Schizophrenic inmate’s death is ruled a homicide caused by neglect after he was eaten by bed bugs
A schizophrenic jail inmate was killed after being consumed by bed bugs in a Georgia jail cell—with an autopsy ruling thirst and malnutrition also contributed to his demise.
Lashawn Thompson, 35, died in September, three months after he was booked into the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, with fresh outrage over his horrific death emerging thanks to the release of autopsy findings by his family’s lawyers.
The autopsy was paid for by the Autopsy Initiative of the Know Your Rights Camp, an initiative started by former NFL star and activist Colin Kaepernick.
Public outrage over his death spread last month after a lawyer for his family, Michael Harper, released photos of Thompson’s face and body covered in insects.
A combination of dehydration, rapid weight loss and malnutrition, complicated by untreated decompensated schizophrenia led to a fatal cardiac arrhythmia, the report says.
LaShawn Thompson (pictured), a man who died in a bedbug-infested cell in a Georgia jail’s psychiatric wing ‘died due to severe neglect,’ according to an independent autopsy released Monday by lawyers for his family
‘Mr. Thompson was neglected to death,’ says the autopsy report written by Dr. Roger A. Mitchell Jr., a former chief medical examiner in Washington, DC, who is now a professor and chair of the pathology department at Howard University College of Medicine.
The independent autopsy report lists the cause of death as ‘Complications due to Severe Neglect,’ with ‘Untreated Decompensated Schizophrenia’ identified as a contributing cause.
That neglect includes the bed bugs photographed embedded in Thompson’s skin as he was treated for the illness which ultimately killed him.
Because he did not receive necessary medical care or adequate food, water and shelter, his manner of death was homicide, Mitchell wrote.
An earlier report from the Fulton County medical examiner’s office found no obvious signs of trauma on Thompson’s body but noted a ‘severe bed bug infestation.’ It lists his cause of death as ‘undetermined.’
The new autopsy ‘confirms that this is one of the most deplorable in-custody deaths in the history of America,’ said prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents the family.
The family’s lawyers and advocates gave credit to Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat, who has publicly called Thompson’s death ‘absolutely unconscionable.’
They called on the Fulton County Board of Commissioners to take responsibility and act quickly to fix the problems at the jail and urged the district attorney’s office to bring criminal charges.
Lawyers also called on Gov. Brian Kemp to address a ‘mental health crisis’ in the state.
A report from the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office noted a ‘severe bed bug infestation’
Mr Thompson was allegedly found dead in a filthy cell at Fulton County Jail
The jail is ‘dangerously overcrowded and understaffed’ according to the Southern Center for Human Rights.
Labat, who took office in 2021 and has long advocated for a new jail, has said Thompson’s death shows that the current jail cannot provide ‘safe and humane detention.’
His office did not immediately respond Monday to an email seeking comment on the independent autopsy report.
Labat has said that once investigations into Thompson’s death – an internal one by his office and another by the Atlanta Police Department – are complete, they will be turned over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
He announced the resignations of three top jail staffers last month.
Thompson had lost 32 pounds, or about 18 percent of his body weight, during his three months at the Fulton County Jail and showed evidence of dehydration, the report says.
In addition to an ‘innumerable number of insects’ all over his body, his hands, feet, fingernails and toenails were filthy, it says.
Medical records from the jail indicate that Thompson received his last dose of the medications he’d been prescribed for his mental health issues 32 days before his death, the report says.
‘Mr. Thompson was completely reliant on his caregivers to provide both day-to-day care as well as the acute life-saving care that was needed to save him from the untreated decompensated schizophrenia,’ the report says.
LaShawn Thompson was placed in the psychiatric wing of Fulton County Jail after officials determined he had mental issues.
Colin Kaepernick offered to pay for a second autopsy to be carried out on Thompson
According to TMZ Sports, Kaepernick reached out to one of the family’s attorneys, Ben Crump, to fund a second autopsy which could cost anything between $20-$50,000.
TMZ also reports that Kaepernick has been distressed at reports of the conditions the 35-year-old was kept in.
Kaepernick, who led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013, was the first athlete to take a knee to protest racial inequality and police brutality.
His controversial act of protest inspired many athletes to kneel during the national anthem and was an icon for the Black Lives Matter movement. However, his activism wasn’t well received by all and sparked a heated nationwide debate, which included some of his own fans setting fire to his jersey.
In wake of the controversy, the NFL in 2018 issued a ruling prohibiting players from sitting or taking a knee during the singing or playing of The Star-Spangled Banner before games.
Although the ruling has not ever been formally rescinded, no player has been disciplined for taking a knee and, in 2020, league commissioner Roger Goodell promised to support players who peacefully protest.
In 2017, he sued the NFL, accusing team owners of colluding to keep him out of the league due to his protests during the national anthem.
In 2019, Kaepernick settled the grievance with the NFL for an undisclosed amount after accusing owners of blackballing him in retaliation for the controversial protests.