Lashawn Thompson’s Family Demands Justice: He Was “Eaten Alive” by Bugs in Jail

In Atlanta, Georgia, the household of a prisoner says he was “eaten alive” by bugs and bedbugs in his cell there final yr. The household of 35-year-old Lashawn Thompson, who was being held within the jail’s psychiatric wing, is demanding a felony investigation and that the jail be shut down. In an unique interview, we communicate to Thompson’s brother Brad McCrae and sister Shenita Thompson, in addition to Michael Harper, a lawyer representing the household.


It is a rush transcript. Copy might not be in its last type.

AMY GOODMAN: We start at this time’s present in Atlanta, Georgia, the place over 600 prisoners are being transferred from the Fulton County Jail after the household of a Black prisoner mentioned he was “eaten alive” by bugs and bedbugs in his cell there final yr. The household of 35-year-old Lashawn Thompson, who was being held within the jail’s psychiatric wing, is demanding a felony investigation and that the jail needs to be shut down. On Monday, a number of of the jail’s government workers resigned, together with the chief jailer, assistant chief jailer and members of the felony investigative division. Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat mentioned in an announcement, quote, “It’s clear to me that it’s time, previous time, to scrub home.” In an earlier assertion, the sheriff mentioned, quote, “it’s truthful to say that this is likely one of the many instances that illustrate the determined want for expanded and higher psychological well being providers.”

This Thursday, the household and group members will rally exterior the jail as consciousness concerning the situations there and this case develop. Pictures shared with Democracy Now! by the lawyer for Lashawn Thompson present filthy situations in what’s believed to be Thompson’s cell, the place he was discovered useless on September nineteenth final yr. The Fulton County Medical Examiner’s post-mortem report mentioned Thompson’s cell was in, quote, “extraordinarily poor situation with insect an infection and different filthiness round him” and had a, quote, “extreme bedbug infestation.” The Fulton County’s post-mortem famous, quote, “The physique is infested with an infinite variety of small bugs which can be 2 mm in size.” Thompson’s reason for demise is listed as undetermined.

Maybe most surprising is a graphic picture launched by the household’s lawyer that exhibits Thompson’s face on the time of his demise. His household has requested that the world see it, and with a warning to our viewers, we’re exhibiting it briefly now.

Lashawn Thompson’s demise got here after he had been held for 3 months on a misdemeanor cost and was put within the jail’s psychiatric wing after officers decided he was mentally unwell. The corrections officer who wrote the incident report about his demise famous, quote, “I’ve communicated with psychological well being workers concerning the residing situations of inmate Thompson on earlier dates.”

For extra, we’re joined in a worldwide TV/radio/podcast broadcast unique by three friends. In Atlanta, Michael Harper is a lawyer representing Lashawn Thompson’s household. In Florida, we’re joined by Lashawn’s sister Shenita Thompson, and Lashawn’s brother Brad McCrae is in Montgomery, Alabama.

We welcome you all to Democracy Now! Brad, I wish to begin with you. You might be Lashawn’s brother. We actually weighed whether or not to indicate that {photograph}, that your loved ones desires the world to see, of your brother’s head. And I’m questioning in case you can speak about why you felt it was crucial that the world see it.

BRAD McCRAE: Sure, ma’am. First off, I wish to say good morning and thanks for having me on.

So far as with the picture, my private emotions and emotion concerning the photographs was Emmett Until. I considered Emmett Until. It broke my coronary heart to see these photographs. And we wished the world to see it, so the world can really feel it, and the world can get up and see what’s occurring out right here and get behind it and make a change. Make a change. We wish the world to get up and make a change.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I’d wish to ask Shenita Thompson, the sister of Lashawn Thompson, once you first heard of what had occurred to your brother, and your response once you realized the situations that he was in.

SHENITA THOMPSON: After I first came upon what occurred to my brother, it simply, like, broke my coronary heart. Simply to see the situations that he was in, and particularly the photographs, simply to see all of the bugs in his face, his eyes, his nostril, like, it actually, actually broke my coronary heart simply to see him like that and what he went by means of. Yeah.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in addition, I’d wish to ask Brad McCrae: The truth that the sheriff of Fulton County is now saying he vows to scrub home, what’s your response to the actions of legislation enforcement subsequent to your brother’s demise?

