Two Bridgeport detectives were suspended over the mishandling of the death of two Black women. The mayor expressed disappointment in the leadership within the city’s police department, adding that their actions were “unacceptable.”
The suspension of the two officers from the Bridgeport Police Department was the aftermath prompted by complaints from families of Lauren Smith-Fields and Brenda Rawls regarding their December deaths. Both families stated that law enforcement did not share updated information around the case as the families sought answers.
Mayor Joseph Ganim’s office released a statement on Sunday, Jan. 30, noting his disdain for how they handled the women’s untimely demise.
“I want you to know that I am extremely disappointed with the leadership of the Bridgeport Police Department and find actions taken up to this point unacceptable,” the statement read.
In the absence of a Chief of Police for the city, the mayor has directed the deputy chief to immediately place the two detectives handling the case on administration leave for displaying a “lack of sensitivity to the public and failure to follow police policy in handling of these two matters.”
After laying out the disciplinary action, he continued, “The Bridgeport Police Department has high standards for officer sensitivity especially in matters involving the death of a family member. It is an unacceptable failure if policies were not followed.”
“I want to be clear to members of the public and the department that insensitivity, disrespect in action, or deviation from policy will not be tolerated by me or others in this administration,” Ganim stated.
The investigation is still ongoing.
Smith-Fields was found dead in her apartment on Dec. 12. Her death occurred after the 23-year-old went on a date with someone she met on the popular dating app Bumble.
Her family said the man she went out with was an “older white man,” named Matthew LaFountain. LaFountain, who the family also said was a “nice guy,” called police to her apartment after waking up to the unresponsive young woman. He reported that she was not breathing and blood coming from her nose. He is not identified as a suspect in the young woman’s death.
A medical examiner determined the cause of death was “an overdose of fentanyl combined with prescription medication and alcohol.” The family still believes LaFountain should still be a suspect, despite what the toxicology reports say.
“If he was Black and she was white, a white 23-year-old female is dead with blood and a condom in the bathroom, oh boy, we’d still be at the police station right now,” said the Smith-Fields family’s attorney Darnell Crosland to Atlanta Black Star.
LaFountain’s lawyer says his client is fully cooperating with law enforcement to tie up any loose ends of the investigation.
The other woman, Rawls, 53, died the same day as Smith-Fields in circumstances similar to the younger woman’s. On Dec. 11, Rawls told her family she was going to visit a male friend in her neighborhood.
After two days of no communication, some family members visited the home of the unidentified male companion who revealed he was unable to wake Rawls the morning of Dec. 12.
The family says Bridgeport police did not communicate with them about Rawls’ death,
“Nobody ever notified us that she died,” Dorothy Rawls Washington told NBC of her sister’s death. “We had to do our own investigation and find out where she was.”
The family finally located their loved one’s body after a funeral home directed them to the state medical examiner’s office.
“They never took any opportunity to look for next of kin,” added Washington of police. “The next time we saw our sister, she was in a funeral home.”
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