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Family Of Black Teen Who Died In Juvenile Detention 'Devastated' That No Criminal Charges Will Be Filed
An attorney for Cedric Lofton's family told Oxygen.com they will pursue “all possible remedies” in the case.
No criminal charges will be filed in the death of a Black teenager who died while in custody at a juvenile detention center in Wichita, Kansas.
Sedgewick County District Attorney Marc Bennett concluded in a report released Tuesday that “no criminal charges will be filed” in connection with the September death of 17-year-old Cedric Lofton, who was found unresponsive after being restrained facedown for more than 30 minutes by as many as five staff members.
Bennett concluded the employees of the juvenile intake and assessment center (JIAC) had “acted in self-defense under Kansas law” and were “immune from prosecution” because of a “robust stand your ground law” in the state.
However, an attorney representing Lofton’s family told Oxygen.com the theory of stand your ground was “completely not appropriate” in this case and said the family is “devastated” by Bennett’s decision.
“They put a 135-pound Black teenager in the prone position for approximately 20 minutes,” said Andrew M. Stroth, a managing partner with Action Injury Law Group. “So, they put him on his face, crushed him for over 20 minutes and now the district attorney decides not to hold anyone responsible for an unjustified use of force that resulted in a young man’s death.”
He called Lofton’s death “another example of a Black kid being killed within the system” and said it was “akin to George Floyd.”
“They took his breath,” he said, adding that Lofton had been unarmed at the time of his death.
Stroth, who is representing the family alongside co-counsel Steven Hart, also referenced a report from the medical examiner that had listed the 17-year-old’s death as a “homicide.”
According to the autopsy report, previously obtained by Oxygen.com, the medical examiner concluded the Lofton had died from “complications of cardiopulmonary arrest sustained after physical struggle while restrained in the prone position.”
In his report released this week, Bennett also addressed the medical examiner’s finding, but said while it was a medical category often used in autopsy reports, it did not represent a legal conclusion that “murder or homicide charges are supported under the laws” in Kansas.
Along with the report, authorities released body camera footage from the Wichita Police Department that showed officers taking the teen into custody on Sept. 24 after his foster father had called 911 just after 1 a.m., NBC News reports.
While his foster father had hoped police would take Lofton to a local hospital for a mental health evaluation after becoming increasingly concerned about the teen’s mental state; officers opted instead to take the teen to the juvenile detention center after he refused to willingly go to the hospital, according to the report.
Bennett said police spoke with Lofton for an hour outside his foster father’s home to try to convince him to go to St. Joseph Hospital. After repeatedly refusing to accompany the officers, two officers physically carried him to the car as they “struggled for several minutes” to get him into the vehicle, the report said. They planned to take him to the detention center for battery of a law enforcement officer after he “struck” and “kicked” the officers during the struggle, according to the report.
Officers used a restraint system referred to as a WRAP to restrain him in the police car before taking him to the detention center, removing the restraint, placing him in a holding cell and leaving the facility.
After police left the center, Cedric was allowed to walk freely around the foyer of the detention center, but he was physically restrained and brought back to the holding cell after he tried to grab a computer monitor, struck a staff member in the face and tried to intimidate an intake specialist by asking “what would you do if I touch you?” according to the report.
Once inside the holding cell, JIAC personnel struggled to restrain Lofton. He was eventually moved from a seated position to laying face down on the floor to “better control the situation and possibly place handcuffs” on him, authorities said.
“The adults all report that Cedric never complained of a diminished ability to breath and instead continued to make statements that led them to believe he was either under the influence of drugs or having a mental health crisis,” the report said. “The adults report that no one put their full weight on Cedric as he lay prone.”
The staff members reported only restraining his lower legs and arms only and were “using force by way of ‘physical restraints’ and ‘mechanical restraints’ to protect themselves,” Bennett wrote.
That account was disputed by Stroth, who has seen the video from the detention center, and told Oxygen.com the video shows the staff “on top of” Lofton.
“The video, even though there’s no audio, the video speaks for itself,” he said. “If they are saying they put no pressure on him, then how did he die from being in the prone position and being crushed and his breath taken away. If they say that then they need to read the autopsy again.”
At approximately 5:08 a.m. detention center staff noticed Lofton “finally relaxed” and started to “snore.” Four minutes later, they discovered he didn’t have a pulse.
An autopsy report would later determine that at the time of his death, Lofton had marijuana in his system but no other street drugs.
According to Stroth, Lofton’s family plans to pursue “all possible remedies” to find justice for their son and is planning to request an independent special prosecutor re-evaluate the evidence in the case.
“To me, the fight continues,” he said.