FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — Following a family’s claim that one of their family members, Lashawn Thompson, was eaten alive by bed bugs at the Fulton County Jail, Sheriff Patrick “Pat” Labat has announced some major changes.
"It’s clear to me that it’s time, past time, to clean house," Labat said in a release.
During an executive staff meeting held over the weekend, Labat said he asked for the resignations of the chief jailer, Col. John Jackson, the assistant chief jailer, Lt. Col. Derrick Singleton, and assistant chief jailer for the Criminal Investigative Division, Lt. Col. Adam Lee.
All submitted their resignations, according to the release from the sheriff's office.
The release also said the sheriff’s office is “reviewing all legal options to change medical vendors” so better care can be given to inmates.
The sheriff’s office said two investigations are being launched into LaShawn Thompson's death, one of which will be conducted by the Atlanta Police Department. The other will be an internal investigation, according to the sheriff.
Once both investigations are done, the results will be given to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for review, the release stated.
“Most importantly, we want to, once again, extend our sincere condolences to the family of Mr. LaShawn Thompson,” Labat said. “The final investigative report will not ease the family’s grief or bring their loved one back, but it is my hope and expectation that it provides a full, accurate and transparent account of the facts surrounding Mr. Thompson’s death so that it provides all of the answers they are seeking and deserve.”
The changes come after Thompson’s body was found ravaged by insects and bedbugs. The 35-year-old was being held in the Fulton County Jail on a simple misdemeanor simple battery charge.
Thompson, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, was being held in the psychiatric wing. He had been there for three months when an officer found him covered in sores and bites from bed bugs and lice. But by that point, his family couldn't even recognize him.
Pictures from inside the jail show that Thompson was being held in a filthy cell, with dirt and grime covering the toilet and floors.
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Photos | Man covered in bed bugs, found dead in filthy conditions inside Fulton County Jail
"It looks like he wasn't eating in jail or malnutrition or maybe the bed bugs did it," his brother said.
The Fulton County Medical Examiner lists his cause of death as "undetermined" but did note a severe bedbug infestation. His family claims an infection from the bites led to cardiac arrhythmia and to his death.
An Atlanta attorney representing Thompson's family, Michael Harper, said they plan on filing a lawsuit against the Fulton County Sheriff and detention officers once they get proof from their own investigation that the bug bites led to his death. They expect that will happen within the next two months.
"The Sheriff was aware of Lashawn Thompson's death back in September and the conditions in which he died back in September," Harper told 11Alive Monday evening. "So we do have to wonder if the international attention to this case is what made the Sheriff make the changes."
Sheriff Labat was not available Monday for comment.
Harper applauds the Sheriff for the changes announced Monday.
"I do think Sheriff Labat has good intentions about cleaning up the jail, but it's such a systemic problem, there's going to have to be a lot of training to make sure these officers do their jobs correctly.... But, better late than never, and maybe to save another family from having to go through another tragic, unnecessary death."