Aug 8, 2023 - News

Fulton County settles lawsuit over jail detainee's death

The family of LaShawn Thompson, attorney Ben Crump and NAACP Georgia President Gerald Griggs at a press conference denouncing the conditions at the Fulton County Jail.

Activists, family members of LaShawn Thompson, attorney Ben Crump and Atlanta NAACP President Gerald Griggs attend an April press conference. Photo: Kristal Dixon/Axios

Fulton County approved a settlement agreement nearly a year after detainee LaShawn Thompson's body was found covered in insect bites inside his cell.

Driving the news: The County Commission last Wednesday approved the $4 million settlement with Thompson's family. No other details of the settlement were made public.

What they're saying: The attorneys for the family, Ben Crump and Michael Harper, said while they are satisfied with the settlement, they will continue to work with the family and community "to ensure that a tragedy like this one never happens to another family or takes one more life."

  • "LaShawn's life mattered, and together, we can demand and motivate significant change in his name," the attorneys said.

The other side: Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat said in a statement provided to Axios that while money cannot replace Thompson, he hopes the settlement "represents a measure of justice for the family."

  • Labat said the sheriff's office has implemented changes since the agency's internal investigation into Thompson's death, which include adding more staff to its mental health unit, updating its security rounds procedures and utilizing hundreds of beds at the Atlanta City Detention Center.
  • He's also lobbied the County Commission to build a new jail.

State of play: The settlement comes less than a month after the U.S. Department of Justice opened a civil rights investigation over conditions at the jail.

  • It also follows the deaths of two other detainees: a 19-year-old female inmate who was found dead in her cell last month at the Atlanta City Detention Center; and a 40-year-old who died last week.
  • The woman was booked into the facility in May while the man had been detained since October, the sheriff's office said.

What we're watching: Fulton commissioners last week gave the go-ahead to the county manager and staff to begin planning and seeking financing to build a replacement jail at a cost of $1.68 billion.


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