The mayor of Bridgeport, Conn., has ordered the suspension of two detectives working the cases of Black women who mysteriously died on the same day under similar circumstances in December.
The families of both Lauren Smith-Fields and Brenda Lee Rawls have publicly criticized the Bridgeport Police Department’s handling of the cases, saying cops didn’t even bother notifying them that the women had been found dead in their homes, didn’t follow up on obvious leads and treated the women’s relatives with disrespect and contempt.
In response, the Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim ordered the detectives, Angel Llanos and Kevin Cronin, be put on administrative leave for what he called a lack of sensitivity and a failure to follow police procedures. “It is an unacceptable failure if policies were not followed,” Ganim said in a statement.
Authorities haven’t said that they believe there’s a connection between the two deaths, but the circumstances in the aftermath were similar. Both women were found dead in their own homes on Dec. 12, in Bridgeport, a city of just under 150,000 people about 62 miles north of New York. In both cases, the women’s last known contacts were male acquaintances. And in both cases, the families only discovered the deaths after going to check on their relatives after not hearing from them for several days despite the fact that police already knew the women were dead.
The Connecticut Medical Examiner ruled 23-year-old Smith-Feilds’ death an accident that resulted from a combination of alcohol, fentanyl, promethazine and hydroxyzine in her system. She was reportedly found by a 37-year-old man who she met on dating app Bumble, and her family said in a court filing that police refused to follow that possible lead.
From the Daily Beast
Tavar Gray-Smith, Smith-Fields’ brother, also told CBS that a detective had said the family hadn’t been contacted since authorities “had her passport and her ID, so we knew who she was.”
The family has accused the police of a “racially insensitive” mishandling of the case, writing in a recent notice of claim that the department had treated them “with no respect” and “violated their civil rights.” Similarly to the initial probe into Rawls’ death, potentially crucial physical evidence was not collected from Smith-Fields’ home, her family said.
Rawls’ cause of death hasn’t been determined. Her family also says that Bridgeport Police didn’t notify them after she was found dead in her home and blew them off when they tried to get answers.