The family of Lashawn Thompson alleges that he was eaten alive by bed bugs and insects in his cell while jailed in Atlanta.
On June 12, 2022, thirty-five-year-old Thompson was arrested “for misdemeanor simple battery, and after being determined to have mental health issues, he was placed in a psychiatric wing of the jail.”
On September 13, 2022 a mere three months later, jail employees found an unresponsive Thompson in his cell, and the description in the records list his person as entirely covered in a “severe bed bug infestation.” News outlets have reported that “[t]he cell was so filthy that the worker who entered it wore a hazmat suit.”
In a statement, Michael Harper, an attorney representing the family said, “When his body was found one of the detention officers refused to administer CPR because in her words she ‘freaked out.’”
“Mr. Thompson was found dead in a filthy jail cell after being eaten alive by insects and bed bugs,” stated Harper. “The jail cell Mr. Thompson was housed in was not fit for a diseased animal. He did not deserve this.”
The attorney is now demanding a criminal investigation be conducted and has also relayed to reporters that a lawsuit will be forthcoming.
Officially, Thompson’s death is listed as undetermined; however, the released photos from Harper paint a macabre picture and show the entirety of Thompson’s torso and face covered by bugs.
How is it possible to die from something that seems somewhat innocuous?
According to University of Kentucky entomologist Michael Potter who specializes in bed bugs, “prolonged exposure to a massive bed bug infestation can cause severe anemia, which can be lethal if left untreated,” adding that “in other extreme cases…victims may experience an allergic reaction and go into anaphylactic shock, which can also be deadly.”
Fulton County Sheriff’s Office runs and operates the jail, and a spokesperson has since issued a statement, reading in part, “First and foremost, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office would like to extend condolences to the family Lashawn Thompson,” continuing that “[t]he manner and cause of death was listed as ‘undetermined’ by the county medical examiner. A full investigation was launched into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Thompson’s death. As a part of that ongoing investigation, immediate action was taken.”
Sadly, Thompson’s death may have been preventable—just last year the Southern Center for Human Rights put forth a press release entitled, “Uncontained Outbreaks of Lice, Scabies Leave People at Fulton Jail Dangerously Malnourished, in which it outlined the many troubles plaguing the facility and offered recommendations to ‘contain future outbreaks’ and improve ‘hygiene practices’.”