A Black teenager’s death after a struggle with officers at a Kansas jail has been ruled a homicide by the local coroner. The correctional officers have been placed on leave by law enforcement as they continue to investigate the incident.

Cedric Lofton (17 years old) of Wichita died after suffering complications from cardiopulmonary arrest. This was according to an autopsy report. He had been restrained in a prone posture and was a victim of a physical struggle.

An autopsy report was filed Monday stating that Lofton lost his pulse just four minutes following he was placed in handcuffs on the floor at the county’s juvenile jail during the morning hours of Sept. 24, lying face-down.

Chief Medical Examiner Timothy Gorrill wrote that Lofton was hospitalized “post cardiopulmonary resuscitation” and “hospital course complicated by anoxic brain injury, acute respiratory failure, and acute kidney injury.” Gorrill listed his cause of death as murder and he died September 26.

Lofton had been arrested by the Wichita Police Department on suspicion of four counts of battery on a law enforcement officer and booked into the Sedgwick County Corrections Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center.

In news releases, county officials claimed Lofton attacked JIAC staff while in custody and was then restrained. Lofton stopped responding and EMS was called. Officials after Lofton’s death had publicly said he suffered no apparent life-threatening physical injuries that immediately pointed to a cause of death.

“Corrections employees involved in this matter have been placed on paid administrative leave pending results of the District Attorney’s investigation,” said Nicole Gibbs, a spokesperson for Sedgwick County government, in a statement on the autopsy findings. “Due to active investigation County officials can’t comment.

Kansas Bureau of Investigation are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death.

Marc Bennett, Sedgwick County district attorney said that his office has been reviewing investigation and autopsy records of the KBI as well as the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office.

Bennett stated, “When a decision on charging has been made, the public will have been notified.”

Lofton also had “pulmonary congestion, edema and acute bronchopneumonia,” according to the autopsy. His body had “abrasions and contusions,” he was COVID-19 positive and was positive for THCA, a cannabis compound.

Lofton was reported as having fled from his foster home in September 21 and returned at midnight on September 24. His foster parents were “aggressive and unpredictable towards him.” The police responded to the call “with the intent of taking him to an area hospital’s behavior unit.”

However, Lofton allegedly attacked one or more officers while in custody. The officers then took Lofton to the juvenile prison in a WRAP system. Lofton is not listed in the report as a suspect.

Lofton was captured on video at the jail being taken into his cell. Lofton was allowed out of his cell at 4:20 AM and to the lobby by officers, however, he was not cooperative and became agitated.

Lofton had two employees grab his “upper extremities,” but Lofton managed to punch one individual in the head. The coroner said that Lofton did this. Lofton was eventually restrained by additional staff. At 4:33 AM, Lofton was tied to his ankles and forced into a lying position on the ground. At 5:08 AM, he continued resisting and his hands were tied behind his back.

Lofton made occasional snoring and calmed down after being handcuffed. At 5:12 AM, staff were unable “to locate a pulse”. The man was then placed on his back. Staff called rescue personnel at 5:13 am to start chest compressions.

Lofton was rushed to hospital by ambulance crews. Two days later, he was declared brain dead.

The autopsy took place on Sept. 27, and the coroner noticed blunt injuries. Lofton’s body had abrasions on both cheeks, the nose, a lip, the scalp, both sides of the neck, the left shoulder, upper and lower back, both hands, the left wrist, right arm, right knee and left ankle.

Advocates for transparency in investigations and release of prison video 

Led by Progeny, a Wichita organization that advocates for juvenile justice reform, and other local groups have called for government officials to be transparent in the investigation and to publicly release the jail video.

“We are deeply disheartened by the recent unexplained death of a 17-year-old, African American community member, who tragically lost his life while in state custody,” advocates wrote in November letters asking for answers to questions.

Advocates question 911’s response to mental illness crises and Department for Children and Families policy. The county used force and restraints and jail officers followed the policy, according to the critics. 

“We have no intention of letting another Black Wichita son’s death be in vain,” Progeny leaders said in an Oct. 13 letter. We stand united in demanding justice for Cedric’s tragic death while he was in the custody of people who ought to have protected him. Cedric, no matter how many attempts were made to adultify him. Cedric needed services, was systemically disabled, and the family, friends, community all deserve justice.

The Progeny leaders stated in a statement they are devastated but not surprised that the autopsy found his death to be murder.

“Cedric” was an individual in distress who was met with sympathy and support, Progeny explained.

We cannot afford to continue failing Kansas’ youth by leaving them without someone to talk to in a crisis of mental health. And we can’t allow any young person lose their lives because they need help. We must immediately redirect resources away from youth justice programs that are ineffective and dangerous.

Source: USAToday.com

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