Following an altercation with personnel at a Wichita juvenile centre in September, a Kansas prosecutor announced Tuesday that he will not bring criminal charges in the death of a Black 17-year-old who went unresponsive while being detained facedown for more than 30 minutes.
The state’s “stand-your-ground” legislation, according to Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett, bars him from filing charges in the killing of Cedric Lofton because staff members were defending themselves. “A judge would be duty obligated to dismiss the case,” Bennett said if he filed charges.
Bennett’s decision was criticised by the teen’s family, who said it was “yet another case of an unarmed Black youngster being slain by law police with impunity, threat of reprisal, or even an ounce of accountability.”
Activists in the community had already demanded a special prosecutor, the release of video, and the names of those involved in Lofton’s killing. Marquan Teetz, Lofton’s brother, and a local pastor sought a court on Tuesday to release video of the altercation, using the state’s open records legislation. The body camera video from the Wichita Police Department was released on Tuesday.
According to a report from Bennett based on an examination of video and other information, Lofton was living with foster parents when Wichita police responding to a report of a disturbance approached him outside a home on Sept. 24. According to the investigation, Lofton’s foster family claimed he had been acting abnormally in recent months, had grown paranoid, and was hallucinating. Lofton was in the midst of a mental health crisis, according to Bennett, and police attempted to persuade him to get help.
According to Bennett’s report, the 5-foot-10, 135-pound Lofton fought officers and assaulted at least one officer before being restrained. At 2:45 a.m., cops took him to the Sedgwick County Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center, where he was placed in a holding cell. Lofton was left unrestrained with an intake expert who opened the door to Lofton’s holding cell after the Wichita cops departed the centre at 4:15 a.m.
The intake expert later told police that he notified Lofton that he would be released to his guardian, according to Bennett. The adolescent exited the cell. After Lofton attempted to take a computer monitor from the intake counter, a security officer arrived and attempted to assist Lofton in returning to the holding area. According to Bennett’s account, Lofton struck the intake specialist, knocking his glasses to the ground.
Before other staff members arrived, the two staff members fought with Lofton. According to Bennett, staff then shackled Lofton’s ankles, placed him on his stomach on the floor, and battled with him some more before handcuffing him. Lofton began to snore around that time, according to Bennett’s report.
Staff members noticed Lofton didn’t have a pulse a few minutes later. Just before 5:15 a.m., they started chest compressions and dialed 911, according to the report.
The death was judged a homicide in December, contradicting an earlier preliminary conclusion that the boy had suffered no apparent life-threatening injuries. The teen’s heart and breathing ceased after he was handcuffed while lying on his stomach, according to the autopsy.
Bennett said there are real policy concerns, such as whether Lofton should have been sent to a mental health facility instead of being detained, and if the use of a restraint device was appropriate, but none of the concerns justify criminal charges.
Bennett said he debated whether an involuntary manslaughter charge was appropriate, but ultimately decided it was not.
“The ultimate line is that the video, the employee interviews, and even the coroner’s findings that the death was caused by the effect of a prolonged battle all corroborate the workers’ claim that they only kept him down because he continued to struggle throughout,” Bennett said. “If they had the ability to defend themselves at first because he resisted, the fact that he resisted for another 30 minutes indicated that they could continue to properly use the constraint under Kansas law.”
Bennett, a Republican, wants the Kansas Legislature to modify the state’s stand-your-ground law, which grants immunity from prosecution rather than only a possible defence at trial.
Bennett stated, “This should never have happened.” “It should never happen again,” says the author.
The Sedgwick County Department of Corrections said that a community task group will be formed to investigate Lofton’s death and offer suggestions for systemic changes.
“The loss of Cedric Lofton was devastating for his family, our community, and those who serve in our juvenile justice system. “It’s critical that we are accountable and honest with our community members as a local public safety institution in our local government,” said Director Glenda Martens.