Mother of man who died of hypothermia in DeKalb County Jail files lawsuit

Lamar Walker was found dead in his cell, naked and wet, eight days after he was booked into jail.
Anthony Lamar Walker
Anthony Lamar Walker(WANF)
Published: May. 26, 2023 at 5:27 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - The mother of a man found dead inside the DeKalb County Jail last year has filed a lawsuit against the jail, claiming negligence.

When Toni Walker thinks of her only child, she’s reminded of the long agonizing death he likely experienced inside the DeKalb County Jail.

“They treated him like a piece of trash,” Walker said as tears rolled down her face. “In my heart, in my spirit, I think he was hollering out.”

Anthony Lamar Walker, 34, was arrested on Dec. 18 on charges of aggravated assault and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He was found dead in his cell eight days later – naked and wet. The DeKalb County Medical Examiner determined the cause of death was hypothermia and ruled it an accident.

“They didn’t care,” Walker said. “I think they felt like he was a nuisance because he was having a crisis.”

Walker said her son, who she referred to as Lamar, was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 17. Jail records provided to Atlanta News First show the jail was aware of his mental state at intake.

“I was just thinking, they’ll make sure he’s properly medicated,” Walker said. “He battled a lot, but he did really well when he was taking his medicine.”

The DeKalb County Jail, DeKalb County Sheriff Melody Maddox, the county, and the jail’s medical providers are among the defendants named in a $15 million lawsuit, filed this week, which claims negligence, wrongful death and conspiracy to coverup and other offenses.

“Every human being who’s detained has a right to the basic comforts of humanity, clothing, warmth, food, shelter, water, and [Lamar] did not get it sufficiently because he suffered and died,” said Walker’s attorney, David Hughes of Hall Hirsch Hughes Law Firm.

Hughes said the evidence shows neither the jail staff nor medical providers tried to protect Lamar from the cold. He also noted outside low temperatures, while Lamar was incarcerated, were subfreezing for several days

“Lamar was detained,” said Hughes. “He had no control over his environment. The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office did, and they essentially left him in a cell that was cold, dark, and caused hypothermia and his death.”

Hughes said not only were Walker’s civil rights violated, but jail staff also neglected his rights as a human being with a mental disability.

“We need to find out what their policies are, how they’re being implemented, and how we can improve on that,” he added.

Lamar was one of nine inmates who died while in custody at the jail last year, the deadliest since 2012. Decaturish, which is a partner of Atlanta News First, uncovered several of the inmates who died had a history of mental illness.

“If there is a pattern of mental health-related injuries or deaths in the jail, we need to do something about it,” Hughes said.

“They need to be held accountable or you’re going to be doing a lot more interviews like this,” Walker added.

Despite filing an open records request, Hughes said the sheriff’s office refuses to provide surveillance footage from Dec 21-25. They are critical dates Hughes said would help them better understand the care or lack thereof, Lamar received leading up to his death.

The sheriff’s office and the county declined to comment citing the pending litigation.