Lofton family questions DA after new video

Published: Jan. 22, 2022 at 11:41 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The family of a teen who died while in the custody of the Sedgwick County Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center (known as JIAC) is now questioning the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s decision not to file charges in his death.

Earlier this week, DA Marc Bennett announced no charges would be filed in the death of Cedric Lofton, citing the state’s self-defense law and testimony that pressure was never applied to the teen’s back as he laid in the prone position.

Lofton died in custody in September and his death launched an investigation. Bennett examined more than 90 items of evidence, including more than 20 interviews with people involved in the situation. He presented his findings in an 80-minute media conference where he walked through his decision and answered questions.

Wichita Police Department body camera video and video from inside JIAC was released following media requests. Lofton’s family is questioning a piece of video that shows a Wichita police officer asking JIAC/JDF employees about how they were holding Lofton.

“When he was on his stomach and you guys had your safe hold, now did you guys apply pressure anywhere else? Did you guys have weight on his back?” asks the officer in the video.

The employee says “Yeah, onto his back.”

The officer says “I know you said you had weight on it but how much weight were you putting? Were you putting 100 percent weight on him to try and keep him down?”

The employee says “No, I would say just enough to where he wouldn’t get loose.”

After interviewing another employee, the officer explains why he is asking these questions.

“You understand why I’m asking you stuff like that, right? With the whole timeframe and stuff like that? Asphyxiation...because he was on his stomach for a long time. That’s the only reason I’m asking. I’m covering everyone’s bases to make sure you guys weren’t doing anything wrong,” said the officer.

“No,” answers the employee.

Asphyxiation is defined as the process of being deprived of oxygen, which can result in death. Asphyxiation is why the prone position has become controversial in law enforcement.

In response to these questions, Bennett points to his full report which details this issue.

In addition, Bennett says “The report and the press conference should have made clear that the workers acknowledged that they forcefully held Cedric down. Force was applied to his arms/shoulders and lower legs. They did not suggest that anyone laid or applied the full weight of their bodies against the middle of his back/chest. As I tried to make clear in the report, if they had placed their weight in the middle of his back/chest over his lungs, it is hard to imagine that the prolonged struggle and restraint described by the coroner as the cause of the death could have lasted for over 30 minutes.”

Bennett says the report makes clear that the force applied by the JIAC/JDF workers in holding Cedric down was clearly contributory to Cedric’s death - but the positioning alone was not the cause of death.

But after seeing the video, the Lofton family spokesperson is calling for the case to reopen and a special prosecutor.

“The evidence is clear weight was put on him we know what happens when someone is in the prone position with their hands cuffed behind their back with your feet shackle and you have four people with their weight on we know what happens,” said Maurice Evans.

We will continue to provide updates to this story.

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