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BREAKING: Another death reported at Arlington County jail

Arlington County jail

(Updated at 12:25 a.m.) A 41-year-old man arrested for trespassing is dead after going into cardiac arrest at the Arlington County jail this afternoon.

Paramedics responded to the jail shortly after 3 p.m. for a report of CPR in progress in the jail’s medical unit. In a joint police department and sheriff’s office press release tonight, authorities said the man, Paul Thompson, was found unresponsive in his cell and was rushed to Virginia Hospital Center after resuscitation efforts by medics, but he was later pronounced dead.

Court records suggest that Thompson was arrested for trespassing at a location he was banned from earlier. He was charged with a misdemeanor and assigned a public defender. His next court hearing was scheduled for Feb. 8.

Police will investigate the fatal incident while the medical examiner’s office determines a cause of death.

The jail, which is run by the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office, changed its medical services provider this past fall after a series of six inmate deaths in six years. One death resulted in charges against a man who appears to have worked for the jail’s now-former medical provider.

Of the now seven people who have died in the jail over the past seven years, six — including Thompson — were Black.

“This is unacceptable, unconscionable, and distressing,” the Arlington branch of the NAACP said in October, following the death of a 58-year-old inmate. The organization issued another statement Wednesday night, calling for a federal investigation.

The news of yet another inmate of color dying in the Arlington County Detention Center is met by the NAACP Arlington Branch with great sorrow and revulsion. Mr. Thompson, like Mr. Spencer last year, was “found” unresponsive and died while in Sheriff Arthur’s custody on February 1, 2022. He is now the seventh person of color to die in custody in Arlington in as many years. Unfortunately, the Sheriff for Arlington County still has not disclosed the failures that led to the last two Black men who died after being “found” unresponsive, nor has she disclosed reforms, if any, made to guarantee the health, welfare, and safety of those she and her command team are charged with protecting.

Nevertheless, even if anything was changed, Black men are still dying in custody, so any changes are inadequate. While few details are known right now, we know this is the THIRD death in two years and the SEVENTH death in seven years. We have only cryptic information that inmates are “found” unresponsive. But we do know that neither medical conditions nor withdrawal should not be death sentences while individuals are incarcerated by Arlington County Police Department for minor crimes.

We also know that ACPD should not be investigating given the poor and incomplete track record of their investigation into Mr. Becton’s death (2020) and co investigation into Mr. Spencer’s death (2021) and given their close ties with the ACDF.

Moreover, Mr. Thompson was awaiting a hearing on a trespassing charge when he died in a jail cell in which he had been confined for over two weeks. Mr. Spencer died for the crime of being homeless and Black. Mr. Becton for a probation violation that should not have landed him in jail. The other men who died in custody we’re held on similar minor charges.

The pattern was evident then, and it continues to repeat, without anything more from the County than “expression of condolences.” Condolences ring hollow. The NAACP’s national motto, We Are Done Dying, sadly applies but will our elected officials and the government listen this time?

We call on the U.S. Department of Justice to open investigations immediately into the now seven deaths of people of color in the Arlington County Detention Facility and for an investigation into the arrest and incarceration patterns in Arlington County as well.

The full Arlington County press release about the death investigation is below.

Paul Thompson, 41, died on February 1, 2022, after he was found unresponsive in his cell in the medical unit at the Arlington County Detention Facility.

Deputies and medical staff found Mr. Thompson unresponsive in his cell at 3:06 p.m. and began immediate resuscitation efforts before Arlington Fire & Rescue units (Medic 104) arrived on scene at 3:13 p.m. Mr. Thompson was transported to Virginia Hospital Center and pronounced deceased at 4:24 p.m.

Mr. Thompson was arrested and charged with Trespassing on January 13, 2022 and was awaiting his court hearing.

Mr. Thompson’s family was notified of his passing this evening. Our condolences go out to his family and loved ones during this difficult time.

The death is being investigated by the Arlington County Police Department. An autopsy will be conducted by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to determine cause of death. Anyone with information related to this investigation is asked to contact [email protected] Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

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