Prosecutor: No charges in Black Kansas teen’s custody death

Jan 18, 2022, 11:00 AM | Updated: 10:33 pm

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas prosecutor said Tuesday that he won’t file criminal charges over the death of a Black 17-year-old who became unresponsive while being restrained facedown for more than 30 minutes following an altercation with staff at a Wichita juvenile center in September.

Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said the state’s “stand-your-ground” law prevents him from bringing any charges in the death of Cedric Lofton because staff members were protecting themselves. Bennett said that if he did bring charges, “a judge would be duty bound to dismiss the case.”

The teen’s family decried Bennett’s decision, issuing a statement in which they called it “yet another instance of an unarmed Black teenager killed by law enforcement with impunity, threat of reprisal or even an ounce of accountability.”

Community activists previously have called for a special prosecutor, the release of video and the names of the individuals involved in Lofton’s death. Lofton’s brother Marquan Teetz and a local pastor on Tuesday asked a court to release video of the altercation, citing the state’s open records law. The Wichita Police Department on Tuesday released its body camera video.

Lofton was living with foster parents when Wichita police responding to a report of a disturbance encountered him outside a home on Sept. 24, according to a report from Bennett based on a review of video and other evidence. His foster family said Lofton had been behaving erratically in recent months, had become paranoid and was hallucinating, according to the report. Bennett said Lofton was in the midst of a mental health crisis and that police initially tried to get him to seek treatment.

The 5-foot-10, 135-pound Lofton resisted police, assaulting at least one officer before they could restrain him, Bennett’s report said. Police took him to the Sedgwick County Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center, where officers put him in a holding cell at 2:45 a.m. The Wichita officers left the center at 4:15 a.m., leaving Lofton unrestrained with an intake specialist who opened the door to Lofton’s holding cell.

Bennett said the intake specialist later told investigators that he informed Lofton he would be released to his guardian. The teen walked out of the cell. A security officer arrived and tried to help get Lofton back into the holding room after Lofton tried to grab a computer monitor from the intake counter. Lofton hit the intake specialist, knocking his glasses to the ground, according to Bennett’s report.

The two staff members then struggled with Lofton before more staff members arrived. Staff then shackled Lofton’s ankles, put him on his stomach on the floor, then struggled with him some more before handcuffing him, according to Bennett. Around that time, staff said Lofton began to snore, Bennett’s report says.

A few minutes later, staff members realized Lofton had no pulse. They began chest compressions and called emergency personnel, just before 5:15 a.m., the report said.

A December autopsy report ruled the death a homicide and contradicted an earlier, preliminary finding that the teenager had not suffered apparent life-threatening injuries. The autopsy said that the teen’s heart and breathing stopped after he was handcuffed while lying on his stomach.

Bennett said there are legitimate policy questions, including about whether Lofton should have instead been taken to a mental health facility and whether the use of a restraint system was appropriate, but that none of the questions justify criminal charges.

Bennett said he struggled with whether a charge of involuntary manslaughter was justified, but concluded that it was not.

“The bottom line is: The video, the interviews of the employees, even the coroner’s findings that the death was caused by the effect of a prolonged struggle support the workers’ explanation that they only held him down because he continued to struggle that entire time,” Bennett said. “If they have the ability to defend themselves initially, because he resisted, then the fact that he continued to resist for some 30 minutes meant that they could under Kansas law continue to lawfully apply the restraint.”

Bennett, a Republican, said he said he would like to see the Legislature change Kansas’ stand-your-ground law, which provides immunity from prosecution, not just a possible defense at trial.

“This should never have happened,” Bennett said. “It should never happen again.”

The Sedgwick County Department of Corrections said it would form a community task force to review Lofton’s death and make recommendations for systemic improvements.

“Cedric Lofton’s death was very tragic for his family, our community and for those working in our youth corrections system. It is important that as a local public safety entity in our local government, we are accountable and transparent with our community members,” said Director Glenda Martens.

___

Hanna reported from Topeka, Kan.

___

This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Marc Bennett’s last name.

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

AP

Associated Press

Estonia, Finland want Europe to end Russian tourist visas

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The leaders of Estonia and Finland want fellow European countries to stop issuing tourist visas to Russian citizens, saying they should not be able to take vacations in Europe while the government of Russia carries out a war in Ukraine. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas wrote Tuesday on Twitter that “visiting […]
4 hours ago
This photo shows Issey Miyake at the National Art Center in Tokyo on March 15, 2016. Japanese media...
Associated Press

Famed Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake dies at 84

TOKYO (AP) — Issey Miyake, who built one of Japan’s biggest fashion brands and was known for his boldly sculpted, signature pleated pieces, has died. He was 84. Miyake died Aug. 5 of liver cancer, Miyake Design Office said Tuesday. Miyake defined an era in Japan’s modern history, reaching stardom in the 1970s among a […]
4 hours ago
President Joe Biden with first lady Jill Biden waves as they walk on the South Lawn of the White Ho...
Associated Press

Biden to sign $280B CHIPS act in bid to boost US over China

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is preparing to sign a $280 billion bipartisan bill to boost domestic high-tech manufacturing, part of his administration’s push to boost U.S. competitiveness over China. The Rose Garden ceremony on Tuesday will include lawmakers, union officials, local politicians and business leaders, the White House said, as the president looks […]
4 hours ago
Taiwan's military conducts artillery live-fire drills at Fangshan township in Pingtung, southern Ta...
Associated Press

Taiwan holds drills, says China seeks control of seas

PINGTUNG, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan’s foreign minister said Tuesday that China is using military drills to rehearse an invasion of the self-governing island democracy, while Taiwan’s military began its own live-fire exercises in a show of readiness to thwart off a potential attack. Joseph Wu said Beijing aims to establish its dominance in the Western […]
4 hours ago
A person wearing a protective mask walks in front of an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikk...
Associated Press

Europe shares mixed after Asian decline on tech downturn

TOKYO (AP) — European benchmarks were mixed Tuesday after gains in most Asian markets despite weakness in technology shares, including Japan’s SoftBank. Such worries are coming on top of concerns about inflation and what central banks might do to curb that trend. Higher interest rates tend to work as a minus for share prices. Fighting […]
4 hours ago
FILE - Russian soldiers guard an area as a group of foreign journalists visit in Kherson, Kherson r...
Associated Press

Ukrainian resistance grows in Russian-occupied areas

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — In a growing challenge to Russia’s grip on occupied areas of southeastern Ukraine, guerrilla forces loyal to Kyiv are killing pro-Moscow officials, blowing up bridges and trains, and helping the Ukrainian military by identifying key targets. The spreading resistance has eroded Kremlin control of those areas and threatened its plans to […]
4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
...
CANVAS ANNUITY

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
Prosecutor: No charges in Black Kansas teen’s custody death