Private autopsy says man who died in Georgia jail lived in ‘torture chamber’ conditions, died of ‘severe neglect’

The independent evaluation cited "untreated decompensated schizophrenia," dehydration, starvation and a severe body insect infestation as key factors in Lashawn Thompson's death.

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A man who died in a Georgia jail facility lived in conditions similar to a “torture chamber” before succumbing to complications brought on by extreme disregard for his mental and physical health, a private evaluation reportedly found.

According to CNN, an independent medical review ruled Lashawn Thompson’s death at the Fulton County Jail in September to be a homicide, his family’s attorneys stated at a news conference Monday announcing the conclusions.

Police arrested Thompson, 35 — who had mental health issues and was in the jail’s psychiatric unit — for a misdemeanor three months before his death.

Lashawn Thompson death - Fulton County Jail,
An independent medical review ruled Lashawn Thompson’s death at the Fulton County Jail in September 2022 to be a homicide. (Photo: Screenshot/ News)

Dr. Roger Mitchell Jr., a board-certified forensic pathologist and Howard University professor who served as Washington, D.C.’s top medical examiner from 2014 to 2021, executed the review.

Mitchell’s findings noted that Thompson needed daily treatment for his mental condition, referencing “a significant gap” of 43 days during which there was little evidence of care being provided in the records.

The independent medical evaluation cited “untreated decompensated schizophrenia,” dehydration, starvation and a severe body insect infestation, including lice and bedbugs, as significant factors in Thompson’s death.

The Fulton County medical examiner’s office previously listed Thompson’s manner and cause of death as undetermined.

“The combination of dehydration, rapid weight loss and malnutrition complicated by untreated decompensated schizophrenia led to a fatal cardiac arrhythmia of Lashawn Thompson,” Mitchell said, CNN reported. “Had Mr. Thompson received adequate care during his incarceration at the Fulton County Jail, then he would not have died at the time that he did.”

During a press conference in April, family attorney Michael Harper described Thompson’s living conditions as “inexcusable” and “deplorable,” alleging Fulton County Jail staff had him in a detention cell unfit for a diseased animal.

Dr. Kendall Von Crowns, a chief medical examiner in Texas, said he would still rely on the initial report’s undetermined conclusion instead of the independent autopsy report.

Von Crowns asserted that without seeing the original autopsy, toxicology report or images of Thompson’s body, it appears hunger and dehydration caused his death rather than a lice infestation. However, he concurred with the independent medical investigation that schizophrenia might have played a role.

“It would contribute more to that if he’s not being properly treated,” Von Crowns noted, CNN reported. “It would make his underlying mental illness worse, and that could also fall into the category of neglect.”

Fulton County Sheriff Patrick “Pat” Labat said in a statement Tuesday that he has not thoroughly analyzed the independent autopsy report. However, it was already “painfully clear” that several errors contributed to Thompson’s death.

Labat declared his dedication to ensuring the Thompson family gets the deserved answers regarding the circumstances surrounding their loved one’s death.

Thompson’s family has consistently asked for a criminal probe into his death, the closure of the Fulton County Jail and the construction of a new one.

“I have already held the executive staff responsible for jail operations accountable,” Labat contended, CNN reported, by soliciting and collecting the resignations of the chief jailer and the assistant chief jailers of housing and the criminal investigative division.

Following their resignations, the sheriff’s office set aside a $500,000 emergency expense to manage the infestations of bed bugs, lice and other vermin inside the jail.

There is also a process to move more than 600 prisoners to different counties — at an average cost of approximately $40,000 per day — to help alleviate overcrowding.

“Repercussions for anyone found to be negligent in Mr. Thompson’s care could come once the full investigation is turned over to the [Georgia Bureau of Investigation] for review,” Labat added, according to CNN.

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