Apr 21, 2023 - News

Family of man who died at Fulton jail criticizes sheriff over conditions

Attorney Ben Crump (center) holds up a photo showing Lashawn Thompson's cell at the time of his death at the Fulton County Jail. Photo: Kristal Dixon/Axios

The family of Lashawn Thompson is demanding answers after his body was found covered in bed bugs inside the Fulton County Jail last September.

Driving the news: In a press conference yesterday, Thompson's family, along with the Georgia NAACP and other organizations, put on display enlarged photos showing the state of Thompson’s body and jail cell at the time of his death.

  • The photo of the cell showed a metal bed frame and desk covered in rust and mold, with trash strewn across the floor.
  • "It's heartbreaking to see,” Brad Mcrae, Thompson's younger brother, said, adding the two can no longer laugh and joke around together.

What they're saying: "This is not just a deplorable jail cell," attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Thompson's family, said. “This is a crime scene.”

  • Co-counsel Michael Harper said the family will now seek an independent autopsy to get to the bottom of Thompson’s death.

Catch up quick: Thompson died three months after he was booked into the jail, according to Crump. He had been diagnosed with a mental health disorder and had been housed in the psychiatric wing.

  • The Fulton County medical examiner ruled Thompson's cause of death was undetermined.
  • Sheriff Pat Labat earlier this month said in a statement that he’s launched an investigation.

Yes, but: Labat, who met with the Thompson family before attending the press conference, said “this is not about me,” but about the family.

  • “I will continue to hold people accountable,” said the sheriff, who is facing criticism over conditions at the jail.

Context: Deplorable conditions at the Fulton County Jail have been a long-running issue, with the detention center once coming under federal court oversight.

  • Last year, the jail entered into a settlement agreement that required it to improve conditions at its South Annex Jail in Union City.
  • To help with overcrowding, Atlanta Council members approved a controversial agreement to allow the sheriff’s office to house up to 700 detainees at the City Detention Center.

What we're watching: On Wednesday, Fulton County commissioners approved $5.3 million to make safety and security improvements at the jail, including devices that can track detainees’ heart rates, equipment to clean and sanitize medical and psychiatric units, 3D imaging to detect narcotics in incoming mail and 91 additional surveillance cameras.

  • Sen. Jon Ossoff said Thursday he will launch a new investigation into the conditions of jails in Georgia and around the country.

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