Kansas officials released body camera footage Tuesday in the death of 17-year-old Cedric Lofton, a foster child who became unresponsive while being restrained facedown for more than 30 minutes at a Wichita juvenile center in September.
The video appears to show officers taking Lofton to the center, returning after a medical emergency call and finding staff doing CPR. But they do not clearly show what occurred at the facility before the teenager stopped breathing Sept. 24.
Lofton died Sept. 26. A coroner ruled his death was a homicide and its cause “complications of cardiopulmonary arrest sustained after physical struggle while restrained in the prone position.”
His family has demanded charges, but on Tuesday, Sedgewick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said no charges would be filed because of the state’s “stand your ground law” and because staff were defending themselves.
Lofton was taken to the Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center in Wichita early Sept. 24 after police responded to a disturbance at a home about 1 a.m., officials have said. According to the Kansas Bureau of Investigations at the time, officers described Lofton as “paranoid” and “behaving erratically.”
Video shows officers speak to Lofton for about an hour, at one point saying they were “worried “about him because of his behavior and they’d been told he had left his foster home, and they also try to convince him to go voluntarily to a hospital.
A struggle ensued and Lofton is put into a “wrap” restraint, which is used to restrain someone’s legs and torso, officials said. He was taken to the juvenile center, seated upright on the floor in a holding room, and the officers removed all the restraints and left the center, and video showed Lofton getting up as the door was closed.
Around an hour after officers left, they were called back to the center and the video showed staff doing CPR on Lofton when they arrived. EMS then arrives and takes over.
Lofton allegedly became combative in a lobby and at one point struck a staff member in the face, the district attorney said in a report released Tuesday. During a struggle his legs were shackled and he was moved face down to the floor, the report said.
Around 40 minutes after he was moved to the floor, workers saw he was not breathing and they could not find a pulse, the district attorney’s report said.
Bennett said that charges could not be brought against staff because of state law regarding self-defense.
He wrote that there was no evidence that any of the staff members put their full weight on him, that Lofton continued to resist, and that "throughout the struggle, there is no evidence that the workers discerned anything from Cedric, physically or verbally to indicate Cedric was in physical distress."
Surveillance video from the juvenile center is seen on a monitor being watched by a police officer at one point in the body camera footage released by the city.
That appears to show Lofton walking around before there is a struggle between him and two other people as they move him towards a holding cell, but that video is not zoomed in.
A staff member told police at the scene that Lofton punched him in the head, and that they held him down, including by his ankles. “He was talking to us the entire time,” the staffer told an officer, the police body camera video showed.
Lawyers for Lofton's family said Thursday they were "exploring options as we work to advance the potential criminal case and civil case."