A Kansas medical examiner has ruled that the death of 17-year-old Cedric Lofton, who lost consciousness after he was handcuffed by personnel while lying face down at a county juvenile center in Wichita, is a homicide, despite assertions from authorities that a preliminary autopsy suggested Lofton had not suffered life-threatening injuries while in custody, reports the New York Times. A county autopsy report said that Lofton, who was arrested on September 24, 2021 for “exhibiting erratic and aggressive behavior” toward his foster family, was placed in shackles after fighting with staff members at a county juvenile center, rolled onto his abdomen, and handcuffed. He appeared to calm down and made “snoring sounds” but when staff members checked for a pulse four minutes later, they could not find one. Lofton did not regain consciousness and died two days later.
The employees in the corrections department involved in the episode have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the results of the district attorney’s investigation. The family has been trying to get answers from officials for months about Lofton’s death and have been frustrated by what they see as a “lack of transparency” from law enforcement. Experts have argued that research saying that the practice of subduing suspects face down or in a prone position does not lead to deaths is flawed and has been applied too broadly.