Rally held outside of Fulton Co. Jail for inmate ‘eaten alive’ by bed bugs

Former NFL quarterback, turned civil rights activist Colin Kaepernick has agreed to pay for an independent autopsy of Lashawn Thompson’s body.
Published: Apr. 20, 2023 at 5:32 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Attorneys representing the family of a man, who they claim was ‘eaten alive’ by bedbugs inside the Fulton County Jail, continued their calls for answers and justice during a rally Thursday afternoon.

Dozens of demonstrators rallied outside of the jail demanding the closure of the facility. They were joined by members of Lashawn Thompson’s family and their legal team, including famed civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump.

“What happened to Lashawn Thompson is a human rights violation,” Crump said.

Crump called Thompson’s death inhuman and criminal. He led the crowd in a chant saying, “We ain’t going let you pass the baton, justice for Lashawn.”

“If we don’t ask the questions and we don’t get the answers and we don’t get to the truth, then next time it could be your loved one,” he said. “This isn’t just about Lashawn Thompson. This is about every citizen in Fulton County, Georgia.”

Thompson was found dead inside his cell last September, covered in bed bugs. The 35-year-old, who was arrested on a misdemeanor charge, struggled with mental illness.

“Can you imagine him screaming and him hollering, saying ‘They biting, they biting’ and nobody come,” said Thompson’s aunt, Mamie Norman. “Nobody. Nobody. I still have no understanding until y’all find out what happened to him.”

Thompson’s family said they tried getting answers on their own, but no one would listen. That is until they lawyered up.

“I called around to the jail,” said Thompson’s sister, Shenita Thompson. “I emailed the sheriff. I talked to the medical examiner. Nobody would help. The only person that would help me was Mr. [Michael] Harper. He actually listened to me.”

On Monday, Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat announced the resignation of three top jailers and the possibility of switching healthcare providers inside the jail. Three days later, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners approved $5.3 million dollars to further address inmate safety and security.

“Why not fire [the jailers],” Harper, the family’s attorney, said. “Why not fire those gentlemen? They are responsible for Lashawn Thompson’s death. They are ready folks to move on like business as usual.”

Sheriff Labat joined the family and their attorneys during the rally. As the investigation continues, he promised accountability and invited Thompson’s family to be part of the solution.”

“If holding people accountable is a crime, I’ll be guilty every day,” Labat said.

Following the sheriff’s remarks, the family admitted they are not satisfied with the changes. Harper said they have yet to file a civil lawsuit but added they will if they must. Former NFL quarterback turned civil rights activist Colin Kaepernick has agreed to pay for an independent autopsy of Thompson’s body, according to Crump.

Meanwhile, Thompson’s death has gotten the attention of U.S. Senator Job Ossoff, chairman of the human rights subcommittee. He’s launched an inquiry into conditions at jails across the state.

“The Department of Justice has an affirmative obligation to safeguard the civil rights of incarcerated people, whether they are held in Federal, state, or local custody,” Sen. Ossoff wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland. “Additionally, the Federal government provides hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to state and local prisons and jails through an array of grant programs, including through the DOJ Bureau of Justice Assistance, and thus has the responsibility to oversee the use of those resources.”

Harper told Atlanta News First on Wednesday that the Department of Justice contacted him, requesting the case file for a federal civil rights criminal investigation into Thompson’s death.