Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Family Of Man ‘Eaten Alive’ By Bed Bugs In Jail Cell Settles For $4 Million


By Marianne Guenot and Natalie Musumeci Insider

The family of a 35-year-old man who they allege died inside a jail cell after being “eaten alive” by bed bugs has reached a $4 million settlement with Fulton County in .

Lashawn Thompson died in the mental ward of the notorious Fulton County Jail in a disgusting cell that was ridden with bed bugs and insects, Michael Harper, an attorney for the victim's family, previously told Insider.

“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.”

Thompson's body was found on September 12, 2022, three months after he was arrested on a charge of misdemeanor simple battery. (RELATED: Fulton County DA Loses Motion To Revoke Bond Of Trump Co-Defendant)

An independent autopsy commissioned by Thompson's family listed “complications due to severe neglect” related to his mental and physical health as the cause of death. 

Thompson, the autopsy report says, “was neglected to death.”

During a press conference in May where lawyers for Thompson's family detailed the findings of the independent autopsy, civil rights attorney Ben Crump said Thompson had been living in a “torture chamber.”

Crump called Thompson's death the “most deplorable death in custody case in the history of America.” (RELATED: Election Subversion Case Halted Indefinitely By Georgia Court)

‘Severe neglect'

Thompson experienced a “severe body insect infestation,” and was found to be dehydrated and malnourished when he died, according to the independent autopsy.

The autopsy also suggested Thompson was not receiving medication for his “severe mental illness” at his time of death, Crump said.

Thompson had lost about 30 pounds before his death, the report said. An attorney for the family previously claimed Thompson's mental illness meant he was incapable of caring for himself.

According to jail documents obtained by Insider in May, at least two jail staffers sounded the alarm to other officials about Thompson's cell conditions and concerns about his health in the days before his death. 

The Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office in January listed Thompson's cause of death as “undetermined.” (RELATED: Inmate Killed In Mass Stabbing Incident At Fulton County Jail)

Can bedbugs be deadly?

Michael Potter, an entomologist at the University of Kentucky specializing in bed bugs, said the conditions in the cell seemed “horrific.”

Looking at the pictures of Thompson's body, he said in 20 years of experience, he had “never seen anything quite to this level if this is in fact what I'm seeing,” he told the BBC in April. (RELATED: RNC Prepping For Possibility Trump Is Jailed During Convention)

He said bed bug bites are very rarely deadly, but that people can become anemic in extreme cases of prolonged exposure, which can be lethal if left untreated, per the BBC.

“Bed bugs feed on blood and very large numbers of bed bugs feed on very large amounts of blood,” Potter said, adding that this amount of infestation can also cause a dangerous allergic reaction.

Anemia or allergic reaction were not reported as complications noted in Thompson's autopsy reports.

‘They left him there essentially'

While in lockup, officers moved Thompson to the jail's psychiatric wing after they determined he had a mental illness, Harper previously told Insider.

The Georgia jail cell where Lashawn Thompson was found dead. 
Handout from Michael Harper

“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.”

The $4 million settlement related to Lashawn Thompson was approved by a 6-0 vote by the Fulton County Board of Commissioners in a closed-door executive session Wednesday, reported.

The US announced an investigation into the conditions in the system last month after a series of reports of abuse and neglect.

“Once again we'd like to extend heartfelt condolences to the Thompson family,” Fulton County Sheriff Patrick “Pat” Labat said in a statement to Insider.

“No amount of money can ease the grief of losing a loved one, but we do hope this settlement represents a measure of justice for the family. We stand with the Thompson family and their call for the Rice Street facility to be replaced and remain committed to do the work to bring about the necessary reforms so that something like this never happens again.” (RELATED: Trump Supporter Sentenced To Jail Over Voting Memes)

He added: “Several actions have been taken following an internal investigation into Mr Thompson's death, to include updating protocols for security rounds, adding additional staff to the mental health unit, and transferring hundreds of inmates to other facilities to help relieve overcrowding. While the GBI is continuing its investigation, we are continuing to make the health and wellbeing of men and women in the custody of the Fulton County Sheriff's Office a top priority.”

Find the original article in its entirety on Insider.

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