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Death of Wichita teen who died in custody ruled a homicide

KMUW/File Photo

An autopsy says Cedric Lofton suffered a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained at the county's juvenile facility last fall.

An autopsy report said a teen who died last fall at Sedgwick County’s juvenile facility suffered cardiopulmonary arrest while he was handcuffed and lying on his stomach.

The Regional Forensic Science Center ruled Monday that the death of 17-year-old Cedric Lofton is a homicide. The District Attorney’s office is investigating the death.

According to the autopsy report, Lofton was restrained after getting into a fight with staffers at the Sedgwick County Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center in September.

About 30 minutes after he was placed on the floor and restrained by staff members, Lofton was handcuffed. Less than five minutes later, staff could not find a pulse. They started chest compressions and called for an ambulance.

Lofton was taken to a hospital and was pronounced brain dead two days later.

Video from inside the facility has not been released to the public, although it was shown to Lofton’s family, according to The Community Voice, a Wichita newspaper with a primarily Black audience. Lofton’s brother, Marquan Teetz, told The Community Voice that the video showed “unnecessary and excessive restraint” by juvenile facility employees which he said led to Lofton’s death.

The autopsy noted that Lofton had cuts and bruises to his face and other parts of his body. It also reported he tested positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, as well as COVID-19.

The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office said in September that initial autopsy results indicated that Lofton did not have any injuries that would have caused his death.

Lofton was taken to the juvenile facility after his foster parents called 911 while he was having a mental health crisis.

When Wichita Police arrived, police said they had to use a restraint system to transport him to the facility. The restraint was taken off at the facility.

Lofton was taken into custody on suspicion of four counts of battery on a law enforcement officer.

Soon after Lofton’s death, Progeny and several other groups sent letters to state and local leaders questioning the use of the restraint system by police and the lack of mental health professionals responding to the initial 911 call.

Lofton’s parents hired legal representation in October to access audio and video recordings being used in the investigation.

Progeny released a statement after the results of Lofton's autopsy became public:

“While we are devastated that Cedric Lofton’s autopsy revealed his tragic death at the Sedgwick County Juvenile Intake Assessment Center to be a homicide, we cannot say we are surprised. Cedric was a young person in crisis whose life was tragically taken, instead of being met with compassion and support.

"We cannot continue to fail our youth in Kansas by leaving them with nobody to call during a mental health crisis, and we cannot allow another young person to lose their life when they just needed help. Instead of continuing to invest in a broken and harmful youth justice system, we must urgently redirect our resources to the programs we know will actually help and protect our youth.”

According to the county, employees at Sedgwick County Corrections who were involved in the incident are on paid administrative leave pending results of the District Attorney’s investigation.
Copyright 2021 KMUW | NPR for Wichita. To see more, visit KMUW | NPR for Wichita.

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