CNN reported Kansas District Attorney Marc Bennett has announced he will not be filing charges in the Cedric Lofton case citing the state’s “stand your ground” law. In a news conference, he stated the officers who held 17-year-old Lofton in custody acted in a manner of self-defense because Lofton resisted their use of force pinning him to the ground.
When Lofton returned to his foster home the morning of September 24, 2021, his father called the police alleging Lofton was acting “paranoid,” CNN reported. Wichita officers placed him in shackles which wrapped around his body from the torso down and put him in the back of the patrol car. He was taken to the Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center under accusations of “striking and kicking” the officers who arrived at his home, according to CNN.
Officers removed the restraint system and left Lofton in a holding room at the JIAC, where a staff member came by to explain the assessment process and let him into the open foyer, the report said.
After two corrections supervisors arrived, the group put leg shackles on Lofton and move him from a seated position to “face down to better control the situation and possibly place handcuffs on Cedric,” the report said. The group was also physically holding the teen down, according to the report.
One staff member told investigators that Lofton, who was still face down on the floor, “continued to argue and resist” and they could not put handcuffs on him as they waited for police to arrive after one employee called 911.
After more than 30 minutes on the floor, handcuffs were placed on Lofton, the report said.
CNN reported after Lofton was handcuffed, employees figured he was asleep but one employee noticed he stopped breathing. Body camera footage showed a few JIAC employees trying to revive him but he was sent to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. The autopsy ruled Lofton’s cause of death was “complications of cardiopulmonary arrest sustained after physical struggle while restrained in the prone position” as well as a homicide, reported CNN.
Bennett released a report on the incident nearly suggesting Lofton was to blame for his own death, per CNN. “That he continued to resist for some thirty minutes meant the staff could continue to lawfully apply restraint,” read the report. Additionally, Bennett argued the employees were justified in their actions based on the “stand your ground” law.
Generally, “stand your ground” laws across the US allow people to respond to threats of force, without the fear of being criminally prosecuted, in any place where a person has the right to be, including his home or business. Under Kansas law, a person is justified in using force if they are acting in defense of themselves in those circumstances or to protect another party.
“You cannot be arrested, you cannot be charged, you cannot be prosecuted, if you’re acting in self-defense in Kansas under the ‘stand your ground’ law,” Bennett said, adding that Kansas has “one of the most robust ‘stand your ground’ laws in the United States.”
In a disturbing overlap of the murders of Trayvon Martin and George Floyd, Bennett justified the excessive use of force by authority on the grounds of self-defense. But, why would a group of officers feel defenseless against a shackle-bound teenager?
The JIAC employees involved have been placed on paid administrative leave and Bennett has decided not to prosecute them. The Lofton family’s civil rights attorneys said in a statement “This is yet another instance of an unarmed Black teenager killed by law enforcement with impunity,” and without “threat of reprisal or even an ounce of accountability.”