Lauren Smith-Fields: Medical Examiner Rules Connecticut Woman’s Accidental Death
Ahead of Monday’s ruling by Dr. Christopher Borck of Connecticut’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, members of Smith-Fields’ family accused the Bridgeport Police Department of violating their civil rights, mishandling the inquest into his death and for not informing them of his death.
On Tuesday, an attorney for the Smith-Fields family said the medical examiner’s report raised more questions.
“The ME findings do not remedy any of Bridgeport’s process shortcomings, in fact (in fact) it makes them worse. Instead, we are left with more questions than answers as a result of a botched investigation or his absence,” family attorney Darnell Crosland said. told CNN via text.
Smith-Fields, a 23-year-old black woman, was found unresponsive in her home on Dec. 12, 2021, by a Bridgeport Police Department officer, according to a police incident report obtained by CNN from the attorney for the family.
The individual who called police was a man Smith-Fields had met on the Bumble dating app and had gone on a date with the night before, police say.
Prior to the decision, her family said they planned to sue the city of Bridgeport, alleging in a Notice of Claim filed by their attorney that the Bridgeport Police Department had failed to collect sufficient physical evidence from Lauren’s home and had refused to consider the man she was on top of. an appointment with a person of interest. Members of his family also alleged that the police department was “racially insensitive” to the family and violated his civil rights.
The Notice of Claim names Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim and Acting Police Chief Rebeca Garcia, as well as the detectives who assisted in the investigation.
CNN contacted the Bridgeport Police Department for comment and was referred to statements made to local media.
He added: “Items of misinformation are being republished by various sources, but once again we will issue a full final report at the end of this investigation. Anyone with information should contact the police.”
What happened to Lauren Smith-Fields?
Early in the morning of December 12, Bridgeport police received a report of an unconscious woman in a home, according to a police incident report. Upon arrival, an officer found Smith-Fields lying on her back on the ground, with dried blood in and around her right nostril, police said.
The officer also found a “frenzied man”, who identified himself as someone who had only known Smith-Fields for three days and met her on the dating app Bumble, according to police.
According to the incident report, he performed chest compressions after being briefed by the ER operator over the phone. “He was shaking and visibly shaken,” the report read.
The man’s name is redacted in the report.
He told police he had arrived at the Smith-Fields residence the day before after she had invited him. They were drinking shots of tequila when she fell ill and went to the bathroom to vomit, the man told police, according to the report. After he returned, they continued drinking tequila with mixers, playing games, eating and watching a movie, police said.
At some point during the night, Smith-Fields’ brother stopped by her house to pick up some clothes from her house, according to Crosland. When she returned, she went to the bathroom for about 15 minutes, the man who met Smith-Fields on Bumble reported to police.
When Smith-Fields fell asleep on the couch, the man carried her to bed and fell asleep next to her, the report said. When he woke up very early that morning to use the bathroom, he said Smith-Fields was snoring, but when he woke up a few hours later he said he saw her lying on the right side with blood coming out of his nostril onto the bed, prompting him to call the police, the report said.
Doctors who arrived on the scene declared her dead and said she had been dead for at least an hour or more, the report said.
Officers collected several items as evidence, including more than $1,300 in cash, his passport, a credit card and his cell phone, according to the police report.
Police did not notify Smith-Fields’ family of his death, Crosland said, and instead the family found out a day later after visiting his home and finding a note from the owner on the door of the Smith-Fields apartment.
“Mom had called, because Christmas dinner was supposed to be at Lauren’s house that year,” Crosland told CNN. “They went there, found a note on the landlord’s door that said if anyone is looking for Lauren, call me. The police never tried to contact the family, they just pulled her body out of the House.”
Crosland described the detectives assigned to the case as dismissive and called them “rude”. He said they treated the family poorly when they called and met with police to get answers about Smith-Fields’ death.
At a meeting earlier this month, Crossland said, police told them they hadn’t found anything suspicious at the scene and a detective allegedly told them ‘there was no blunt trauma. “.
The family say they will fight for justice
In a statement, Mayor Ganim acknowledged the “unanswered questions and concerns” surrounding Smith-Fields’ death and said he had referred the matter to the Office of Home Affairs for a full investigation.
“There is no tolerance for anything less than respect and sensitivity for family members and their loss,” Ganim said in the statement. “I share the concerns shared by many regarding the timing and manner in which a family is notified of a loss. Death notifications should be made in a manner that exemplifies the dignity of the deceased and respect and compassion for the family. .”
Ganim also said he would work with the police chief to change the department’s policy regarding notification of deaths to family members and had contacted the state medical examiner’s office to expedite this matter.
When the family searched the Smith-Fields home after learning of his death, Crosland claims they found a used condom, a sedative pill, the blood-stained sheet, an overturned plate of food and bottles of liquor.
“You would definitely want to get the sheet, the condom, you would want to take pictures of the overturned plate,” Crosland said. “After we forced them to pick him up on December 29, I called the state forensic lab and the woman who answered said the police department hadn’t made a statement.”
Crosland also says a detective described Smith-Fields’ date with Bumble as “a nice man” to his brother and also told him not to “jump on any inclusions.”
Bumble confirmed to CNN that he was in contact with law enforcement. In a statement shared with CNN, Bumble said he was deeply saddened by the news of Smith-Fields’ passing and reached out to the family to offer support.
“The physical and emotional safety of our community is of paramount importance,” the statement read. “We investigate member complaints and take prompt and decisive action against any member who fails to meet our standards. We stand ready to provide appropriate assistance and information when requested by law enforcement.”
The family of Crosland and Smith-Fields are ready to fight for justice, they said.
“We won’t stop until we get justice for Lauren and the thousands of black girls who go missing every year in this country,” Crosland said in a statement shared with CNN. “We owe them equal rights and justice regardless of their race and we won’t stop fighting until we get it.”
CNN’s Laura Dolan contributed to this report.