An independent autopsy has determined that a man who was found unresponsive and covered in insect bites in a Georgia prison died due to ‘gross negligence’ on the part of prison staff, and his family’s attorneys are asking for criminal negligence charges.
LaShawn Thompson, 35, was incarcerated in the psychiatric wing of Fulton County Jail after an arrest in June for misdemeanor battery in Atlanta. Local officials said Thompson was diagnosed with mental health issues.
Three months later, he was found in his cell dehydrated and malnourished, and his body “was infested with insects inside and out”, according to attorneys Ben Crump and Michael Harper.
“This is the most deplorable death-in-custody case in American history,” Crump said at a Monday morning news conference on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol, alongside the Thompson’s family and community leaders.
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Independent autopsy cites neglect and untreated schizophrenia in LaShawn Thompson’s death
Crump held up an enlarged printed copy of the autopsy on Monday, performed by the pathology officer at Howard University in Washington, DC, and paid for by civil rights activist and football player Colin Kaepernick.
Crump read several parts of the report, which revealed that Thompson had “countless” insect bites and was not receiving medication for schizophrenia at the time of his death.
“The cause of death should be listed as complications due to gross negligence, with the contributing cause being untreated decompensated schizophrenia,” the autopsy read.
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Crump said the independent autopsy findings constituted criminal negligence. He attributed Thompson’s death to the “inaction, cruelty and inhumanity” of prison staff.
“It is unfathomable that no one working at this facility lifted a finger to help Lashawn as he slowly died for three months under their watch,” Crump said.
Brad McCray, Thompson’s brother, described the difficulty of seeing images of his brother and the conditions of his brother’s jail cell circulating online.
“These images all over the internet, all over the media – it’s disturbing,” McCray said. “I have another brother, and seeing these images and experiencing this as a family sent him into a nervous breakdown.”
Gerald Griggs, president of the NAACP of Georgia, said the results were “appalling”. He called on the Fulton County prosecutor to file criminal charges. He also urged the governor of Georgia to meet with the Thompson family and fully fund the state’s mental health facilities.
Medical Examiner’s Report on LaShawn Thompson Reports ‘Severe Bedbug Infestation’
A Fulton County medical examiner’s report obtained by USA TODAY last month said Thompson was found unconscious in his cell on September 19 and pronounced dead after rescue attempts by local police and staff failed. medical.
The coroner’s report says Thompson’s cause of death is undetermined. The report says there were no obvious signs of trauma on Thompson’s body, but her whole body was covered in bedbugs. He also noted a “severe bedbug infestation” in the cell.
Fulton County jail ‘dilapidated and rapidly eroding’
The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office previously said it had launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Thompson’s death and outlined a series of proposed changes to the jail.
Last month, the office said in a statement that “it is no secret that the dilapidated and rapidly eroding conditions of the current facility make it incredibly difficult to achieve the goal of providing a clean environment , well maintained and healthy to all inmates and staff.”
Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat called for the construction of a new Fulton County jail and a new criminal justice complex.
Crump said he believed what happened to Thompson was part of a larger pattern at the prison.
The sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to a request from USA TODAY for an updated comment Monday.
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Contributor: Natalie Neysa Alund, USA TODAY