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Death of Black Kansas teen at juvenile jail ruled a homicide

An autopsy report examining the death of Cedric Lofton found he died after a "physical struggle while restrained in the prone position."
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The death of a Black Kansas teenager who died after multiple corrections officers at a juvenile jail restrained him was ruled a homicide, an autopsy report filed Monday shows.

A cause of death for the teen, Cedric Lofton, 17, was described as “complications of cardiopulmonary arrest sustained after physical struggle while restrained in the prone position,” according to the report, which was filed in Sedgwick County District Court and obtained by NBC affiliate KSN of Wichita.

Lofton died Sept. 26, two days after he was taken into custody on suspicion of battery against police officers in Wichita. As many as five employees were involved in restraining Lofton at a Sedgwick County juvenile detention facility, authorities have said.

Image: Cedric Lofton
Cedric Lofton.Action Injury Law Group, LLC

Lawyers for Lofton’s family said in an email Monday that the autopsy confirms what they said video from inside the jail shows — that the officers "unjustifiably and with excessive and unreasonable force pinned Cedric to the ground, ultimately killing the unarmed, 135-pound, 17-year-old African American teenager."

The lawyers, Steven Hart and Andrew Stroth, said in the statement that Lofton's family is "anxiously" awaiting the findings of a criminal investigation by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. They called on prosecutors to file criminal charges.

Once the investigation is complete, investigators will share their findings with the local district attorney, a spokeswoman for the agency said Monday.

The Sedgwick County District Attorney's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday, nor did the officers' employer, the Sedgwick County Department of Corrections.

The employees have not been identified. KSN reported that they were placed on paid administrative leave.

An account in the autopsy of the events before Lofton’s death said he ran away from his foster home on Sept. 21 and returned three days later exhibiting "erratic and aggressive behavior" toward his foster family.

Stroth said that part of the account was a "distraction" and that Lofton had some "light mental health challenges."

Responding police officers intended to take Lofton to a behavioral health unit at a local hospital, the document says. While he was in custody, he assaulted at least one of them and was taken to a juvenile detention facility, the report says.

At the facility, another struggle ensued, with Lofton, who appeared "agitated," punching an officer's head, the report says. Officers shackled Lofton and rolled him into a prone position as he continued to struggle, according to the document.

About 40 minutes later, at 5:08 a.m., officers handcuffed Lofton. When they checked him at 5:12 a.m., he no longer had a pulse.

Lofton was pronounced dead at a local hospital two days later.