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Autopsy Rules Black Kansas Teen’s Death in Custody a Homicide

The autopsy contradicts the original preliminary report that 17-year-old Cedric Lofton received "no life-threatening injuries" in the struggle.

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Screenshot: KSN TV (Fair Use)

While in custody at the Sedgwick County Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center in Wichita, Kansas, 17-year-old Cedric Lofton’s heart stopped beating while laid on the ground, restrained. He never regained consciousness.

Originally, Sheriff Jeff Easter, in a press conference just four days after Lofton’s death, claimed that a preliminary autopsy only showed scratches and a bruise, no life-threatening injuries. Now an autopsy report on Monday ruled Lofton’s death a homicide.

“In my opinion, Cedric Lofton died as a result of complications from cardiopulmonary arrest sustained after physical struggle while restrained in the prone position,” Chief Medical Examiner Timothy Gorrill wrote in the autopsy report, according to NPR. “The manner of death is homicide.”

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According to KSNW, on Sept. 24, Lofton’s foster father called 911 for help with his son’s mental health crisis. Lofton resisted Wichita officers who tried to get him to go in for mental treatment and allegedly physically assaulted them. The teenager was arrested on charges of suspicion of battering an officer.

He was taken to the juvenile center, but also became combative with the staff who claim the teen became physical with them as well. Lofton was restrained after a struggle and within minutes, he stopped breathing, according to reports.

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Lofton died in a local hospital two days later on Sept. 26, per NPR. The unidentified staff members involved in the altercation are currently on paid administrative leave, pending an investigation.

“Between the video evidence that we reviewed and the autopsy, it’s clear that this young man was unjustifiably killed,” said Chicago civil rights attorney Andrew Stroth, one of the lawyers representing Lofton’s family, according to NPR. Stroth is also calling on Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett, to press charges. Bennett’s office is investigating the teen’s death,

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Here’s more from NPR:

The 5-foot-10, 135-pound Lofton resisted police, assaulting one or more of the officers, according the autopsy report, and he was taken to the juvenile center and put in a cell at 2:45 a.m. The autopsy report said that staff at the center let him out of his cell at 4:20 a.m. — to use the restroom, according to the KBI. Lofton was “uncooperative and agitated” and punched a staff member in the head, according to the autopsy report, leading to the struggle with multiple staff members.

Progeny, a partnership pushing Kansas to stop incarcerating young offenders and expand community programs instead, called Lofton “a young person in crisis.”

“We cannot continue to fail our youth in Kansas by leaving them with nobody to call during a mental health crisis, and we cannot allow another young person to lose their life when they just needed help,” it said in a statement.

The autopsy report said after the altercation with juvenile center employees started, Lofton’s ankles were shackled, he was “moved to the floor” and rolled onto his stomach, and he continued to struggle before being handcuffed. The autopsy report said Lofton then “calmed down, making occasional snoring sounds.” A minute after being unable to find a pulse, staff began chest compressions and called emergency personnel, just before 5:15 a.m., the report said.

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Emergency responders were able to get a pulse, but the autopsy report concluded that further hospital treatment was complicated by brain injuries from a lack of oxygen, respiratory failure and “acute kidney injury.” KSNW reports that Lofton also tested positive for COVID-19 and a drug screening found marijuana in his system.

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