The death of 17-year-old Cedric Lofton, a Black teenager who was in the custody of the Kansas Juvenile system, was determined a homicide according to his autopsy that was released this Monday (Dec. 27).
The finding says his heart and breathing stopped after he was handcuffed while lying on his stomach, contradicting earlier reports that he hadn't suffered life-threatening injuries.
Lofton was in the custody of the Sedgwick County Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center in Wichita on September 24 when the altercation between him and staff members occurred. That’s when he was taken to a local hospital and died two days later.
"The family lost their son and their brother, so it's just a tragic and unjustified death," Andrew Stroth, one of the lawyers representing Lofton's family and a Chicago civil rights attorney. "The family is going to continue to seek answers and pursue all legal remedies available."
The staff members involved are on paid administrative leave and have not been identified.
The Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett, however, issued a statement saying his office is reviewing the autopsy report, along with a "lengthy investigation" by the local sheriff's office and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
"In my opinion, Cedric Lofton died as a result of complications from cardiopulmonary arrest sustained after physical struggle while restrained in the prone position," Chief Medical Examiner Timothy Gorrill wrote in the report. "The manner of death is homicide."
Due to the case being an active investigation, the county says they cannot comment, however, it was their offices who, initially, during a Sept. 30 news conference — four days after Lofton's death — that Lofton’s initial autopsy did not reveal life-threatening injuries.
Rather the autopsy cited police reports that Lofton ran away from a foster home on Sept. 21, and was "erratic and aggressive" toward his foster parents when he returned early Sept. 24.
Lofton’s family feels like someone should be culpable; we’ll be waiting to see if they get to the bottom of it.