The mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut has suspended two police detectives for how they allegedly handled investigating the deaths of two local Black women.
Mayor Joe Ganim announced on Sunday that he had Deputy Chief James Baraja put Detectives Angel Llanos and Kevin Cronin on administrative leave. Baraja is standing in for Acting Police Chief Rebeca Garcia.
Administrative leave appears to be a moot point for Llanos, however, because he retired on Friday. In any case, this matter is pending the results of an internal affairs investigation into how police investigated the deaths of Lauren Smith-Fields, 23, and Brenda Lee Rawls, 53.
Both families said that police snubbed them, and that the families had to learn through other people that the women were dead. Police have not alleged any criminal wrongdoing over these incidents. And even after the suspensions, the mother of one of the women voiced skepticism about the mayor’s sincerity.
Smith-Fields’s brother Lakeem Jetter argued that cops mishandled the investigation and that they did it because Lauren was Black and the man who found her dead was white.
“I feel like because he’s a white guy and she’s a Black girl, they’re just throwing it under the rug,” he said, according to NBC New York.
Bridgeport PD is NOT properly investigating the deaths of Black women! Lauren Smith-Fields & Brenda Rawls were found dead on the SAME day, yet cops never notified either family of their passing, & both scenes of their deaths weren’t processed for evidence! https://t.co/d9fZFIHnhV
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) January 28, 2022
He said that Cronin snubbed the family during the investigation. They did not even know he was kicked off the case until later when another detective showed up unannounced to Smith-Fields’s apartment. He said that officers left her residence a mess.
“There was a big circle of blood, in the middle of the bed, there were two cups of drinks or whatever, next to a bottle,” Jetter said. “They didn’t take none of that. We had seen a condom, lube, other stuff in there. They had taken none of this.”
Two Connecticut police detectives have been placed on administrative leave following their handling of death investigations of two Black women, Lauren Smith-Fields and Brenda Lee Rawls https://t.co/wXk0mWfQ3l
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) January 31, 2022
Rawls was also Black, and like Smith-Fields, she was apparently found dead by a male acquaintance on Dec. 12.
“Nobody ever notified us that she died,” Rawls’s sister Dorothy Rawls Washington said, according to NBC News. “We had to do our own investigation and find out where she was.”
Brenda died on the Dec. 12. After two days passed they began to realize something was wrong, and they managed to find the man she had been with. According to her, he said that he could not wake her up on the 12th and that she died.
“He gave me the clothing that she had on and her shoes. I don’t understand why that was left behind,” sister Angela Rawls Martin said.
Her cause of death remained under investigation.
Smith-Fields died from a mix of fentaynl, the antihistamine promethazine, the antihistamine hydroxyzine, and alcohol, the medical examiner said. It was ruled an accident, authorities said, though her family asserted that the man that she met on the dating app Bumble has not reached out to them about what happened.
“Anyone who generally cared and they were the last person there, and you know something bad happened, you would have reached out,” said Smith-Fields’s brother Tavar Gray-Smith, according to NBC New York. “I’m sorry for the loss of your sister, your daughter. I was the last one with her and I want you to know what happened.”
Law&Crime is not identifying the man in question because he has not been charged with a crime. Cops reportedly found him to be visibly shaken over the death.
Now the Smith-Fields and Rawls families are linked through the same lawyer. Attorney Darnell Crosland told the city he plans on filing a lawsuit claiming negligence in the investigations, according to WABC. Each family would seek $30 million.
Ganim had some stern words for Llanos and Cronin, but Smith-Fields’s mother did not buy it. The mayor said the detectives faced the internal affairs investigation for “lack of sensitivity to the public and failure to follow police policy in the handling of these two matters.”
Lauren’s mother Shantell Fields asserted the mayor only made this decision under duress, not out of conviction.
“He had from the beginning of this to stand in and say something, but he didn’t up until the march, us keep talking and talking, and being on the media,” she said, according to WABC. “I guess he had to do something to save face.”
[Screenshot via Joe Ganim]
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