BRAD McCRAE: Effectively, I wish to thank the sheriff for making an attempt to scrub home and do every little thing that he appears like he might do. I want it was performed earlier. I want it will have been performed so my brother would possibly nonetheless be right here, however I wish to thank the sheriff for what he’s making an attempt to do. And he’s making an attempt to make it proper on his behalf, however we’ve bought an extended solution to go, and I hope it retains going ahead.

AMY GOODMAN: I wish to level out, Brad, that, for our listeners, you might be carrying a T-shirt that claims “In Loving Reminiscence,” and there’s a lovely image of your brother Lashawn in your shirt. Had been you — and I additionally wish to ask Shenita — in case you each had been in communication with him, in case you had been in a position to discuss to him when he was within the jail? Shenita, let’s begin with you. Did he discuss to you concerning the bedbugs, the bugs, the infestation, the situations of the jail?

SHENITA THOMPSON: Like my brother had beforehand mentioned, we didn’t even know he was in jail, so…

AMY GOODMAN: So the horror of this. A report by the Southern Middle for Human Rights discovered at the least 10 folks died on the Fulton County Jail final yr, and mentioned, quote, “The Fulton County Jail has been understaffed and mismanaged for many years, resulting in a number of lawsuits and consent decrees, however the issues have been notably acute in latest months as Fulton County Sheriff Labat has failed to take care of even present workers. On September twenty first, Labat said that he had misplaced extra workers than he was in a position to rent, and as of October tenth there have been at the least 155 workers vacancies.”

The American Civil Liberties Union has issued a report on tips on how to shortly depopulate the jail, that mentioned, quote, “Fulton County’s failure to account for folks’s skill to pay when setting bail is a big issue within the variety of folks held in jail,” and located at the least 12% of the folks had been held there on account of “lack of ability to pay bail — that means a wealthier particular person with the identical fees and bail quantity can be launched.” Some had been held for over two years.

Which brings us to Michael Harper, the legal professional for Lashawn’s household. Michael, are you able to speak about why we’re simply studying about this case now, and the importance, the impression it has had, I imply, eradicating 600 prisoners? Discuss what you perceive occurred, how Lashawn was in that psychological well being unit of the jail, in case you can name it that, what the post-mortem means, the images that you’ve got which can be so horrific.

MICHAEL HARPER: Yeah. Good morning.

Let me begin with the images, as a result of there may be some discuss from the sheriff concerning the authenticity of these images and the place they got here from. These horrific images got here instantly from the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s jail demise investigation that was supplied to the household from the County Medical Examiner’s Workplace. They’re the precise photographs of the cell that Lashawn Thompson was housed in when he died. They’re horrible.

However what occurred right here, as you famous, the jail knew that Lashawn Thompson had psychological well being points in June of 2022. They put him in a psychiatric wing of that jail and uncared for him. He was there for 3 months. There are reviews, within the incident report from the demise, that the officers, as you alluded to, had been conscious that he was declining, he was in a dirty cell. They complained to their superiors, and nothing occurred. He was there till he died, and his physique was discovered infested with these horrible bedbug bites and lice and bugs. It’s simply past tragic, what occurred to him. He’s mentally unwell. He was not ready, we consider, to contact his household. He was not in a position to communicate for himself. They held him there. It was their accountability to verify he was secure and to ensure that his cell was clear. And bear in mind, Lashawn Thompson was a pretrial detainee. He had not been convicted of any crime. He was being held there till he bought his day in court docket. So they’d an obligation to ensure that he was secure.

The brand new details about the sheriff cleansing home and shifting inmates, that’s an exquisite factor to occur. However Lashawn Thompson died in September of final yr. The sheriff was properly conscious of this case then. We consider the measures that he’s taken now are solely based mostly on the worldwide outrage of Lashawn Thompson’s demise. We respect any change to maintain inmates secure, nevertheless it ought to have occurred earlier than Lashawn Thompson died, and positively after he died, earlier than the media consideration.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Effectively, Michael Harper, you’ve represented others who died in the identical facility, together with William Barnett, a person charged with stealing a lawnmower, and in addition Antonio Might, in 2018, who was overwhelmed to demise by six detention officers. Discuss these two associated instances and what it signifies about how legislation enforcement has been coping with this jail now for years.

