The independent autopsy results for a Black man who died in the custody of a jail in Atlanta was “killed” as the result of extreme neglect at the facility, where his body had been found to be “infested” with insects, according to lawyers who were scheduled to make public the findings on Monday morning.
Lashawn Thompson, 35, not only died under those inhumane conditions, lawyers added, but his death was also preventable since he was being held on allegations of a misdemeanor crime for which he couldn’t afford to pay a bond.
The autopsy results come about eight months after Thompson, of Florida, was found dead in the Fulton County Jail’s psychiatric ward. He was arrested three months earlier on a charge of simple battery but was being held on a bond of $2,500 that he was unable to get paid to secure his freedom.
Prior to Monday’s revelation of Thompson’s autopsy results in Atlanta, the local medical examiner’s office reported the cause of death as being “undetermined” but also described the conditions in which he was found to have a “severe bed bug infestation,” according to Fox 5 Atlanta, which later added: “Jail records reportedly reveal that detention officers and medical staff at the jail noticed Thompson’s deteriorating health but did nothing to help him, leading to his untimely death.”
Graphic images of Thompson’s dead body as well as decrepit-looking jail cells were posted to social media following the report of his death.
No criminal charges have been brought in the death.
It was in that context that civil rights attorney Ben Crump, one of the lawyers representing Thompson’s family, was expected to announce the autopsy results later Monday morning.
“These autopsy findings confirm that Lashawn Thompson was killed by the extreme neglect of the Fulton County Jail and its staff. He was dehydrated, malnourished, and his body was infested inside and out with insects – it is truly one of the most horrific cases we have seen,” Crump said in a statement emailed to NewsOne. “This man endured a torturous death.”
Crump placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of the jail staff.
“It is unfathomable that no one working in this facility lifted a finger to help Lashawn as he slowly died for three months on their watch,” Crump added. “Their inaction, cruelty, and inhumanity killed him. We will do everything in our power to hold those responsible for Lashawn’s death accountable. Lashawn, his family, and everyone who has suffered in the so-called care of Fulton County Jail deserve at least that much.”
The Fulton County Jail is notorious for its “crumbling” conditions as well as for the sheriff who presides over the facility. The conditions, including flooding, could conceivably lead to those in which Thompson was found.
About a month before Thompson was jailed, Tiffany Roberts, the Public Policy Director at Southern Center for Human Rights, addressed the Fulton County Jail conditions in an op-ed for NewsOne.
Aside from what Roberts described as severe “overcrowding,” the civil rights attorney and former Fulton County public defender blasted “Fulton’s leadership” as “repeatedly” failing “to meet the moment as more progressive jurisdictions move forward. Attempts to lay guilt for draconian conditions at the feet of the Atlanta City Council while concealing critical information inappropriately absolves Fulton County of its responsibility to address the problem it created. But regardless of crime statistics, the Fulton County jail’s history has been troubling.”
A few months after Thompson was found dead, Sakira Cook, vice president at Color Of Change, took Roberts’ sentiment a few steps further and also blamed the jail’s conditions on prosecutors with the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office.
“Prosecutors are the most consequential actor in our criminal legal system,” Cook wrote in an op-ed for NewsOne. “They decide charges, make bail recommendations, plea offers and sentencing recommendations. They can hold police accountable for the killings of Black people. They can decide whether or not to prosecute abortions. In the current debate over Fulton County’s jail system, they are a driver of overcrowding.”
What is obvious is that there is plenty of blame to go around for the conditions in which Thompson was not only jailed but also died.
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