DA Won't File Charges in Teen's Death in Custody

Kansas DA cites Stand Your Ground law in Cedric Lofton case
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 29, 2021 2:26 PM CST
Updated Jan 19, 2022 1:35 PM CST
Teen's Death in Custody While Restrained Is Ruled Homicide
This April 21, 2019, photo provided by Sarah Harrison shows Cedric Lofton of Wichita, Kan. Authorities say preliminary autopsy results show that the 17-year-old youth who died after being restrained at a Kansas juvenile facility didn't suffer any injuries that would have been life-threatening. Law enforcement...   (Courtesy Sarah Harrison via AP)

(Newser) Update: No charges will be filed in the death of 17-year-old Cedric Lofton at a juvenile center in Kansas in September, a district attorney said Wednesday, citing the state's Stand Your Ground law. Sedgwick County DA Marc Bennett said detention center employees who shackled the teen and left him face down were acting in self-defense, making them "immune from prosecution," the New York Times reports. "I'm not supposed to file this charge," the DA said, per KWCH. "If I did it anyway, the judge would be duty-bound to dismiss the case." Bennett said that while the employees were following the center's policies, that doesn't mean his department approves of their actions. "This should never have happened," he said. Our original story from Dec. 28, 2021 follows:

Days after Cedric Lofton, 17, died at a Kansas juvenile center—handcuffed, shackled at the ankles, and lying face down—the county sheriff said a preliminary autopsy showed the cause wasn't any injury suffered in custody. The chief medical examiner of Sedgwick County has now decided something different, the New York Times reports. "In my opinion, Cedric Lofton died as a result of complications of cardiopulmonary arrest sustained after physical struggle while restrained in the prone position," wrote Dr. Timothy Gorrill in a court filing. "The manner of death is homicide."

Lofton had returned to his foster home in Wichita about midnight on Sept. 24, three days after running away. Police were called to the home because, a report said, Lofton was "exhibiting erratic and aggressive behavior" toward his foster family. Police intended to take him to a hospital's behavior unit until, the report said, he assaulted "one or more of the officers." Lofton instead was taken to the juvenile center and charged with four counts of battery on a law enforcement officer. He was taken from his cell after 4am, and the report said he became agitated and punched an officer. Lofton then was restrained and placed face down.

As long as 39 minutes passed before staff members realized Lofton had no pulse, per the Wichita Eagle. The district attorney is investigating the case, and corrections employees involved are on administrative leave pending the outcome. None has been charged. The family, which has been critical over the lack of answers and transparency from law enforcement, called Monday for criminal charges to be filed. "There’s no doubt whatsoever that excessive force was at play here," a lawyer for the family said. Lofton was a senior in high school who planned to move to California to build a music career after he graduated. (Read more inmate deaths stories.)

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