Police say teenager did not need medical help before he died | USA News®
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A community task force investigating the death of a black teenager who was held for more than 30 minutes at a Kansas juvenile detention center found an officer altered his answers on a form that, otherwise, would have led the police to take the teenager to the hospital instead of committing him to the detention centre.
An official who oversees admissions at the Sedgwick County Juvenile Admissions and Assessment Center, Jodi Tronsgard, told the task force last month that the officer initially reported there were signs that Cedric Lofton, 17, needed medical attention before the officer changed his answers. , reported The Wichita Eagle.
“What I learned after admission was that the officer presented this form and initially said yes, that there were signs of acute illness which appeared to require immediate medical attention. Yes, there were signs of intoxication with significant impairment in functioning,” Tronsgard told the task force on March 7. “…So he’s been advised that if you answer ‘yes’ to those questions, you have to go and take the youngster for medical or mental health release. And then, upon hearing that, he walks away and answers ‘no’ to those questions.”
Acting Police Chief Lem Moore said he was unaware the officer changed his answers on the form until the newspaper questioned him. He said he ordered a preliminary review of the case to determine if the officer may have falsified information. “If any issues are discovered, a full investigation will be conducted,” he said.
Lofton’s adoptive father called authorities in September asking for help because the teenager was hallucinating. Police initially tried to persuade him to go to a mental health facility, but body camera video shows him refusing to go and then resisting when officers tried to force him.
Lofton was then taken to the detention center, where he was held after a struggle with staff members. He had to be resuscitated after being held face down and died two days later.
Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett declined to charge the detention center workers in January, citing state self-defense law.
He told the newspaper for Sunday’s story that he also did not have enough evidence when he looked into the case to accuse the officer of falsifying information on the form, but that he would be willing to review any new information.
Emails obtained by the newspaper show that Bennett raised concerns that the Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent investigating Lofton’s death had a pro-police bias, and the agent then been removed from the case. The officer did not ask the officers who took Lofton to the detention center for the amended answers on the admission form.
Lofton’s family attorney, Steven Hart, said the altered answers on the form raise additional questions about how the police handled the case.
“It’s the most disgusting display of a lack of professionalism – or care,” Hart said. “Essentially, it was easier for them to put it down than to do what they knew was necessary and right.”
County officials said the FBI is looking into Lofton’s death.
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