DA: No charges filed in Cedric Lofton’s death
WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett announced Tuesday that no charges are being filed in the death of 17-year-old Cedric Lofton.
Cedric died on the morning of Sept. 26, two days after he was restrained following a struggle with staff at the Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center (JIAC).
During a briefing on Tuesday, Bennett detailed the events leading up to Cedric’s death. At 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 24, Cedric’s foster father called 911 at the advice of the foster agency. Cedric had returned home after being called in as a runway on the previous day. Bennett said after officers spent about an hour trying to convince Cedric that they were taking him to Via Christi St. Joseph.
“The question was raised by the things he’s saying. He’s fairly calm, not screaming or yelling but he’s saying things repeatedly like on a loop, like kill yourself, kill yourself, kill yourself,” said Bennett.
Six officers lifted Lofton off his foster father’s porch and placed him into a WRAP restraint following a struggle. Bennett said Lofton showed signs of distress throughout the call. He said the supervisor decided to take him to JIAC.
“One of the officers is heard on body camera during the transport saying ‘for me, I think we should have taken him to Saint Joe.’ Even the officers are not of one mind on how to handle this,” said Bennett.
Cedric was then dropped off at JIAC at 2:44 a.m.
Bennett said he watched a video from inside the JIAC facility. He said Cedric was calm when he arrived. At some point, he was allowed to walk to the opposite end of the holding area where he tried to grab a computer monitor through a window. Bennett said the JIAC workers gave Cedric verbal warnings to stop and then tried to guide him back into the holding room. Bennett said during this exchange, Cedric punched the JIAC officer and a struggle ensued between the two and a Juvenile Detention Facility officer.
Bennett said the JDF officer called for backup and two JDF supervisors arrived. Cedric was placed in leg shackles moved from a seated position to lying face down on the floor where staff said he continued to resist. One JIAC worker went to call the police and request that Cedric be transported to St. Joe.
“At the 17-minute mark, one of them went to get help and try to get WPD to come back and get him to St. Joe,” said Bennett.
The district attorney said it did not appear from the video that pressure was being applied to Cedric, who was 5′10 and 135 lbs. Staff said they knelt beside him trying to hold his arms to handcuff him. Bennett said 17 minutes later Cedric relaxed and staff was able to handcuff him. Two JDF staff members were left with Cedric because he could not stay alone in shackles, per the department’s policy. They noted that he began snoring loudly. Moments later, the JDF officers said they didn’t think Cedric was breathing.
“They were acting within policy, they are told they can hold kids until they comply and they can hold them up to 30 minutes and they can do it more with supervisor approval,” said Bennett.
Chest compressions were performed. EMS and police arrived a short time later. The teenager was found pulseless with significant trauma. EMS was able to get his pulse back, and he was taken to Wesley Medical. The 17-year-old died two days later.
Autopsy results determined Cedric’s manner of death was homicide. Bennett said he talked with the coroner who said it was a combination of being face down in the prone position and the struggle. He said looking at what charges he could consider, Kansas law makes it clear.
“Pursuit to Kansas self-defense and Stand Your Ground law, they’re immune from prosecution. If I bring this case, the immunity statute says they cannot be prosecuted. I’m not supposed to file this charge. If I did it anyway, the judge would be duty-bound to dismiss the case,” Bennett said.
Bennett said Sedgwick County Manager Tom Stolz came to him to look at how to address county policy. Some of his recommendations include addressing the policy that allowed Cedric to be left alone with one JIAC employee after it took six officers to restrain him with the WRAP system, adding audio to the video system at JIAC; adequate training for those dealing with juveniles experiencing a mental health crisis and where they should be taken - Via Christ St. Joseph or JIAC, and a better response for foster families dealing with foster children experiencing a mental health crisis.
“No one wants to sit and talk about this for six more months or years. It’s time to make some action. It’s time to get something done quick,” said the district attorney.
Civil Rights Attorneys Andrew M. Stroth and Steven Hart, who represent the family of Cedric Lofton released the following statement:
“We are extremely troubled by the District Attorney’s decision not to charge anyone in connection with the unjustified killing of 17 year-old Cedric Lofton. This is yet another instance of an unarmed Black teenager killed by law enforcement with impunity, threat of reprisal or even an ounce of accountability. Similar to the George Floyd case, Cedric’s death was caused by authorities obligated to protect him. In this case, they restrained Cedric in the prone position and took his breath away.”
Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett is holding a news conference this morning at 11:00.
The subject matter is the Cedric Lofton case.
The news conference will take place in the sheriff’s second-floor briefing room in the jail.
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