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Family of teen who died in custody sues Wichita, Sedgwick County

Kylie Cameron

A new lawsuit alleges excessive force was used in the death of Cedric Lofton and that Wichita Police officers and county workers were not trained on how to handle teens in crisis.

Attorneys representing the family of 17-year-old Cedric "CJ" Lofton have filed a civil lawsuit against the Wichita Police Department, Sedgwick County and the officers involved in his death.

Lofton, who is Black, died at a county juvenile facility last year while he was being restrained for more than half an hour while lying on his chest during a mental health crisis.

Attorneys representing the family and Lofton's brother, Marquan Teetz, announced the filing Monday at the county courthouse. The filing demands a jury trial.

"Every day I just have to remember that he was [restrained] … for 39 minutes and they watched him die," Teetz said, "and I see no remorse from them. And it just eats me up that much more … every day."

The federal lawsuit filed in the District Court of Kansas alleges that county workers used excessive force in the teen's death. It also alleges county workers and Wichita Police officers were not properly trained on how to handle juveniles in crisis.

 Cedric Lofton
Courtesy photo
Cedric Lofton

The lawsuit also cites a report from 2016 by the Kansas Department of Corrections saying that the juvenile facility where Lofton died had deficiencies in handling children with mental health issues.

"This report outlines the systemic deficiencies at [the Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center] and that JIAC was ill-equipped to handle individuals with mental health trauma," attorney Andrew Stroth said. "That JIAC was ill-equipped in de-escalation training and procedures."

Lofton's death was ruled a homicide. But earlier this year, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett decided to not press charges against county workers involved in the teen's death, citing Kansas Stand Your Ground laws.

The lawsuit is seeking compensatory and punitive damages determined by the jury.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations is also currently reviewing Lofton's case, but has yet to announce whether it will conduct an investigation.

Stroth is also lead counsel on the pending federal court case for the fatal false "swatting" call that led to the death of Andrew Finch by Wichita Police.

"The city of Wichita has a … pattern and practice issue in their police department," Stroth said. "There's been no commitment to change."

The city of Wichita and Sedgwick County declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Copyright 2022 KMUW | NPR for Wichita

Kylie Cameron (she/her) is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. You can follow her on Twitter @bykyliecameron or email her at cameron (at) kmuw (dot) org.
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