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‘Does This Count as a Coverup?’: Death of Black Teen in Police Custody Ruled a Homicide; Family Wants Video Released and Criminal Charges Filed

The autopsy of a Kansas African-American teen who became unresponsive after being subdued while in the custody of a Wichita Sedgwick County juvenile detention facility has determined the boy’s death was a homicide.

The family wants the video of the Sept. 24 altercation resulting in the death of 17-year-old Cedric Lofton to be released and charges filed against those responsible for his death. Corrections officers involved in the altercation with Lofton at the Sedgwick County juvenile detention facility remain unidentified and have been placed on paid administrative leave.

According to NBC, a report filed by the Sedgwick County District Court stated that the cause of Lofton’s death was “complications of cardiopulmonary arrest sustained after physical struggle while restrained in the prone position.”

The autopsy report, also obtained by the Atlanta Black Star, further states that the boy was detained after running away from his foster home on Sept. 21, returning on Sept. 24, and showing “erratic and aggressive” behavior toward his foster family after his return. The police, who were alerted of a disturbance in the area, saw Lofton outside of his house and after observing his behavior tried to persuade him to get mental health and he resisted. 

Lofton is said to have assaulted one or more of the officers, resulting in them taking him to the juvenile center. He was then placed in a cell at 2:45 a.m. Around 4:20 a.m., he allegedly assaulted a staff member while being escorted to the restroom. In response to striking the staffer, officers at the center rushed in and handcuffed Lofton. 

The young man’s hands and ankles were shackled. After that the attending officers lost his pulse, not retrieving it until performing chest compressions. A minute after finding proof of life, they made the call to emergency personnel at 5:15 a.m.

He died two days later after being taken to a local hospital.

Lofton’s family has secured representation by Chicago attorneys Steven Hart, Andrew Stroth.

The Associated Press quotes Stroth as saying, “The family lost their son and their brother, so it’s just a tragic and unjustified death. The family is going to continue to seek answers and pursue all legal remedies available.”

After the autopsy’s homicide ruling was made public, KWCH 12 reports that the family is now asking for full video from the juvenile center to be released and criminal charges to be filed against those responsible for Lofton’s death.

Pastor Moe, a spokesperson for the family, asked if withholding the footage is a part of a cover-up.

“Does this count as a conspiracy?” he told local station KWCH. “Does this count as a coverup? I don’t know. What does the law say when the people who are supposed to be investigating a wrongdoing are the people doing the wrong thing?”

“They should have been suspended immediately without pay. They should not be getting paid right now,” he continued. “Criminal charges should be filed.”

The local news outlet also released the formal statement from the lawyers.

“This confirms our belief that Sedgwick County personnel at the Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center (JIAC) in Wichita killed Cedric. As supported by the video evidence, these individuals unjustifiably and with excessive and unreasonable force pinned Cedric to the ground, ultimately killing the unarmed, 135-pound, 17-year-old African American teenager. Cedric’s family anxiously awaits the findings of the criminal investigation and believes the Sedgwick County District Attorney should pursue criminal charges against the law enforcement personnel responsible for Cedric’s death. Cedric’s death was caused by the hands of the very authorities that were obligated to protect him and make sure he was safe. Instead, they killed him with conscious disregard for the young life in their keeping.”

The autopsy report noted, in addition to the cause of death in the autopsy, Lofton had COVID-19. It also noted that he had suffered a brain injury, acute respiratory failure, and acute kidney injury. Through a drug screening performed on Lofton, it was determined that THC and a heart-stabilizing drug called Esmolol were found present in the teen’s body. No other drugs or alcohol could be tracked in his system.

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