DA: Death of Kansas teen in custody not necessarily criminal

Dec 29, 2021, 3:51 PM | Updated: 4:22 pm

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas prosecutor who will decide whether to charge employees of a juvenile center over a Black teen’s death said Wednesday that an autopsy’s finding that the death was a homicide doesn’t necessarily mean the employees committed any crimes.

The statement from District Attorney Marc Bennett in Sedgwick County, home to the state’s largest city of Wichita, came after attorneys for the family of 17-year-old Cedric Lofton described his death as “unjustified.” They said Wednesday that they expect Bennett to file criminal charges based on the autopsy and video from a Sept. 24 struggle between Lofton and workers at the county’s Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center.

Lofton died at a Wichita-area hospital two days after the altercation. The autopsy concluded that Lofton’s heart and breathing stopped after he was pulled to the ground and was handcuffed while lying on his stomach. The report from the county’s chief medical examiner said, “The manner of death is homicide.”

But Bennett said in a statement that a medical examiner’s designation of a death as a homicide means only that someone committed an intentional act that led to the death of another person. Quoting a guide from the National Association of Medical Examiners, the district attorney said the other options were describing the death as natural, an accident, a suicide or having an undetermined cause.

“The determination that the manner of death was ‘homicide’ does not reflect a legal determination on the part of the pathologist regarding the viability of criminal charges,” Bennett said. “Whether or not criminal charges can be brought is a separate, legal determination to be made by the Office of the District Attorney.”

Bennett said he expects to decide whether to file charges during the second week of January. He said he met Tuesday with Kansas Bureau of Investigation agents and Sedgwick County sheriff’s detectives about the case.

The staff members involved in the struggle have not been identified, but the county has said they are on paid administrative leave.

Asked what prompted Wednesday’s statement, Bennett spokesperson Dan Dillion said in an email that it is not a response “to any one comment or comments,” adding, “It speaks for itself.”

The results of the Dec. 21 autopsy contradicted a preliminary finding that the teenager hadn’t suffered life-threatening injuries during the Sept. 24 incident — a conclusion announced by Sheriff Jeff Easter during a news conference four days after the teenager’s death.

Andrew Stroth, a Chicago civil rights attorney, said he was not surprised by the statement. Stroth and another Chicago attorney, Steven Hart, are representing Lofton’s family.

“If you read the autopsy report, they literally took his breath away and killed him,” Stroth told The Associated Press in an interview. “This district attorney has had this evidence for several weeks.”

According to the autopsy report, the 5-foot-10, 135-pound Lofton was brought to the juvenile center at about 1 a.m. Sept. 24 after resisting police and assaulting one or more officers called to the scene of a reported disturbance. The report said that when staff later let Lofton out of a cell to use the restroom, he was uncooperative and punched a staff member in the head.

Family attorneys and others have described Lofton as being “in crisis” rather than dangerous, and Stroth has repeatedly noted that he was unarmed.

“What additional evidence does Marc Bennett need to file criminal charges?” Stroth said. “There’s objective video evidence. There is (an) objective autopsy report. I don’t know what else he possibly could need. “

___

Follow John Hanna on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjdhanna

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

The symbol for Twitter appears above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Tu...
Associated Press

Musk says he wants Twitter again and will pay $44B price

Elon Musk wants Twitter again — and Twitter is game. The billionaire Tesla CEO has proposed to buy the company at the originally agreed-on price of $44 billion, bringing the tumultuous, monthslong saga another step closer to a conclusion. Musk made the surprising turnaround not on Twitter, as has been his custom, but in a […]
19 hours ago
A woman holds a child at a clinic in Dollow, Somalia, on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022. Somalia is in t...
Associated Press

Prolonged drought brings famine, death and fear to Somalia

DOLLOW, Somalia (AP) — A man in a donkey cart comes wheeling through the dust, carrying two small, silent boys. The sky is overcast. It could rain. It won’t. It hasn’t for a very long time. Mohamed Ahmed Diriye is 60 years old, and he’s completing the grimmest journey of his life. He set off […]
19 hours ago
FILE - Baker Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., manages his shop, Jun...
Associated Press

Colorado baker fighting ruling over gender transition cake

DENVER (AP) — The Colorado baker who won a partial Supreme Court victory after refusing on religious grounds to make a gay couple’s wedding cake a decade ago is challenging a separate ruling he violated the state’s anti-discrimination law by refusing to make a cake celebrating a gender transition. A lawyer for Jack Phillips on […]
19 hours ago
Susana Lujano, left, a dreamer from Mexico who lives in Houston, joins other activists to rally in ...
Associated Press

Appeals court orders another review of revised ‘DACA’

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal appeals court Wednesday ordered a lower court review of Biden administration revisions to a program preventing the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought into the United States as children. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a federal district judge in Texas should take another look […]
19 hours ago
Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon, at podium stands by a photo on display of TV producer ...
Associated Press

‘Scrubs’ producer Eric Weinberg charged with sex assaults

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Eric Weinberg, an executive producer and writer for the hit TV show “Scrubs” and many others, has been charged with sexually assaulting five women that he lured to photo shoots and there could be many more victims, Los Angeles County prosecutors announced Wednesday. Weinberg, 62, was arrested Tuesday, nearly a week […]
19 hours ago
This booking photo provided by the El Paso, Texas, County Sheriff's Office shows Michael Sheppard, ...
Associated Press

Family of Mexican migrant slain in West Texas seek answers

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The family of a migrant authorities say was shot to death in Texas by two brothers — including one who was the warden of a detention facility with a history of abuse allegations — are demanding more information this week, as the two men charged in the killing were released from […]
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
DA: Death of Kansas teen in custody not necessarily criminal