WICHITA, Kan. – An autopsy released Monday afternoon has determined the death of an unarmed teenager who died in law enforcement custody to be a homicide.
Cederic Lofton, 17, died on September 26 in a Wichita, Kansas juvenile detention center two days after police responded to a call that said the teen was “exhibiting erratic and aggressive behavior” toward his foster family.
At around 1 a.m. on Sept. 24 Wichita police arrived at Lofton’s foster father’s after the foster father called 911. The teen had run away from his foster home on Sept. 21 and showed back up there shortly before his foster father contacted authorities for help, saying the teen was having a mental breakdown and thought people were trying to kill him.
After over an hour of trying to talk Lofton into going with them willingly, officers bound Lofton’s legs with a WRAP restraint, put him in handcuffs and took him to the Sedgwick County Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center.
Lofton was booked into the intake center at 2:44 a.m. on suspicion of four counts of battering a law enforcement officer over his interactions with police at his foster father’s home, authorities said.
Although authorities have yet to publicly release any of the video clips from inside the intake center, the autopsy report gives details about the timeline leading up to the moment Lofton became unresponsive while in custody.
Referencing the video from the intake center, the autopsy report says that the restraints and handcuffs were removed and Lofton was placed in a cell at about 2:45 a.m.
After about an hour and a half in a cell, Lofton was taken to the lobby by a staff member. While in the lobby, Lofton became “uncooperative and agitated.” When two staff members tried to restrain him the teen punched one of the employees in the head, according to the report.
Along with help from others, the two staff members restrained Lofton, securing shackles around his ankles. Lofton was moved to the floor at 4:33 a.m. and “rolled to the prone position” during which time he continued to struggle against staff.
As the struggle continued, Lofton was placed facedown and handcuffed at 5:08 a.m., 35 minutes after he was forced to lie on the floor, records show.
The autopsy report says Lofton calmed down after being restrained with the handcuffs and started “making occasional snoring sounds.”
Four minutes later, corrections staff realized the teen — who was still lying face down — didn’t have a pulse, the autopsy report says.
Intake center staff immediately rolled Lofton onto his back but still were not able to find his pulse.
A minute later — at 5:13 a.m. — staff began chest compressions and called for rescue personnel.
After performing life-saving measures, first responders found Lofton’s pulse, and he was taken to the hospital, according to the autopsy report.
Lofton lost consciousness at the Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center and never regained consciousness before he died, the report states.
He was pronounced dead at a hospital two days later.
“In my opinion, Cedric Lofton died as a result of complications of cardiopulmonary arrest sustained after physical struggle while restrained in the prone position,” Timothy S. Gorrill, the chief medical examiner, wrote in the report. “The manner of death is homicide.”
Steven Hart, a Chicago attorney representing Lofton’s family, said the family is pushing for all evidence to be released to the public. Hart said authorities triggered “a cascade of errors” that eventually led to the teen being placed in the prone position.
“What type of threat was that child? Why would they put him in the prone position?” he said. “They literally suffocated this kid.”
The Rev. Maurice W. Evans, the spokesman for Lofton’s parents, put it more bluntly: “This position is used to submit an animal. It’s not how you handle a human being. I don’t want this to be glossed over as him dying in the prone position. They violently beat and killed a child, let’s not sugarcoat it,” he said. “This is a crime against humanity.”
The corrections employees involved in the case “have been placed on paid administrative leave pending results of the District Attorney’s investigation,” Sedgwick County government said Monday through a spokeswoman.