Lauren Smith-Fields: Black family allege Connecticut Police Department mishandled investigation into daughter’s death

Lauren Smith-Fields, a 23-year-old black woman, was found unresponsive in her home on Dec. 12, 2021, by a Bridgeport Police Department officer, according to a police incident report obtained by CNN from the attorney for family.

The individual who called police was a man she had met on the dating app Bumble and had gone on a date with the night before, police say.

The family alleges in a Notice of Claim filed by their attorney that the Bridgeport Police Department failed to collect adequate physical evidence from Lauren’s home and refused to consider the man she was meeting with as a person. of interest. They also allege the police department was “racially insensitive” to the family and violated their civil rights.

The Notice of Claim names Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim and Acting Police Chief Rebeca Garcia, as well as the detectives who assisted in the investigation.

CNN contacted the Bridgeport Police Department for comment, but did not receive a response.

The Bridgeport Police Department released a statement to CNN affiliate WTNH, saying he was awaiting the final report from the medical examiner’s office on the cause and circumstances of death.

“The Bridgeport Police Department sends its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Ms. Lauren Smith-Fields,” the statement read, noting that Garcia will issue a final report upon receipt of outstanding reports, including final findings. of the medical examiner.

He added: “Items of misinformation are being republished by various sources, but once again we will issue a full final report at the end of this investigation. Anyone with information should contact the police.”

“This family is not paranoid,” attorney Darnell Crosland told CNN of the racial insensitivity felt by the family. “The reason it is so is that lately Gabby Petito had gone missing and the type of manhunt who was looking for her killer was insurmountably different from what we see here.”
“She was in college and she had family and friends who loved her,” Smith-Fields’ mother, Shantell Fields, said. at CNN News affiliate 12 Connecticut. “Nobody’s gonna throw Lauren Smith-Fields, girl, (like) she’s a piece of shit.”

What happened to Lauren Smith-Fields?

Early in the morning of December 12, 2021, Bridgeport police received a report of an unconscious woman in a home, according to a police incident report. Upon arrival, an officer found Smith-Fields lying on her back on the ground, with dried blood in and around her right nostril, police said.

The officer also found a “frenzied man”, who identified himself as someone who had only known Lauren Smith-Fields for three days and met her on the dating app Bumble, according to police.

The man told police he had arrived at the Smith-Fields residence the day before after she invited him. They were drinking shots of tequila when she fell ill and went to the bathroom to vomit, the man told police, according to the report. After he returned, they continued drinking tequila with mixers, playing games, eating and watching a movie, police said.

At some point during the night, Smith-Fields’ brother stopped by her house to pick up some clothes from her house, according to Crosland. When she returned, she went to the bathroom for about 15 minutes, the man who met Smith-Fields on Bumble reported to police.

When Smith-Fields fell asleep on the couch, the man carried her to bed and fell asleep next to her, the report said. When he woke up very early that morning to use the bathroom, he says Smith-Fields was snoring, but when he woke up a few hours later he said he saw her lying on her right side with some blood coming out of his nostril onto the bed, prompting him to call the police, the report said.

Doctors who arrived on the scene declared her dead and said she had been dead for at least an hour or more, the report said.

CNN contacted the Connecticut Medical Examiner’s Office for a cause of death, but did not receive a response.

Officers collected several items as evidence, including more than $1,300 in cash, his passport, a credit card and his cell phone, according to the police report.

Police did not notify Smith-Fields’ family of his death, Crosland says, and instead the family found out a day later after visiting his home and finding a note from the owner on the door of Smith-Fields apartment.

“Mom had called, because Christmas dinner was supposed to be at Lauren’s house that year,” Crosland told CNN. “They went there, found a note on the landlord’s door that said if anyone is looking for Lauren, call me. The police never tried to contact the family, they just pulled her body out of the House.”

Crosland described the detectives assigned to the case as dismissive and called them “rude”. He said detectives treated the family poorly when they called and met with police to get answers about Smith-Fields’ death.

The family say they will fight for justice

In a statement, Mayor Ganim acknowledged the “unanswered questions and concerns” surrounding Smith-Fields’ death and said he had referred the matter to the Office of Home Affairs for a full investigation.

“There is no tolerance for anything less than respect and sensitivity for family members and their loss,” Ganim said in the statement. “I share the concerns shared by many regarding the timing and manner in which a family is notified of a loss. Death notifications should be made in a manner that exemplifies the dignity of the deceased and respect and compassion for the family. .”

Ganim also said he will work with the police chief to change the department’s policy regarding notification of deaths to family members and has contacted the state medical examiner’s office to expedite this matter.

When the family searched the Smith-Fields home after learning of his death, Crosland claims they found a used condom, a sedative pill, the blood-stained sheet, an overturned plate of food and bottles of liquor.

“You would definitely want to get the sheet, the condom, you would want to take pictures of the overturned plate,” Crosland said. “After we forced them to pick him up on December 29, I called the state forensic lab and the woman who answered said the police department hadn’t made a statement.”

Crosland also says a detective called Smith-Fields’ date with Bumble “a nice man” with his brother and also told him not to “jump on the inclusions.”

Dating app Bumble confirmed to CNN that it is in contact with law enforcement.

In a statement shared with CNN, Bumble said he was deeply saddened by the news of Smith-Fields’ passing and reached out to the family to offer support.

“The physical and emotional safety of our community is of paramount importance,” the statement read. “We investigate member complaints and take prompt and decisive action against any members who fail to meet our standards. We stand ready to provide appropriate assistance and information when requested by law enforcement.

The family of Crosland and Smith-Fields are ready to fight for justice, they said.

“We won’t stop until we get justice for Lauren and the thousands of black girls who go missing every year in this country,” Crosland said in a statement shared with CNN. “We owe them equal rights and justice regardless of their race and we won’t stop fighting until we get it.”

CNN’s Laura Dolan contributed to this report.

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