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Death of Kansas teenager, 17, who was handcuffed and left face down, is ruled a homicide

A Kansas teenager’s death has been ruled a homicide months after he was left face down and handcuffed following his arrest for becoming ‘aggressive’ with cops who were called to his foster home to respond to his agitated behavior.   

Cedric Lofton, 17, of Wichita, Kansas, died on September 26 at a Sedgwick County juvenile jail where he was taken after ‘running away from his foster home, returning, and then exhibiting ‘erratic and aggressive behavior’ toward his foster family, an autopsy report said according to the Washington Post.

He ran away September 21 due to a ‘mental health crisis,’ and returned on September 24.

Cedric Lofton, 17, of Wichita, Kansas, died on September 26 after he was taken to a Sedgwick County juvenile center. He had exhibited ‘erratic and aggressive behavior’ toward his foster family after returning home from running away

The Sedgwick County Medical Examiner's Office ruled his death a homicide after the teen was laid in a prone position  in a juvenile detention center and stopped breathing

The Sedgwick County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled his death a homicide after the teen was laid in a prone position  in a juvenile detention center and stopped breathing 

The teen appeared paranoid, the Kansas Bureau of Investigations said. Officers tried to convince him to voluntarily seek mental health treatment but took him into custody after he assaulted the officers, according to the release. 

After a struggle, he was arrested on suspicion of battery of a law enforcement officer. 

Lofton was put in a cell at a Sedgwick County juvenile center for 90 minutes. When he was taken to the lobby to be processed, he became ‘uncooperative and agitated,’ according to KBI. He punched an employee in the head, causing officers to handcuff him and put him facedown on the floor after ‘a lengthy physical struggle.’

Lofton was released from his cell around 4.20am and was put in the prone position at 5.08pm.  

He calmed down and even fell asleep, and ‘made occasional snoring sounds,’ the medical examiner’s report said. But minutes later, the teenager didn’t have a pulse.  

Staff gave him chest compressions and called emergency services. Lofton was declared dead two days later in the hospital.

The employees involved in his restraint were placed on administrative leave during the investigation.

Rescues efforts were performed on Lofton and he was transported to a hospital, where he was declared dead on September 26

Rescues efforts were performed on Lofton and he was transported to a hospital, where he was declared dead on September 26

The teenager’s death was ruled a homicide December 21 by medical examiner Timothy S. Gorrill.

‘In my opinion, Cedric Lofton died as a result of complications of cardiopulmonary arrest sustained after physical struggle while restrained in the prone position,’ Gorrill said in the report.

‘The manner of death is homicide.’

Lofton’s death has sparked discussion about prone position deaths, which had resurfaced after George Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis. 

The prone position can cause breathing difficulty, and limit or cut off the supply of oxygen the heart and brain, the Washington Post reported.

Multiple medical experts testified at Derek Chauvin’s trial that it was a factor in Floyd’s death. Chauvin was the Minneapolis police officer who held Floyd down on his stomach while arresting him; he was convicted in the death and is serving 22-year prison sentence. 

The Lofton family’s attorney, Steven Hart, said authorities ‘should know from the Floyd case alone’ that the position increased risk. 

‘That’s what’s equally disturbing. Authorities can’t plausibly suggest that putting someone in the prone position is a safe thing to do. It’s a conscious disregard for safety — and their life,’ Hart said. 

Alon Steinberg, the chief of cardiology at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, California, told The New York Times in October, ‘people are dying all the time, and we’re not doing anything about it.’

He also accused law enforcement of misclassifying fatal police violence. 

Despite debate over the controversial restraint position, the National Association of Medical Examiners said the position does not automatically equal an ‘intent to kill.’ 

‘Contrary to multiple public comments since the release of the autopsy report prepared by the Sedgwick County Regional Forensic Science Center, the determination that the manner of death was ‘homicide’ does not reflect a legal determination on the part of the pathologist regarding the viability of criminal charges. 

The medical examiner said Lofton died from 'complications of cardiopulmonary arrest sustained after physical struggle while restrained in the prone position.' Lofton was put in the position after he punched an employee in the head after being let out of his cell

The medical examiner said Lofton died from ‘complications of cardiopulmonary arrest sustained after physical struggle while restrained in the prone position.’ Lofton was put in the position after he punched an employee in the head after being let out of his cell 

The employees at Sedgwick County Juvenile Center (pictured) were put on administrative leave until the investigation is complete

The employees at Sedgwick County Juvenile Center (pictured) were put on administrative leave until the investigation is complete

Whether or not criminal charges can be brought is a separate, legal determination to be made by the Office of the District Attorney based on the laws of the State of Kansas and the evidence collected by law enforcement,’ Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett told the Washington Post. 

A former New York City police officer said that officers are ‘trying their best’ and don’t always ‘know what they’re doing.’ 

‘They are frequently overmatched. The cops themselves that are frequently involved in using force. When you ask them what they’re doing, they don’t know what they’re doing. They’re doing the best they can, that’s what they’re doing,’ Eugene O’Donnell told the Washington Post.

However, he did say he was ‘surprised [death] doesn’t happen more often.’ 

That investigation is still ongoing and is expected to be completed next month.  

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