Fulton jailer, assistants resign after man dies in cell infested with bed bugs

fulton county jail
The family of Lashawn Thompson said he died in the Futon County Jail under brutal conditions and are demanding it be shut down. (Jasmine Robinson/WABE)

Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat said he’s asked for and accepted the resignations of at least three staff members in connection to the case of a 35-year-old Black man, Lashawn Thompson, who was allegedly found dead last year in the psychiatric wing of the Fulton County Jail. He had been arrested three months prior for a misdemeanor.

At a press conference last week, Thompson’s family alleged he was “eaten alive by bed bugs” and that medical staff and detention officers did little to help him.

An internal investigation is ongoing.

Labat said that after reviewing preliminary evidence, he asked the chief jailer, assistant chief jailer and assistant chief jailer for criminal investigations to resign. They submitted their resignations at an executive staff meeting over the weekend.

“It’s clear to me that it’s time—past time, to clean house,” Labat said.

He said the final investigative report won’t ease the family’s grief or bring Thompson 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,” Labat said.

Once the investigation is completed, it will be handed over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to determine whether any criminal charges are warranted.

Additionally, the sheriff’s office is reviewing all legal options to change medical vendors. Alabama-based NaphCare is the private company currently providing health care to the jail’s detainees. Its $27.1 million contract is set to expire in December.

On Monday, April 17, it was named in a separate wrongful death lawsuit related to the death of another Black man. It’s the latest to hit NaphCare over allegations surrounding its care of incarcerated people across the country.

The family of 26-year-old Deion Strayhon said NaphCare allegedly failed to provide him with adequate medical care while he was awaiting trial at the Gwinnett County Jail in 2021. He was one of seven detainees who died at the facility, more than any other jail in Metro Atlanta that year.

His mother, Sherry Strayhon, said that for 22 days he repeatedly complained to her about stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and not being able to eat. She talked to him the night before he died.

“He called that night and said that he sat there all day and nobody saw him and that he was going to see someone in the morning,” Sherry said. “He ended up passing away at like 5 a.m.”

The Strayhon’s family attorney said Deion died from a hemorrhaged ulcer, which could have been prevented with a simple X-ray. Instead, physicians and nurses allegedly continued to prescribe him “random medications.”

“This lawsuit raises serious questions and serious concerns about the competence and about the professionalism of NaphCare, but also about the [Gwinnett] county officials who should have oversight for any contractor that they hire,” attorney Sam Starks said.

NaphCare did not respond to WABE’s request for comment in Deion’s case on Monday.

The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office and Gwinnett County spokesperson declined to comment.

Meanwhile, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office said that even before Thompson’s death, it had already started to roll out $500,000 worth of mitigation services to address the infestation of bed bugs, lice and other vermin at the jail. It also updated protocols for security rounds to include addressing sanitary conditions.

Additionally, it said it transferred nearly 700 detainees to other municipalities in an effort to ease overcrowding at an average cost of $47,000 a day. Transfers are ongoing, according to the sheriff’s office.

Fulton County officials are planning for a controversial $2 billion jail almost four times the size of the overcrowded facility on Rice Street.

Attorneys Michael Harper and Ben Crump, along with the Georgia NAACP, are holding a rally at noon for Thompson on Thursday, April 20, at the Fulton County Jail.

“There is no excuse for anyone to be treated in the manner Lashawn Thomspon was treated,” Harper said. “Someone has to be held accountable for his death. The Fulton County Jail must be closed and replaced.”

A lawsuit has not yet been filed in Thompson’s case.