Man died of ‘gross neglect’ in Fulton County jail, including bedbug infestation, autopsy says
A private autopsy conducted in the case of Lashawn Thompson, who died in Fulton County Jail last year, has found weeks of neglect caused his death.
Thompson was found slumped unconscious on a toilet in his jail cell on September 13, 2022, according to the independent autopsy, and was pronounced dead after 24 minutes of CPR. A copy of the report was provided to NBC News by Thompson’s family lawyers Ben Crump and Michael Harper, who announced the results at a press conference Monday.
Roger A. Mitchell, a board-certified medical examiner, concluded that a number of factors led to Thompson’s fatal cardiac arrhythmia, including dehydration, malnutrition, and rapid weight loss. A toxicology report appears to show Thompson was not receiving medication for his diagnosed schizophrenia disorder at the time of his death.
He also showed signs of “severe bodily insect infestation”, according to the autopsy report.
“I want this recorded: This is the most deplorable death and custody case in history,” Crump said Monday.
Thompson’s brother, Brad McCrae, told NBC affiliate WXIA in April that his brother was in custody from June to September for a battery charge. He says his brother was unrecognizable in photos he saw after Thompson died.
“The loss was unbearable,” McCrae said. “No one should see these kinds of pictures.”
The independent autopsy report included a review of Thompson’s in-custody medical records, the county medical examiner’s autopsy, and the jail incident report.
When admitted on June 13, 2022, Thompson weighed 180 pounds and showed no signs of impairment, according to Mitchell’s independent report. He was also prescribed 5mg of Haldol, an antipsychotic used to treat schizophrenia, and 50mg of Benadryl, according to the report.
Thompson’s medical report shows he was checked five days later and appeared to be fine. A provider checked him again on July 14, 2022, where he “was selectively mute but without distress” and observing his medication.
But then there is a “significant gap” between a recording on July 27 and September 8, 2022,” according to Mitchell’s report.
“This represents 43 days where there was minimal documentation found in the records that shows care is being provided,” the report said. “The medication administration log showed that no medication was administered between August 11, 2022 and September 13, 2022.”
Thompson was placed under psychological observation after a mental health provider found him in the fetal position in his unguarded cell on September 8, 2022. His medical notes include a sheriff’s deputy’s observation that he appeared to have lost a significant amount of weight.
He was seen twice over the next four days, where providers noted he “continued to decompensate” and was awaiting transfer to a mental health clinic, according to Mitchell’s report.
Thompson weighed 148 pounds at the time of his death with matted hair, dirt under his fingernails and on the bottom of his feet and “a severe infestation of bodily insects”, according to the report.
Mitchell found the cause of death in Thompson’s case to be complications from gross negligence, with untreated decompensated schizophrenia being a contributing cause.
“If Mr. Thompson had received adequate care while incarcerated in Fulton County Jail, he would not have died the moment he did,” Mitchell concluded.
The Fulton County Medical Examiner said Thompson’s cause of death was “undetermined” but noted a severe bedbug infestation, WXIA reported at the time. The medical examiner’s office did not immediately respond to a request from NBC News for comment on the independent findings on Monday.
The private autopsy was made possible by NFL quarterback and social justice activist Colin Kaepernick, according to Thompson’s family. Kaepernick launched the Autopsy initiative last year to fund secondary autopsies in cases of “police-related deaths”.
A lawyer for Kaepernick did not immediately respond to an NBC News request for comment.
The Atlanta Police Department is investigating Thompson’s death, but referred media inquiries to the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office.
Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat told WXIA last month that he had called for the resignation of several Fulton jail staff following the investigation into Thompson’s death.
Labat, who took office in January 2021, also said he raised concerns with the Fulton County Board of Commissioners about prison overcrowding, facility issues and the need for a new health care provider.
“There is still a lot to do. We have to build a new facility,” Labat said. “I’ve been screaming this…since before I was elected. We need a new way of thinking.”
Labat did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News. Neither did the Clerk of the County Commissioners’ Office.
The Fulton County Jail has been plagued by problems for nearly two decades and was placed on a consent order following a 2004 lawsuit alleging the conditions amounted to a sentence cruel and unusual.
The ordinance, which set population limits and staffing levels, was lifted in 2015 after nearly $1 billion was spent to stay in compliance, according to calculations by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
An analysis of 2022 data by the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia recommended a series of measures to reduce overcrowding and improve conditions in the prison. The report argues that the prison will continue to face these problems without serious criminal justice reform.
The organization suggested that Fulton County eliminate wealth-based detention, release those charged solely with misdemeanors, ensure timely arraignment, and refer eligible individuals to community diversion programs to address its issues. long-term.