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Lauren Smith-Fields

Source: Fields family / iOne Digital

UPDATED: 5:00 p.m. ET, June 7, 2022:

Originally published: Jan. 26

An arbitrator in Bridgeport, Connecticut, has called for a police detective’s administrative leave to be reversed after he and another officer were suspended for allegedly mishandling cases in which two Black women were found dead in their apartments.

According to the WTNH, the independent arbitrator was “not convinced” that Bridgeport police could justify suspending Detective Angel Llanos. A grievance has also been filed by the officers’ union concerning Detective Kevin Cronin, the other officer involved accused of mishandling the case. The families of Lauren Smith-Fields and Brenda Lee Rawls believe the officers never notified them promptly after the Black women were found dead.

The decision comes months after Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim announced their suspensions. Mayor Ganim has not commented since the arbitrator decided to allow the suspended deceived to return to the job.

The mayor of Bridgeport made the announcement after the family and friends of Lauren Smith-Fields and Brenda Lee Rawls alleged that the city police department didn’t do enough to look into the two Black women’s unrelated deaths. Smith-Fields’ family specifically claimed the reason was, at least in part, because of her race.

Mayor Joe Ganim did not mention race, though, when he announced the suspensions of Bridgeport Detectives Angel Llanos and Kevin Cronin.

“I want you to know that I am extremely disappointed with the leadership of the Bridgeport Police Department and found the actions taken up until this point with regards to these two cases unacceptable,” Mayor Joe Ganim said in a statement. “I want to be clear to members of the public and the department that insensitivity, disrespect in action, or deviation from policy will not be tolerated by me or others in this administration.”

Since her death, Lauren Smith-Fields’ Instagram page has turned into a shrine. Some folks post weekly messages sending her love with emojis and kind words, while others express their frustrations with the investigations into her mysterious death. 

Smith-Fields, 23, was found dead in her apartment on Dec. 12, 2021. According to news reports, on that evening, Smith-Fields met up with Matthew LaFountain, an older white man she met on the dating app Bumble.

Police reports suggest LaFountain called authorities around 6:30 a.m. on Dec 12 after waking up to Smith-Fields on the floor unconscious with dried blood around her nose. She was pronounced dead at 6:49 am.

According to the Chief Medical Examiner, Smith-Field’s cause of death was determined to be “acute intoxication due to the combined effects of fentanyl, promethazine, hydroxyzine, and alcohol,” and the manner to be accidental.

But her family isn’t convinced that police findings thus far tell the whole story. According to the family attorney, Matthew LaFountain was never investigated or detained after he called the police. It seems as though the police just took his word for it.

“The fact that the police failed to investigate the man she was found with as a person of interest leaves us with more questions than answers,” said family attorney Darnell Crosland.

Her family is certainly justified in their frustrations with the city. When Smith-Fields was pronounced dead on the scene, police did not notify her family of her death. They learned of their daughter’s death from a note left by the landlord on her door when they went to visit her.

“How do I not get any notification that my daughter passed away?” Fields asked during an interview with yahoo.

The family also says they believe their daughter was drugged. Her mother told reporters she found a condom with semen inside and a pill that the family believes could be a sedative. According to the family, Smith-Fields didn’t do drugs, rarely drank liquor, and regularly went to the gym.

“The question is less what toxins were in her body but how they got there,” said family attorney Darnell Crosland.

Mayor Joe Ganim announced this week the city’s Office of Internal Affairs will conduct a “full and fair investigation” into the police’s handling of her death.

“There is no tolerance for anything less than respect and sensitivity for family members and their loss,” said Ganim in a statement. “I will work with the Chief of Police to make appropriate changes here in Bridgeport now our department’s policies and practices regarding notifying family members of a death.”

Crosland has filed notice that the family would be suing the city of Bridgeport.

The death of Rawls, 53, has received much less publicity. But it bears similarities to Smith-Fields’.

The Associated Press reported that Rawls, like Smith-Fields, was also found dead in her apartment in Bridgeport in December. Also like Smith-Fields, Rawls’ death was reported by a man who woke up to find her unresponsive. Rawls’ family also said they were never informed of the death and the police never followed up on it.

Click here to read Lauren Smith-Fields’ obituary.


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