ATLANTA (AP) — Five people were stabbed, one fatally, during a dispute among men being held at an overcrowded jail in Atlanta that is already the subject of a federal civil rights investigation, authorities said Friday.
Dayvion Blake, 23, was pronounced dead around 3:30 p.m. Thursday after the stabbings at the Fulton County Jail, the sheriff's office said in a news release. Blake and three others were taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, while a fifth man was treated at the jail by medical staff. The sheriff's office didn't provide any information on what led to the stabbings.
Five people, including Blake, have died in Fulton County custody in just over a month. The county medical examiner’s office plans to do an autopsy on Blake.
“The recent outbreak of violence at the Fulton County Jail is of grave concern but unfortunately is not surprising considering the long-standing, dangerous overcrowding and the crumbling walls of the facility that are literally being crafted into makeshift weapons that inmates use to attack each other and staff," Sheriff Pat Labat said in the release.
“We have had an unfortunate series of deaths this year that range from natural causes, to pre-existing health conditions, to homicide.”
There were 2,523 people being held in the main county jail on Friday, nearly 270 above its operational capacity of 2,254, according to data from the sheriff's office. Labat said his office “is in constant negotiations” with other jails to try to house detainees elsewhere to mitigate violence and overcrowding. He said he has also been doing shakedowns at the jail to seize contraband.
Labat, who took office in January 2021, has been pushing for a new jail.
Critics, including the Southern Center for Human Rights, have said that will not fix the problems. The organization, which has successfully sued the county multiple times over jail conditions, said in an April letter to the U.S. Department of Justice that Labat has demonstrated a “clear inability to remedy the conditions of people currently in his care” and that human rights violations at the jail are “the result of a staff culture of cruelty and violence.”
The U.S. Department of Justice opened its civil rights investigation into jail conditions in the county in July.
Blake had been arrested by Atlanta police on Jan. 25 on a variety of charges, including possession of cocaine and battery, jail records show. The sheriff's office said he was being held on previous charges because of the January arrest and also had a warrant in Sumter County for aggravated assault.
The Fulton County Jail is where former President Donald Trump and 18 others indicted along with him surrendered last week for booking on charges related to an alleged illegal scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia.
Samuel Lawrence, 34, Sept. 26 at Grady Memorial Hospital after he was found unresponsive in his cell at the jail. The other three people who died in the last month include 66-year-old Alexander Hawkins, 34-year-old Christopher Smith and 40-year-old Montay Stinson.
Lashawn Thompson, 35, died last September in a bedbug-infested cell in the Fulton County Jail’s psychiatric wing. An independent autopsy done at his family’s request found he died from severe neglect. His family has since reached a settlement with the county.