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Man died after being ‘eaten alive’ by bed bugs in US jail, family says

This article is more than 12 months old

The family of a man who died in a filthy jail cell in Atlanta, United States, after allegedly being “eaten alive” by insects and bed bugs, is calling for a criminal investigation into his death.

Lashawn Thompson, 35, was discovered dead inside a cell at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, Georgia, on Sept 13, 2022, three months after he was arrested on a charge of misdemeanour for simple battery, according to a lawyer representing the family.

Thompson had been placed in the jail’s psychiatric unit after officers determined that he had mental health issues.

According to a Fulton County medical examiner’s report obtained by American daily USA Today, Thompson was found unresponsive in his jail cell and pronounced dead after failed life-saving attempts by local police and medical personnel.

The coroner wrote that while there were no obvious signs of trauma found on Thompson’s body, there was an “extremely severe” infestation of small insects on Thompson’s body, and a “severe bed bug infestation” in the inmate’s cell.

The report also confirmed that Thompson had signs of cuts and wounds on his body from picking his skin.

Graphic photos released last week by the family’s Atlanta-based lawyer, Mr Michael D. Harper, show the squalid condition of Thompson’s cell and his body covered in bugs.

Mr Harper also told USA Today that according to jail records, detention officers and medical staff at the jail had noticed Thompson’s health was deteriorating, but did nothing to administer aid or to help him.

“They literally watched his health decline until he died,” Mr Harper said.

He added: “When his body was found, one of the detention officers refused to administer CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) because, in her words, she ‘freaked out’. The jail cell Mr Thompson was housed in was not fit for a diseased animal. He did not deserve this.”

The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office released a statement last Thursday saying it had launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Thompson’s death, and committed US$500,000 (S$665,000) to address vermin outbreaks in the jail.

According to Mr Harper, Thompson’s family is also calling the jail to be closed and replaced with a new facility. They plan to file a lawsuit against the jail.

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