Two Bridgeport officers suspended for handling women’s deaths

Two police detectives assigned to the deaths of two women in Bridgeport, Conn., have been suspended and placed on administrative leave, effective immediately, the city’s mayor announced late Sunday.

Detectives, Kevin Cronin and Angel Llanos, are assigned to the cases Lauren Smith-Fields23, and Brenda Lee Rawls, 53, both died on December 12. The families of the women say they learned of the deaths not through the Police Department, but through a homeowner and a neighbor, respectively.

Families have also said they have struggled to obtain details of the deaths of their loved ones from the Department.

The mayor, Joseph P. Ganim, said in a statement that Detectives Cronin and Llanos demonstrated a “lack of public sensitivity and disobedience to police policy” in dealing with grieving families.

“Insensitivity, disrespect in action, or deviation from policy will not be tolerated by me or others in this administration,” Mr. Ganim said.

Detectives will remain suspended and placed on leave, Ganim said, until the internal investigation is complete and disciplinary action may be taken, Ganim said, adding that both cases are “under investigation”. positive”.

Miss Smith-Fields died in her apartment after going on a first date with a man she met on Bumble, a dating app. The mayor’s announcement comes after the Connecticut Health Director’s Office said last week that she died from an overdose of fentanyl, prescription drugs and alcohol, and attributed her death to an accident. . The Police Department opened a criminal investigation into her death after the medical examiner’s report was released.

A less-noticed case is that of Ms. Rawls, who, like Ms. Smith-Fields, is Black and whose family also said the Police Department did not notify her of her death.

Ms. Rawls, 53, visited a friend who lives nearby on December 11, according to news reports. The next day, after he tried to wake her up, she was declared dead. The family didn’t find out until two days later, on December 14, that, after conducting their own investigation, they learned where she had gone and arrived at the man’s home.

“We wanted to know why our sister was treated like a Jane Doe,” said Dorothy Rawls Washington, a sister of Ms. Rawls, told News12 Connecticut last month. “No one informed us. It’s almost like they wanted it to go away, and let us disappear.”

The women’s families have shared their stories on social media, and they and their supporters have called on public officials to conduct a thorough investigation. Amateur racers tried to piece together what happened to the women; hashtags #laurensmithfields has been viewed more than 43 million times on TikTok.

Darnell Crosland, the attorney representing both families, noted that both women died more than a month ago, and that their families had been “grieved and at the same time campaigning for justice”.

He added: “That is unfair and unacceptable.”

But Mr Crosland said the mayor’s announcement was a “step in the right direction.”

Ms. Smith-Fields’ mother, Shantell Fields, said she didn’t find out about her daughter’s death until a day and a half later, on the evening of December 13 – and she heard not from the police but from the police. from her. homeowner’s daughter.

Ms Fields said the homeowner contacted the family with Detective Cronin, who provided some details by phone and hung up on a later call.

“My son talked to him and asked him what happened, and Cronin said she met a white guy on Bumble,” but don’t worry about it, he’s a guy. really good boys,” said Ms. Fields.

Detective Cronin said he would meet Ms. Fields and her son at Ms. Smith-Fields’ apartment, Ms. Fields said. They waited more than an hour and a half, and when they called him back, Detective Cronin said “don’t call me again,” Miss Fields recalls.

The family went into Ms Smith-Fields’ apartment to collect her belongings and found a used condom, a pill and bloodstained sheets. The family had to beg the Police Department to collect evidence, Mr. Crosland said.

Maria Pereira, a Bridgeport City Council member, said she was stunned by the families’ stories and the apparent slow response from city leaders.

“We have two black families,” Pereira said. “I don’t even know where to start about you not being in touch with your family. You have their wallet, their cell phone. What? This is outrageous behavior.”

Kirsten Noyes research contributions. Two Bridgeport officers suspended for handling women’s deaths

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