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Two Detectives Suspended Amid Investigation Into Deaths Of Lauren Smith Fields, Brenda Rawls
The families of Lauren Smith Fields and Brenda Rawls have slammed Bridgeport police for failing to notify them of their loved ones' deaths.
Two detectives have been suspended amidst allegations that they improperly handled a criminal investigation into a Connecticut woman’s death.
Lauren Smith-Fields, 23, was found dead at her Bridgeport apartment on Dec. 12, 2021, after going on a date with a man she met on Bumble, as previously reported. The 37-year-old man told police that Smith-Fields drank tequila before falling ill and that he went to sleep next to her in her bed, only to find her dead in the morning.
On Jan. 24, 2022, the medical examiner announced that Smith-Fields, who is Black, died from “acute intoxication due to the combined effects of fentanyl, promethazine, hydroxyzine, and alcohol.” The death was ruled as accidental and the man she was with, who is white, has not been classified as a person of interest or suspect in her death.
Smith-Fields' family has said that police didn't notify them of her death and failed to adequately investigate the scene. They have retained a lawyer and filed a notice of claim, the precursor to a lawsuit, claiming local law enforcement and the city of Bridgeport denied the family due process.
On Sunday, Mayor Joseph Ganim released a statement in the midst of mounting pressures, announcing that two Bridgeport Police detectives, Angel Llanos and Kevin Cronin, had been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation from the Office of Internal Affairs.
“The Bridgeport Police Department has high standards for officer sensitivity, especially in matters involving the death of a family member,” the statement read. “It is an unacceptable failure if policies were not followed. To the families, friends, and all who care about the human decency that should be shown in these situations, in this case, by members of the Bridgeport Police Department, I am very sorry.”
The Mayor stated he was “extremely disappointed” by the department’s leadership, calling their actions “unacceptable.”
“In addition, the supervisory officer who was in charge of overseeing these matters has retired from the department as of this Friday,” Ganim stated.
Ganim was one of several people named in the legal notice, filed by attorney Darnell Crosland, who is representing Smith-Fields’ family. Relatives also accused Assistant Police Chief Rebeca Garcia as well as others employed with the Bridgeport Police Department.
According to Smith-Fields’ brother, Lakeem Jetter, authorities referred to Smith-Fields’ date as “a nice guy” in their initial report, as reported by Oxygen.com. Jetter also claimed that investigators did not collect evidence from the scene.
Crosland spoke on behalf of Smith-Fields’ family after the cause of death was released.
“This looks further like a manslaughter,” said Crosland. “It looks more like a murder, and if the police don’t start acting fast, we’re going to have a real big problem on our hands.”
Through their attorney, the family said they only discovered she was dead after finding a letter written by her landlord on her apartment door the next day, according to CNN.
Another Black woman, 53-year-old Brenda Lee Rawls, also died in Bridgeport the same day as Smith-Fields.
Similar to the Smith-Fields case, Rawls’ family alleges Bridgeport police failed to notify them of their loved one’s death, according to CNN. Family members said they were informed of Rawls’ death by the man who found her unresponsive. After making calls to police, hospitals, and funeral homes, relatives received confirmation from the medical examiner only after an autopsy was performed.
The cause and manner of Rawls’ death are still pending.
Detectives Llanos and Cronin were investigators in Rawls’ death as well, according to Ganim's statement.
“It’s almost like they’re not aware of her death, or they just don’t care, and that made us angry,” Rawls’ sister, Dorothy Washington, told CNN. “She was raised and born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, paid her taxes, voted, and they treated [her] like she was nothing. Like she was roadkill.”
Washington’s sentiment mirrors Smith-Fields’ mother, Shantell Fields, as reported by NBC New York.
“They wanted us to forget about our daughter, their sister, our loved one,” said Shantell Fields. “They thought they were just going to throw her away like she was garbage, like she wasn’t important, like she didn’t have family members who loved her.”
Ganim stated that the “untimely death[s] of Lauren Smith-Fields and Brenda Lee Rawls are both under active investigation and have been reassigned to members of the Bridgeport Police Department for resolution.”
The Bridgeport Police Department did not immediately respond to requests made by Oxygen.com.