Sedgwick County Sheriff lays out timeline in 17-year-old’s in-custody death

Sedgwick County Corrections Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center (JIAC)
Sedgwick County Corrections Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center (JIAC)(KWCH)
Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 10:32 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 30, 2021 at 10:59 AM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The Sedgwick County Sheriff and Sedgwick County District Attorney held a joint press conference on Thursday to address the investigation into the in-custody death of 17-year-old Cedric “CJ” Lofton.

According to Sheriff Jeff Easter, preliminary autopsy results showed only scratches and a bruise on Lofton’s body. No life-threatening injuries were found, he said. Easter said investigators received information that Lofton may have ingested K-2 before he died. He said his office along with the Kansas Bureau of Investigations, who is the lead investigator on the case, are now awaiting toxicology results before releasing a cause of death.

Easter shared a timeline of events leading up to Lofton’s death. He said officers were dispatched to Lofton’s foster father’s home at 1:07 a.m. on Sept. 24, after the man reported Lofton was having a mental health breakdown and paranoia. He asked that the boy be evaluated.

Wichita police arrived on the scene around six minutes later and remained on the scene for about an hour. At 2:15 a.m., an officer in trouble call was dispatched. That call was ended at 2:23 a.m. and at 2:32 a.m., officers transported Lofton to the Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center (JIAC).

Police arrived with Lofton at JIAC around 2:44 a.m. and left the center at 4:16 a.m. About 40 minutes later, JIAC called Wichita police and asked that they come back to take Lofton to the hospital. At 5:11 a.m., officers were dispatched to JIAC. At 5:18 a.m., JIAC was said to be conducting CPR on Lofton. Officers arrived a minute later. EMS arrived at 5:24 a.m. and performed CPR and revive Lofton. The 17-year-old was then taken to Wesley Medical Center. He died there on Sunday, Sept. 26. Easter said he does not believe the teen regained consciousness during his time in the hospital.

Teen dies in custody timeline
Teen dies in custody timeline(Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office)
Teen dies in custody timeline
Teen dies in custody timeline(Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office)

According to an earlier release from the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office, Lofton was booked into JIAC on four counts of battery on a law enforcement officer. The sheriff’s office said while in custody, Lofton assaulted JIAC staff who then restrained him. After being restrained, Lofton became unresponsive and EMS was summoned, according to the sheriff’s office. Two days after Lofton’s death, the KBI released a more detailed account of the events leading up to the 17-year-old’s death.

During Thursday’s briefing, Easter said body camera footage and footage from JIAC would not be shared with the public while Lofton’s death is under investigation. He said is available for Lofton’s parents or their attorney to view, per Kansas Statute 45-254.

Easter then asked that the public be patient while his office and the KBI work the investigation.

“Again, I want to reiterate, that this is a complete and thorough investigation that will be taking place. It is an independent investigation. It is a very tragic incident. We’re involved and we will leave no rock unturned. And we will find out exactly what happened. We ask that the citizens and a lot of the folks that are posting stuff on social media to remain patient while the investigation progresses,” said Easter.

Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Benett said the video would be released during the preliminary hearing if charges are filed. He said if no charges are filed, he would hold a press conference, as he has done in previous cases, to explain his decision.

“There is no law, no rule that allows me to piecemeal information out a little at a time in advance of final charging determination. And so, the way that we maintain the transparency and credibility of the investigative process is to treat every case the same,” said Bennett. “We don’t make exceptions. And this case will get the full attention of my office.”

Easter did explain that the Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center (JIAC) is not run by his office, but falls under Sedgwick County Community Corrections. He said staff that deals with juveniles are much like detention deputies who are non-commissioned. Eyewitness News has reached out to the county to learn more about JIAC’s force and restraint policy.

JIAC policy says corrections staff can use “mechanical restraints,” which include handcuffs, shackles and belly chains to protect staff or others from self injury, but cannot use chemical agents stun guns, electric current weapons including Tasers, batons or other devices not approved to control behavior.

The KBI said Lofton was brought to JIAC in a WRAP restraint system, a device used to prevent subjects from hurting themselves or others. But once Lofton was at the JIAC facility, the WRAP device and handcuffs were taken off.

JIAC policy says the type and amount of force or restraint used should only be to the extent reasonable and necessary to control a situation. Sedgwick County says JIAC has never experienced an incident like this, saying corrections staff rarely physically restrain youth and since January 2020, there have only been two occasions where staff had to use handcuffs or leg restraints.

The KBI says potentially five corrections staff members were involved in the incident and they are not on administrative leave.

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