Lauren Smith-Fields' Death Is An Unfortunate Reminder For Black Women That Our Stories Aren't Always Seen As Worth Telling

·3 min read

When I first heard Lauren Smith-Fields' name, the top search results reporting on her death included a local news station in the 23-year-old's hometown, The Shade Room, Baller Alert, and Blacksportsonline.com — all of which, besides News12, cater largely to a Black audience. While all of these efforts are kind, necessary, and even hopeful, they're also an unfortunate portrayal of the phrase "If not us, then who?"

If this is your first time seeing Lauren's name, then let me join my predecessors by explaining:

On Dec. 12, 2021, Lauren Smith-Fields, a 23-year-old physical therapy student and burgeoning YouTuber, was found dead by police in her Bridgeport, Connecticut apartment. Officers were first called by someone referred to as "an older white man" she met on Bumble in early reports, who has now been identified but is not currently facing charges, therefore BuzzFeed will not be releasing his name.

Several issues with the police's handling of the case have been raised by the family:

First, Lauren’s brother, Lakeem Jetter, pointed to a moment when he asked investigators about the older man, telling Westchester News 12, "I asked [the investigator] about the guy — he just made it seem like the guy was a nice guy. That there's nothing to investigate."

BuzzFeed reached out to Lakeem and Lauren's parents, and they’ve yet to respond. We also reached out to Bridgeport, Connecticut police, and though they have not responded, the department previously released this statement to NBC Connecticut: 

BuzzFeed reached out to Lakeem and Lauren's parents, and they’ve yet to respond. We also reached out to Bridgeport, Connecticut police, and though they have not responded, the department previously released this statement to NBC Connecticut:

"On December 12, 2021, the Bridgeport Emergency Operations Center received a call for service regarding an untimely death. Upon police arrival, it was found that Ms. Laruen-Smith-Fields passed away unexpectedly. This incident is currently being investigated by the Bridgeport Police Department's Detective Bureau. This investigation remains open and active. The Detective Bureau is awaiting the final report from the Chief Medical Examiner's Office for cause and manner of death of Ms. Smith-Fields. The Bridgeport Police Department offers it's sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Ms. Lauren Smith-Fields. We encourage anyone with information regarding this incident to contact either Detective-Sergeant Joseph Morales at 203-581-5219 or the Bridgeport Police TIPS line at 203-576-8477."

News12 Westchester / Via westchester.news12.com

The office of the chief medical examiner recently released Lauren’s cause of death, saying she died of "acute intoxication due to the combined effects of fentanyl, promethazine, hydroxyzine, and alcohol." According to NBC Connecticut, her death has been ruled an accident.

However, the young woman's family has paid out of pocket for a private investigator and their own autopsy after claiming to have had several moments of dissatisfaction with police, including a run-in with a "very insensitive, condescending, and arrogant detective," according to Lauren's father, and attempts made by Lauren's mother to ask police questions, which she said were ignored.

As news of the case spreads online, Lauren has been widely compared to Gabby Petito, a van-life vlogger whose disappearance during a cross-country road trip with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, gained nationwide media attention.

And while I understand the comparisons, I cannot stress enough: Black women should not need to be compared to white women in order for people to see that their deaths are also worthy of attention.

When asked about the disparity between cases historically wedged between case files and those placed at the top, the family's lawyer, Darnell Crosland, said, "People know Black women, Black girls have been going missing and haven't gotten any attention, and I think it's at a boiling point. … Treat these cases like you would treat any others."

Lauren's family is currently raising money on GoFundMe to pay for the private autopsy and investigation into her death.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting