Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump, Former 49er Colin Kapernick Among Those Seeking Justice For Lashawn Thompson

By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer

Relatives of a Georgia man who was found dead in a filthy jail cell, covered in bug bites, will receive $4 million from Fulton County and “unidentified entities.”

Officials in August voted unanimously to approve the settlement. Lashawn Thompson, 35, was found unresponsive in his cell at the Fulton County jail Sept. 13, 2022. Due to several mental health issues, Thompson had been housed for three months in the jail’s psychiatric wing. He was there on charges of simple battery against police officials.

Photos of Thompson covered in bug bites and images of his filthy cell went viral on social media and led to widespread outrage and sparked the hashtag #Justice4Lashawn.

“It’s enough that the bed bugs and lice sat there and ate my brother to death, but it’s the neglect that hurts me the most,” Thompson’s brother Brad McCray said during a press conference.

The family’s legal team includes nationally prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump. Crump has represented several Black families across the country whose loved ones have died after interactions with law enforcement. Locally, he represented the relatives of Stephon Clark, the 22-year-old father who was shot and killed by Sacramento police officers March 18, 2018, when they mistook his cell phone for a gun.

As Crump did in Clark’s death, he called for an independent autopsy in Thompson’s case. While Fulton County officials found the cause of death to be “undetermined,” the second autopsy listed the man’s death as the result of “severe neglect.” The independent review was paid for by former NFL quarterback-turned social activist Colin Kaepernick and his Autopsy Initiative, which is a part of his Know Your Rights Camp project. The initiative provides a second, free autopsy for victims’ families who have lost loved ones to a police-related death.

Crump and the Thompson family also are calling for accountability. Crump and fellow Georgia attorney Michael D. Harper issued a joint statement.

“While we are satisfied to reach settlements in these matters with Fulton County and unidentified entities for undisclosed amounts, we are nowhere near the end of this journey to full justice. We will continue to work with the Thompson family – and the community that rallied behind them – to ensure that a tragedy like this one never happens to another family or takes one more life. Lashawn’s life mattered, and together, we can demand and motivate significant change in his name. That will be the legacy of Lashawn Thompson.”

Over the coming weeks, “Inside Out” will highlight the experiences of formerly incarcerated individuals and their families, look at efforts to improve local jail and prison facilities, and share the perspectives of Black correctional staffers and attorneys who work on change from within and activists who have dedicated their lives to shining a light on the inequities of the criminal justice system.