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Connecticut Police Charged With Racial Insensitivity in Investigation of the Death of Lauren Smith-Fields

A 23-year-old Black woman was found dead in her apartment following a date with a man she met on the dating app Bumble. Police in her hometown of Bridgeport, Connecticut, have been charged with racial insensitivity for failing to follow up properly on the case for nearly a month and for failing to tell the woman’s family that she had died.

Janelle Griffith of NBC News reported that “the woman, Lauren Smith-Fields, 23, was found after a man she had met on Bumble called 911 on Dec. 12 to report that he had woken up to find her unresponsive with a nosebleed.”

According to Griffith, “An attorney for Smith-Fields’ family, Darnell Crossland, filed a notice of claim Friday notifying the city of his intent to sue over what he described as the police department’s ‘racially insensitive’ handling of the case.”

“In his notice of claim, Crossland said Bridgeport police failed to investigate and did not recover critical evidence from the apartment, including a blood-stained bed sheet, a pill and a used condom, until two weeks after Smith-Fields’ death, at the urging of her family.”

Crossland and Smith-Fields’ family have also stated that police told them the man who reported the crime is white, 37-years-old and not considered a person of interest in her death. However, they refused to tell the family why that was the case. They also told the rightfully distressed and concerned family to stop calling their department to check in on the status of the case while it is “under active investigation.” 

The family also added that investigating officers or representatives from the police department didn’t reach out to them initially to tell them about their daughter’s death. Instead, they were forced to learn about the grim incident from her landlord.

In a statement concerning Smith-Fields’ death, Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim spoke out on the family’s behalf, saying that “sensitivity and care is of utmost importance when working with the family of a victim.” He also added that the case had now been referred to the police department’s Office of Internal Affairs for an investigation. 

Ganim also promised that the city and the police department as a whole would be making significant changes and improvements in how they would notify next-of-kin of deaths in the future.

Griffith reported that “the office of the Chief Medical Examiner said Monday, Jan. 24, that Smith-Fields’ death was accidental, resulting from ‘acute intoxication due to the combined effects of fentanyl, promethazine, hydroxyzine and alcohol.’”

The next day, Bridgeport police announced that following the release of the medical examiner’s report, their Narcotics and Vice Division would be opening an additional investigation into Smith-Fields’ death with assistance from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.  

“Crossland said that the family is still awaiting the results of an independent autopsy and that the medical examiner’s findings don’t cure the police department’s ‘lack of process,’ but make it worse,” Griffith wrote. “If the police had better investigated the scene and the man Smith-Fields was with, he said, the family would have more answers.”

 

Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.

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