Three Fulton County Jail officials have resigned amid an investigation into the death of an inmate whose family said he was housed in a filthy, bug-infested cell that “wasn’t suitable for a sick animal”.
The Fulton County Jail’s chief jailer and two jail assistants submitted their resignations at the request of Sheriff Patrick “Pat” Labat during an executive staff meeting over the weekend, a statement from the jail said sheriff’s office without naming them.
“It’s clear to me that it’s time, over time, to clean house,” Labat said Monday’s statement announcing “radical changes” to the facility.
The resignations come as the family of Lashawn Thompson demands a criminal investigation into his September 2022 death at the Atlanta jail and that a new facility be built.
Thompson’s family said his death was the result of unsanitary conditions at the prison and complications from insect bites. “The cell he was in was not suitable for a sick animal. This is inexcusable and it is deplorable,” the family’s lawyer Michael Harper said at a news conference last week while holding up photos allegedly showing the conditions from Thompson’s jail cell.
“The manner and cause of death were listed as ‘undetermined’ by the county medical examiner. A full investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Thompson’s death has been initiated,” the County Sheriff’s Office said of Fulton in one statement Thursday.
Due to health privacy regulations, the sheriff’s office could not share any information about Thompson’s health status when he was arrested, “or what decisions he made regarding his right to accept or refuse medical attention,” the statement said.
Labat asked for the resignation of prison officials after reviewing preliminary evidence gathered during the internal investigation, he said in the statement Monday.
“Collectively, the executive team that has been in place has more than 65 years of experience in prison administration and law enforcement. When used to the fullest, this experience can be invaluable. However, it can also lend itself to complacency, stagnation and conformity to the status quo,” the statement said.
In addition, the sheriff’s office is “reviewing all legal options to switch medical providers and enter into a new contract with a provider who can provide the best level of care in an effective, consistent and compassionate manner,” the statement said .
On Friday, the sheriff’s office said “several immediate actions” had already been taken, including a $500,000 emergency outlay “to address the infestation of bed bugs, lice and other insects” at the jail. A process had also begun to move more than 600 inmates to other counties “in an effort to help alleviate overcrowding, at an average cost of approximately $40,000 a day,” the sheriff’s office said.
Thompson had been in jail for about three months before his death and was housed in the psychiatric wing because he suffered from mental health issues, according to Harper, the family’s attorney said. He was under arrest for a crime of assault.
The 35-year-old was born in Winter Haven, Fla., and had lived in Atlanta off and on in recent years, his brother, Brad McCrae, said at the news conference. Thompson loved listening to music and cooking, McCrae said.
When asked by a reporter what he thought when he saw images of his brother’s body and the conditions in his cell, McCrae said: “It was heartbreaking because nobody should have to see that. Nobody should have to see that .But the first thing that popped into my head was Emmett Till.
An internal investigation by the Office of Professional Standards and one being conducted by the Atlanta Police Department, which was the responding agency, are ongoing, the sheriff’s office said Monday. “Once these investigations are completed, the full investigative package will be turned over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for review,” the statement said.
“The final inquest report will not ease the family’s pain or bring their loved one back, but I hope and expect that it will provide a full, accurate and transparent account of the facts surrounding Mr. Thompson’s death in a way that provides all the information. the answers they seek and deserve,” Labat said in the statement.