May 24, 2024




© Handout from Michael Harper
Lashawn Thompson (left) died inside this squalid jail cell in Georgia, his family say. Handout from Michael Harper

  • A man died inside of a Georgia jail cell after he was “eaten alive” by bed bugs, his family alleges.
  • Lashawn Thompson was found dead at the Fulton County Jail in September 2022. 
  • Thompson’s cell “was not fit for a diseased animal,” a lawyer for the man’s family said.

A 35-year-old man died inside of a filthy Georgia jail cell after being “eaten alive” by insects and bed bugs, an attorney for the victim’s family has alleged. 

“It’s just horrible,” Michael Harper, a lawyer for the family of Lashawn Thompson, told Insider on Friday of the young man’s death. 

Thompson was discovered dead inside a disgusting cell at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, Georgia, on September 13, 2022 — three months after he was arrested on a charge of misdemeanor simple battery, Harper said.

While he was held at the lockup, officers moved Thompson to the jail’s psychiatric wing after they determined he had a mental illness, Harper said. 

“They left him there essentially,” Harper told Insider. “And they had a plan to take him to the medical observation unit, but their plan never happened, and they found him dead, eaten by these bed bugs.”

Harper released graphic photos showing Thompson’s body and the horrific conditions of his jail cell on Wednesday along with what he said was a report from the Fulton County medical examiner that described a “severe bed bug infestation” in Thompson’s cell. 

“There were no obvious signs of trauma found about the decedent’s body,” the purported medical examiner’s report said. “The decedent’s body was covered in bed bugs.”

The medical examiner ruled Thompson’s cause and manner of death as “undetermined,” according to the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the jail.

Harper, citing jail records, alleged that jail staffers noticed that Thompson was “deteriorating” but did nothing to help him. 

“They literally watched his health decline until he died,” Harper said in a statement. He alleged that Thompson’s jail cell “was not fit for a diseased animal.”

“He did not deserve this,” Harper continued. “Someone has to be held accountable for his death.”

The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement provided to Insider on Friday that it has launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Thompson’s death.

Once the investigation is complete, Sheriff Patrick Labat will make an official request for review by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations “to determine whether any criminal charges are warranted in this case,” the statement said.




© Handout from Michael Harper
The Georgia jail cell where Lashawn Thompson was found dead, according to Thompson’s family. Handout from Michael Harper

“The health, well-being, and security of inmates in our care is our top priority. 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 safe, clean, well-maintained, and healthy environment for all inmates and staff,” the statement continued. 

It added, “Without making any explicit statements about Mr. Thompson’s health, it’s fair to say that this is one of many cases that illustrate the desperate need for expanded and better mental health services.”

“That is precisely why Sheriff Labat continues to call [for] building a new Fulton County Jail and Criminal Justice Complex which will provide humane care in a safe and clean environment that offers mental health and other services that provide a strong foundation for rehabilitation,” the statement said.




© Handout from Michael Harper
Photos of the jail cell where Lashawn Thompson was held show squalid conditions. Handout from Michael Harper

Brad McCrae, Thompson’s brother, told reporters on Wednesday that the photos of his sibling’s body were “heartbreaking,” “hard to look at,” and reminded him of the 1955 teen lynching victim Emmett Till.

“They’re horrified,” Harper told Insider of Thompson’s family. “Can you imagine seeing these photos and knowing what happened to your loved one to die like that? They’re just sick about it.”

Thompson’s family is now calling for a criminal investigation into Thompson’s death and for the jail to be closed and replaced with a new facility. 

The family is also planning to file a lawsuit against the jail, Harper told Insider.