Autopsy on Cedric Lofton reveals manner of death as homicide

Published: Dec. 27, 2021 at 12:24 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Update: The attorney for Cedric Lofton’s family released a statement in response to the official autopsy report that the 17-year-old’s manner of death was homicide. The statement is as follows:

“This confirms our belief that Sedgwick County personnel at the Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center (JIAC) in Wichita killed Cedric.. As supported by the video evidence, these individuals unjustifiably and with excessive and unreasonable force pinned Cedric to the ground, ultimately killing the unarmed, 135-pound, 17-year-old African American teenager. Cedric’s family anxiously awaits the findings of the criminal investigation and believes the Sedgwick County District Attorney should pursue criminal charges against the law enforcement personnel responsible for Cedric’s death. Cedric’s death was caused by the hands of the very authorities that were obligated to protect him and make sure he was safe. Instead, they killed him with conscious disregard for the young life in their keeping.”

An autopsy released Monday afternoon by Sedgwick County said the manner of death of Cedric “CJ” Lofton, who died while in Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center (JIAC) custody in September, was homicide. The Corrections employees involved have been placed on paid administrative leave while the District Attorney investigates.

The autopsy listed the cause of death as “complications of cardiopulmonary arrest sustained after physical struggle restrained in the prone position.” It said Lofton developed cardiopulmonary arrest after handcuffs were applied and while he was in a prone position during the incident on Sept. 24.

Lofton also suffered a brain injury, acute respiratory failure and acute kidney injury. He was also positive for COVID-19. A drug screen showed he tested positive for THC, but no alcohol or other drugs.

The incident with Corrections employees began at around 4:20 a.m. when Lofton was allowed to exit his cell. Six minutes later, two JIAC staff members grabbed Lofton’s arms, but Lofton freed his right arm and punched a staff member in the head. Staff struggled with Lofton but eventually restrained him with additional assistance.

Lofton’s ankles were shackled and he was rolled to a prone position. He continue to struggle, and handcuffs were applied more than 45 minutes after Lofton exited his cell. He was calmed, but Lofton lost his pulse at 5:12. Staff began chest compressions and called for additional personnel.

Community leaders and activists called for greater transparency into the investigation. In a tweet, George Floyd’s attorney, Ben Crump addressed the Wichita case, saying “5 juvenile detention facility corrections officers restrained Cedric Lofton. Two days later, the 17-year-old as found unresponsive in his jail cell.”

This information was incorrect, as Lofton died in the hospital.

It is important to note that when coroners use the term “homicide” in an autopsy, it’s not a legal conclusion. In this context, it means the death was at the hands of another person, and while intent is a common cause, it’s not required. The autopsy said Lofton was taken into custody at his foster family’s house because of erratic and aggressive behavior. He was taken to the Sedgwick County Juvenile Intake Assessment Center (JIAC).

The report says while there, Lofton struggled with staff and his arms and legs were restrained and was lying face down. A short time later, the staff couldn’t find a pulse.

Eyewitness News learned Monday that corrections staff involved with the case have been placed on paid leave as the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office is reviewing the autopsy, along with investigations by the KBI and Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office

The autopsy used video recordings to lay out the timeline, but that has not been released publicly. The county said it will not comment further until the DA has made a decision.

Eyewitness News on Monday also spoke with Progency, a local juvenile justice reform organization which has been calling for answers and accountability in Lofton’s case.

“This is the result of something tragic happening to a foster child. It’s hard to know because the system is supposed to be established to essentially protect those kids,” said Progency Youth Leader Kristen Powell.

Since Lofton’s death, Powell said a focus has been on educating on mental health resources rather than calling 911 for mental health issues.

“It was a mental health crisis from the beginning, so I feel like knowing that, there should have been better options and there were better options, but there are no policies and procedures in place to make people follow those options,” she said.

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