Cops Tasked With Investigating Black Women's Deaths Suspended

Families of Lauren Smith-Fields, Brenda Rawls say police in Bridgeport, Conn., bungled probes
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 25, 2022 5:14 PM CST
Updated Jan 31, 2022 9:40 AM CST
Lauren Smith-Fields' Family Finds No Solace in Update
Shantell Fields, Lauren Smith-Fields' mother, stands with family members during a protest rally in front of the Morton Government Center, in Bridgeport, Conn. Jan. 23, 2022.   (Ned Gerard/Hearst Connecticut Media via AP)

(Newser) Update: Two Connecticut police officers involved with investigating the deaths of two Black women have been suspended and placed on administrative leave during an internal affairs probe, reports CBS News. In a Sunday statement, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim said he was "extremely disappointed" with his city's police department in its handling of the cases of 23-year-old Lauren Smith-Fields—whose body was found in December at her home after a date with a white man she'd met on Bumble— and 53-year-old Brenda Rawls, whose body was found in her own home the same day as Smith-Fields'. The families of both women say they weren't notified by police that their loved ones had died. The Connecticut Post identifies the two suspended detectives as Angel Llanos, who's been with the police department since 1988, and Kevin Cronin, with the PD since 2000. Ganim says ongoing investigations into the two women's deaths have been reassigned. Our original story from Tuesday follows:

The family of Lauren Smith-Fields is distraught over her death—and a Connecticut police department's handling of it. The 23-year-old was found dead in her Bridgeport apartment early on Dec. 12. On Monday, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled her death was accidental and the result of acute intoxication due to the combined effects of fentanyl, promethazine, hydroxyzine, and alcohol. Rolling Stone reports that due to the presence of fentanyl, the Bridgeport Police Department has opened a criminal investigation into her death; the DEA will assist. Smith-Fields' death was discovered after her Bumble date—a man she connected with on the app three days prior, reports People—called 911 at 6:30am to say he woke to find she had stopped breathing and was bleeding from her nose.

Her family says they only learned of her death two days afterward after they were concerned, went to her apartment, and found a note from her landlord on the door. One of her brothers, Lakeem Jetter, says they were directed to speak with a detective with the Bridgeport Police Department who "said she met somebody on Bumble and ... he seemed like a nice guy," per NBC New York. "He said 'I'll call you back,' and just hung up in my face," Jetter said of the detective, and the family maintains the BPD didn't have contact with them between Dec. 13 and 29. Jetter alleges that when the family went to clean out the apartment they were met with a new detective who said the prior one "messed up the case." Jetter also alleges crime scene investigators only showed up at that point to collect items the family noticed—among them, a bloody sheet, a pill, two cups, and a used condom.

"I feel like because he's a white guy and she's a Black girl, they're just throwing it under the rug," Jetter said. Family attorney Darnell Crosland on Friday announced the intent to sue the BPD, alleging the BPD didn't properly collect physical evidence from the scene and declined to look at her Bumble date as a person of interest. As for the medical examiner's Monday announcement, Crosland told CNN the "findings [don't] cure any of the [BPD's] lack of process, in [fact] it makes it worse. Instead we are left with more questions than answers as a result of a botched investigation or lack thereof." Crosland was more explicit in comments to WTNH: "This looks further like a manslaughter. It looks more like a murder, and if the police don't start acting fast, we're going to have a real big problem on our hands." (Read more Lauren Smith-Fields stories.)

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