Saturday, October 1, 2022

Lauren Smith-Fields family sues Connecticut police over investigation into her death

The family of a 23-year-old Connecticut woman who died in mysterious circumstances is suing the police department for alleged mishandling of the investigation.

Lauren Smith-Fields, a black woman, was found dead in her apartment on Dec. 12, but more than a month later, answers to how she died remain a mystery.

Smith-Fields was drinking tequila in her apartment with Matthew LaFontaine, a white man she met on the dating app Bumble, when she became ill and vomited, according to a report from the Bridgeport Police Department. The two continued to drink throughout the night when Smith-Fields received the message and went outside. An incident report reviewed by Rolling Stone states that she went outside to get something from her brother and then, upon returning, went to the bathroom for a few minutes.

Her companion, Lafontaine, later told the officer that “he thought it was odd, but didn’t feel it was his business to say anything, since he didn’t know her that well,” according to the police report.

The next morning, La Fontaine called the police after finding blood leaking from Smith Fields’ right nostril and seeing that she was not breathing.

Her family said they found inconsistencies in the report, including that the 23-year-old was intoxicated when she went outside to see her brother Lakem Jetter.

The police report also does not match the account of the last relative who saw Smith-Fields alive that night.

“I haven’t written to my sister since December 4th,” Jetter said, recalling the night of December 11 when he called Smith-Fields to bring in his basket of clothes he was collecting. “I didn’t know that there was someone there. She left, stayed there for 10-15 minutes and went back to the house. She looked fine. She didn’t look sick, she didn’t look tired, she didn’t look drunk. I am her second older brother, if I saw her drunk, I would say: “What are you doing?” … “Why do you look like that?”

The family also stated that the police did not collect evidence at the apartment. Shantell Fields, Smith-Fields’ mother, told Yahoo News that she found a condom filled with semen in her daughter’s apartment, as well as a pill that the family thought could be a sedative.

Smith-Fields’ brother, Jetter, told Rolling Stone that other evidence was left uncollected.

“The first night we saw cups, overturned plates and lube there. The cops didn’t take any of the cups to test the liquor,” Jetter told the publication. “There was a large bloodstain in the middle of her bed with streaks going to the right side.”

The family also alleges that the Bridgeport police conducted an unprofessional investigation and asked the family to stop calling the department. The family’s attorney, Darnell Crosland, stated that Detective Kevin Cronin failed to properly notify Fields of her daughter’s death, and that La Fontaine was not questioned as a suspect.

“There is a typical protocol that is followed when you have this kind of situation,” Crosland told Yahoo News. “If you have a husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, call the police because one of them is dead, usually the surviving person plays a key role in the investigation. In most cases, they are looked upon as suspects because they were the last person to have died, and in this particular case, the police were very hesitant to even call the person a “person of interest”.

On Sunday, the family announced they would sue the department.

“We’re filing a lawsuit here in Bridgeport to force them to take this case, protect this family, and give them the equal rights they deserve under the Connecticut Constitution,” Crosland told NBC Connecticut.

The family created GoFundMe to hire a private detective to investigate the death.

“At the start of this nightmare, our family was subjected to extreme abuse by the Bridgeport Police Department, who we stated initially refused to investigate Lauren’s untimely death,” the family wrote on their GoFundMe page. “Although the BDP has now decided to launch an investigation, our family would like to conduct their own investigation!”

In the past two years, federal authorities have arrested five Bridgeport officials, including former police chief Armando J. Perez, who was sentenced to prison last year for rigging his own hiring process to become the city’s chief police officer.

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Nation World News Desk
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