MICHAEL HARPER: Yeah, there’s definitely a systemic challenge of abuse and neglect on the Fulton County Jail right here in Atlanta. Antonio Might’s case was horrific. It is a man who additionally went into the jail with psychological well being points. They had been properly conscious. It’s properly documented he had psychological well being points. He was in a holding cell. When he first got here in to be processed, he started eradicating his clothes, and he allegedly wouldn’t put his clothes again on when instructed to by the detention officers. For that small infraction, the DART workforce, the specialised workforce on the jail, Direct Motion Response Staff, went into his holding cell, tased him 9 occasions in a minute and a half, beat him, put him in a restraint chair, took him to a bathe space to scrub the pepper spray off his face, and his coronary heart went out. They usually actually watched him, tied right down to a restraint chair. They usually had further restraints. The proof in that case confirmed that not simply the restraints on the restraint chair, however they used further restraints, in opposition to jail coverage. And whereas he was restrained in that method, his coronary heart went out in entrance of them, and he died restrained in that chair. Only a horrific case for such a small, minor infraction.

William Barnett, one other tragic case, went to the jail on a misdemeanor. The jail was conscious that he had a chemical imbalance. He had low potassium. They despatched him out, as a result of he had some well being points, despatched him out to the hospital. When he got here again to the jail, the directions from the hospital was for the jail to observe William Barnett, test his potassium stage to ensure that he didn’t decline. They did nothing. They by no means gave him extra potassium. They by no means monitored him. And he was discovered unresponsive, went into cardiac arrest in his cell and died. I imply, these are simply inexcusable, horrific deaths.

And let me additionally say this concerning the sheriff wanting a brand new jail. We applaud that, and we agree that we in all probability want a brand new jail in Fulton County, however these instances are about neglect. A brand new jail is just not going to cease neglectful detention officers from not caring for mentally unwell folks. They should do extra coaching. They should ensure that the officers are following coverage to assist those that are least served.

AMY GOODMAN: We wished to finish once more with the household of Lashawn. Brad, you’re in Montgomery, in a studio in Alabama, a historic place, the place Rosa Parks led the Montgomery bus boycott. You’re not removed from Bryan Stevenson’s lynching museum. And, Shenita, I wish to start together with your description of your brother. You’re in Winter Haven, Florida. Isn’t that the place Lashawn grew up? Are you able to speak about Lashawn? And in addition, was he in a position to get assist for his schizophrenia?

SHENITA THOMPSON: Sure, he grew up in Winter Haven, Florida. He went to Winter Haven Excessive College. He cherished music. He cherished listening to his headphones, and he was at all times coping with his headphones. He cherished simply music and stuff. Getting assist for his psychological well being, sure, he was. However, you understand, with psychological well being, it’s arduous. It’s simply — it’s simply heartbreaking, what occurred. I’m sorry.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Brad, how would you like us to recollect your brother Lashawn?

BRAD McCRAE: Sure, ma’am. I would like the world to recollect him as I do, as a loving particular person, a playful particular person. He cherished music. He cherished to prepare dinner. I would like the world to recollect him as their cousin, their brother, their uncle, or regardless of the case could also be, as a result of it might occur to their household, similar to it occurred to mine.

AMY GOODMAN: And eventually, Michael Harper, there’s going to be a significant protest exterior the Fulton County Jail on Thursday. Are you able to speak about what you might be demanding and if in case you have filed swimsuit on behalf of Lashawn?

MICHAEL HARPER: Now we have not filed any civil swimsuit but. Proper now we’re simply making an attempt to boost consciousness and convey consideration to this horrific case. The rally can be to name for a felony investigation into the demise of Lashawn Thompson. It’s effective to scrub home. It’s effective to make adjustments. However somebody must be held liable for the horrible neglect that Lashawn Thompson underwent. So we wish a felony investigation into this case. We will even demand that the jail is closed down and that Fulton County builds a brand new jail. We’re calling the Division of Justice in Washington to launch a civil rights investigation into the jail, as properly. And there can be different group leaders there. The Georgia NAACP can be there. Numerous group leaders can be there. That is our jail in Fulton County, and now we have to make change.

AMY GOODMAN: Effectively, we wish to thanks all a lot for being with us, Michael Harper, the lawyer for Lashawn Thompson’s household, and Lashawn Thompson’s household, sister Shenita Thompson, chatting with us from Winter Haven, Florida, and Lashawn’s brother Brad McCrae, chatting with us from Montgomery, Alabama. Thanks a lot. Our condolences to you each.

Subsequent up, as a brand new examine finds poverty is the fourth main reason for demise in america, we communicate to the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Matthew Desmond. His new e book, Poverty, by America. Stick with us.

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