” but notes a “severe bed bug infestation.”

Crump called for local leaders to be held accountable, including the sheriff, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners and the Atlanta City Council, repeating the slogan, “We ain’t gonna let you pass the baton. Justice for Lashawn.” He urged local activists to attend an upcoming county board of commissioners meeting to demand answers about Thompson’s death.

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, a Georgia Democrat who chairs the Senate Human Rights Subcommittee, announced Thursday that he is launching a new inquiry into conditions of incarceration in Georgia and across the country. He cited news reports last week about Thompson’s death and the death of Joshua McLemore, a 29-year-old with a history of mental illness who died of multiple organ failure in August 2021 at an Indiana jail.

Harper has said jail staff did nothing to address Thompson’s deteriorating health in the weeks before his death and has called for a criminal investigation. Thompson had been arrested June 12 on a misdemeanor battery charge.

Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat met with Thompson’s family Thursday and spoke alongside them at the news conference outside the jail.

“We understand, and I have said this publicly, this is absolutely unconscionable, point blank,” Labat said.

Labat 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.

Since Thompson’s death gained publicity last week, Labat has expressed his condolences to the family and had three top jail officials resign. He announced Wednesday that he had secured an additional $5.3 million from the county board of commissioners to provide upgrades at the jail, including increased monitoring in the psychiatric and medical units and more frequent high-level sanitation of those units.

In a separate statement released Thursday evening, Labat acknowledged that the problems at the jail are not new and that it has been “operating in crisis mode for decades.” The facility cannot provide “safe and humane detention” and a new jail is needed, he said.

He also said the jail’s medical provider terminated its contract for jail services on Tuesday and that his office is reviewing proposals for a new medical provider.

Critics — including some who yelled questions and accusations at Labat during the news conference — have said Labat didn’t act until the conditions surrounding Thompson’s death became public. And they allege Labat, who took office in January 2021, is using Thompson’s death to bolster his push for a new jail when they say he has long failed to address serious chronic problems at the current jail.

Tiffany Roberts, public policy director for the Southern Center for Human Rights, which advocates for the rights of people in the criminal justice system, said the nonprofit law firm has successfully sued the county four times over conditions at the jail but has seen little improvement.

“How dare this sheriff stand with a grieving family, pat their backs, make platitudes while he is asking for $2 billion to transfer this problem to a larger and more expensive facility,” she said during the news conference. “How long will we hide from the reality that Fulton County is chronically dysfunctional and there is no humanity in a system like this?”

United States News

FILE - Protesters stand outside of the Senate chamber at the Indiana Statehouse on Feb. 22, 2023, i...

Associated Press

LGBTQ+ Americans are under attack, Human Rights Campaign declares in state of emergency warning

The Human Rights Campaign declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. on Tuesday.

20 hours ago

Associated Press

Racist message, dead raccoon left for Oregon mayor, Black city council member

REDMOND, Ore. (AP) — Someone left a dead raccoon and a sign with “intimidating language” that mentioned a Black city councilor outside the law office of an Oregon mayor, police said. Redmond Mayor Ed Fitch found the raccoon and the sign on Monday, the Redmond Police Department said in a news release. The sign mentioned […]

20 hours ago

FILE - People wait in line outside the Supreme Court in Washington to listen to oral arguments in a...

Associated Press

Supreme Court opened the door to states’ voting restrictions. Now a new ruling could widen them.

Within hours of a U.S. Supreme Court decision dismantling a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, Texas lawmakers announced plans to implement a strict voter ID law that had been blocked by a federal court. Lawmakers in Alabama said they would press forward with a similar law that had been on hold.

20 hours ago

FILE - A former iron ore processing plant near Hoyt Lakes, Minn., that would become part of a propo...

Associated Press

US Army Corps revokes permit for Minnesota mine, cites threat to downstream tribe’s water standards

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Tuesday it has revoked a crucial federal permit for the proposed NewRange Copper Nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota, a project popularly known as PolyMet, saying the permit did not comply with the water quality standards set by a sovereign downstream tribe. The Corps said in […]

20 hours ago

FILE - The North Carolina Capitol stands, July 24, 2013, in Raleigh, N.C. The promotion of certain ...

Associated Press

North Carolina legislature approves limits on politics, race discussion in state workplaces

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The promotion of certain beliefs that some North Carolina lawmakers have likened to “critical race theory” is on track to be banned in state government workplaces, under a bill that received final legislative approval on Tuesday. The two-pronged proposal that passed the GOP-controlled Senate 30-15, with three Democrats and all present […]

20 hours ago

File - The Apple Vision Pro headset is displayed in a showroom on the Apple campus after it's unvei...

Associated Press

Apple’s Vision Pro goggles unleash a mixed reality that could lead to more innovation and isolation

CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP) — Reporters are a skeptical bunch, so it was unusual to hear so many of them raving about their firsthand experience with Apple’s next Big Thing: the high-priced headset called Vision Pro, a device infused with totally virtual reality as well as augmented reality that projects digital images on top of real-world […]

20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles



Thank you to Al McCoy for 51 years as voice of the Phoenix Suns

Sanderson Ford wants to share its thanks to Al McCoy for the impact he made in the Valley for more than a half-decade.


OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

How to identify the symptoms of 3 common anxiety disorders

Living with an anxiety disorder can be debilitating and cause significant stress for those who suffer from the condition.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

Family wants federal investigation after man’s death in jail