Activists are calling for accountability in the death of 35-year-old Lashawn Thompson, a Black man who is suspected of having been “eaten alive by insects and bed bugs” inside a Georgia jail, his family’s attorney claims.
“It is absolutely despicable. This facility has to be shut down,” said Angelica Dueñas, a California community organizer running to represent the state’s 29th Congressional District.
“All inmates need a health evaluation and all individuals in charge need to be held accountable for Lashawn Thompson’s death,” she wrote on Twitter.
Thompson had initially been arrested on June 12 in Atlanta for a misdemeanor assault charge. Once taken into custody, officials had him placed inside Fulton County Jail, known for its squalid conditions that include overcrowding and cases of lice and scabies.
At the jail, officials determined Thompson was suffering from a mental health disorder. He was then transferred to a psychiatric ward.
Approximately three months later, jail staff found Thompson dead and covered in bed bugs, a press release distributed by Michael D. Harper, an attorney representing Thompson’s family, stated.
According to CNN, the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s office could not determine Thompson’s manner of death. Harper said that Thompson had a history of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
When jail staff entered Thompson’s cell, the room was so unsanitary that workers needed to wear hazmat suits to step inside, Harper added.
“His body was riddled with bed bug bites and insect bites,” he continued. “Just horrific.”
On Thursday, Thompson’s brother, Brad McCrae, called for the closure of the jail and a criminal investigation into his sibling’s death. The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office has advocated for a new detention facility, likely to cost the jurisdiction about $2 billion, according to a recent study.
Over the weekend, the sheriff’s office announced on Twitter that over 600 of the remaining people who are incarcerated at Fulton County Jail would be transferred to other nearby facilities, but wouldn’t specify where. The move is expected to cost the county $40,000 a day.
It currently costs $85 a day to house people who are incarcerated at the jail, according to WXIA-TV, an NBC affiliate.
Representatives of The King Center, a non-profit, non-violent organization named after Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., joined a chorus of horrified groups demanding action over Thompson’s death.
“We are urging a swift response from Fulton County officials in improving the conditions of its jail facilities and in increasing their concern for those in their care,” a statement posted to Twitter read.
The sheriff’s office has so far not stated whether the facility would close, but declared that over $500,000 would be spent immediately to address outbreaks of infectious illnesses at the jail.
Some Twitter users criticized the county’s slow response to Thompson’s death, considering the man passed away in September, and questioned why officials hadn’t moved to implement changes sooner.
Georgia Democratic State Sen. Nabilah Islam also voiced her frustrations with her state’s criminal justice system.
“Lashawn Thompson did not deserve to die like this,” she said on Twitter. “Nobody should die in jail.”