Controversial body camera and surveillance video have been released showing what happened leading up to the death of 17-year-old Black foster child Cedric Lofton, who died after being taken to a Wichita, Kansas, juvenile detention center last fall.
Videos show the boy becoming unresponsive after being held face down and in handcuffs by adults for over 30 minutes.
However, a Kansas district attorney announced that because of the state’s “stand your ground” laws, no charges will be filed.
Last week two sets of videos surrounding the case were released, one from the police and the other from the county juvenile center. Between them they gave insight on the circumstances surrounding the death of Cedric Lofton, a Kansas teen who died on Sept. 26, two days after being restrained while in the custody of the Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center (JIAC) in Wichita.
Lofton’s foster father called law enforcement to his home on Sept. 24 around 1 a.m., where the officers first encountered the teenager acting “erratically” outside.
The police video shows officers talking to him for about an hour and trying to convince him to go to a hospital. Lofton appears to be calm, but withdrawn. He can be seen not looking at the officers and barely engaging them.
The officers struggled with Lofton, leading them to subdue the teenager by using the WRAP restraint, binding his legs and feet while placing his wrists in handcuffs.
The video captures a conversation between the officers on where they should take Lofton. The options are JIAC or Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph, a medical facility where he could receive a mental health evaluation. The police decided to take him to the juvenile corrections center, a place for youth people who have demonstrated criminality.
After law enforcement left Lofton in the custody of the JIAC employees, the young man is placed in a cell. Staffers later told the DA that he was “acting oddly” in the cell.
Around 4:20 a.m., the JIAC intake officer comes to the cell and invites Lofton out. His goal is to explain the center’s intake process.
At some point, the video shows Lofton’s jacket in a chair. The intake officer swipes and Lofton lunges to get it back. Within ten minutes from getting him from the cell to the lobby, the Intake officer calls in a corrections officer. They both double team him as the boy approaches the intake counter. They both grab and pull him away from the counter, and at 4:27 am, Lofton flails and punches one of the workers in the face.
The footage shows the struggle intensifying and the two men moving the 153 lb Lofton into a different cell where they wrestled him to the ground. It is at this point that two additional employees run in to help the two men that had already vanquished the teenager.
From the angle, the staffers are seen holding Lofton in the prone position on his stomach.
After about 30 minutes at 5:08 AM, the staffers turned the handcuffed Lofton over on his back when they could not feel his pulse.
The workers attempted to apply chest compressions at 5:13 a.m. and the juvenile center’s supervisor called 911. At this point another staffer runs and gets a defibrillator, but JIAC did not have one.
In seven minutes, EMT arrived, removed his handcuffs and brought him to the lobby. At 5:37 a.m., they were able to get a pulse on Lofton and in 16 minutes he was on his way to the hospital.
An autopsy report found the high school student’s death was due to “complications of cardiopulmonary arrest sustained after physical struggle while restrained in the prone position.”
Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said at a news conference the staff members and corrections employees at the facility acted in self-defense under the “stand your ground” law in this case. The boy struggled with those hired to keep him, the staff, and other residents, and put their lives in danger.
Bennett stated it would be wrong to prosecute those involved for his death because Lofton fought them.
In the Scope of Report released the same day as the video, it noted the teen died one day before his 18th birthday. It said he was brought into JIAC on Sept. 24, rushed to Wesley Medical Center later the same morning, and pronounced dead on Sept. 26. Despite earlier suggestions of harder drug use from earlier run-ins with the law, Lofton only had marijuana in his system.
He noted that while the death was ruled a “homicide” by the medical examiner, that agency is not authorized to make a legal decision on the manner of death.
And for the staff members’ part, they were acting in self-defense, trying to restrain a child they believed was a threat and could cause them “bodily harm.”
Kansas stand your ground laws allows people “the use of force against another when and to the extent it appears to such person and such person reasonably believes that such use of force is necessary to defend such person or a third person against such other’s imminent use of unlawful force.”
“The video, the interviews of all the employees, and the coroner’s findings regarding the effect of a prolonged struggle support the conclusion that Cedric continued to offer resistance to the physical restraints being applied to his hands and legs,” the report read. “That he continued to resist for some thirty minutes meant the staff could continue to lawfully apply restraint.”
Lofton family attorneys, civil rights attorneys Andrew M. Stroth and Steven Hart, disagree with the DA.
They assert the staff members “took his breath away” by harnessing him in a prone position and that Bennett’s decision not to prosecute is another example of no one taking accountability for the ending of another unarmed Black teen’s life.
“This is yet another instance of an unarmed Black teenager killed by law enforcement with impunity,” and without “threat of reprisal or even an ounce of accountability,” a statement from the family released by the lawyers said. “Similar to the George Floyd case, Cedric’s death was caused by authorities obligated to protect him. In this case, they restrained Cedric in the prone position and took his breath away.”