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Group requests video release to public after Wichita teen’s death in custody

Published: Oct. 18, 2021 at 5:46 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Three weeks after a Wichita teenager died while in custody at the Juvenile Intake Assessment Center, community members are asking for more information and transparency. Among the requests is for video from inside JIAC to be made public.

On Tuesday, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett responded with the following:

To the extent that the flyer is making a specific reference to the Lofton case, I cannot offer any direct response as that matter remains under investigation.  Supreme Court Rule 3.6 as well as a litany of published appellate cases address the adverse consequences of pretrial publicity.  Also, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 3.8(f), I have asked the county, the city and the investigative agencies involved to conduct themselves likewise. As was stated in the press conference Sheriff Easter and I conducted on September 30, 2021, the autopsy remained “pending” awaiting the final results of the toxicology assessment.  That remains the case today.  When this investigation is complete, a charging decision will be made.  If charges are filed, the matter will be addressed in open court subject to the Constitution, the rules of evidence and the laws of the State of Kansas.  If criminal charges cannot be brought, the decision will be made public with an explanation as to the facts. As to the questions posed by the flyer generally, the specific answer obviously depends on the specific factual situation.  Generally speaking though, I would direct you to the following: Community Crisis Center | Sedgwick County, Kansas, Suicide Prevention | Sedgwick County, Kansas, 211 Kansas (myresourcedirectory.com)

Seventeen-year-old Cedric Lofton died on the morning of Sept. 26, two days after police responded to his foster father’s home after a caller reported Lofton having a mental health breakdown and paranoia. A group called Progeny is the group asking for more details from the two days that led up to Lofton’s death at a Wichita hospital. On its website, Progeny says that is is “a youth/adult partnership focused on reimagining the juvenile justice system and reinvestment into community-based alternatives.” The group incudes representatives from clergy and community organizations.

Last week, community members sent a letter to City of Wichita and Sedgwick County leaders in which it requested that video from inside JIAC be released to the public in connection with Lofton’s death.

“Since news of his murder on Monday, September 27th, 2021, there have been repeated requests for full disclosure in this investigation. As a community that has been told repeatedly that we would have transparency in these cases, we have not received adequate support or information and we will not allow his death to be swept under a rug,’ the letter said.

The outreach from Progeny follows action earlier this month from a civil rights attorney who sent a formal request to give Lofton’s family access to any videos showing what happened before the teen died.

Last month, the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office released a timeline of events leading to Lofton’s death.

Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter said officers were dispatched to Lofton’s foster father’s home at 1:07 a.m. on Sept. 24, after the man reported Lofton was having a mental health breakdown and paranoia. He asked that the boy be evaluated.

Wichita police arrived on the scene around six minutes later and remained on the scene for about an hour. At 2:15 a.m., an officer in trouble call was dispatched. That call was ended at 2:23 a.m. and at 2:32 a.m., officers transported Lofton to the Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center (JIAC).

Police arrived with Lofton at JIAC around 2:44 a.m. and left the center at 4:16 a.m. About 40 minutes later, JIAC called Wichita police and asked that they come back to take Lofton to the hospital. At 5:11 a.m., officers were dispatched to JIAC. At 5:18 a.m., JIAC was said to be conducting CPR on Lofton. Officers arrived a minute later. EMS arrived at 5:24 a.m. and performed CPR and revive Lofton. The 17-year-old was then taken to Wesley Medical Center. He died there on Sunday, Sept. 26. Easter said he does not believe the teen regained consciousness during his time in the hospital.

A preliminary autopsy found some bruising and scratches, but no life-threatening injuries. The KBI is leading the investigation into Lofton’s death and is waiting for toxicology results before releasing a cause of death.

Progeny is is hosting a youth-led town hall at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 24 at the Iasis Christian Center, 1914 East 11th Street. At the town hall, called ‘Who Do You Call?” Progeny wants to connect people with resources and answer questions like, “Who do you call if you have a child in need?”

“Big hope is that we can shift our reliance from police as our first result, to community services, to people who have more of an in-depth background in helping,” said Progeny Youth Leader Jazmine Rogers.

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