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After initially ruling the death of 23-year-old Lauren Smith-Fields, a Black woman, as an accident, officials announced Tuesday they had opened a criminal investigation. The case has made headlines nationwide. Advocates are accusing police officials of being “racially insensitive” due to their lack of care and attention to the case, initially investigated as an “untimely death.” Smith-Fields was found dead on Dec. 12 after going on a date with a white man she met on the Bumble app.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined Monday that Smith-Fields died of “acute intoxication due to the combined effects of fentanyl, promethazine, hydroxyzine, and alcohol,” according to the medical examiner’s office. As a result, her death was ruled an accident.
However, after family members and others raised concerns about the man who accompanied her on the date—who was not questioned—alongside complaints of biased handling of the case, Bridgeport police said Tuesday that the Bridgeport Police Narcotics and Vice Division has opened a criminal investigation to look into the matter further. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will be assisting in the investigation.
“Two weeks went by where they didn’t collect any evidence,” Darnell Crosland, the attorney representing Smith-Fields’ relatives said in an interview with The Washington Post. According to Crosland, the detective in charge failed to collect forensic evidence from Smith-Fields’ apartment. Smith-Fields’ family found a used condom in the bathroom, an unidentified pill on the kitchen counter, and bloodstained sheets on the bed, all of which the attorney said police left behind. He added that the items were retrieved only after the family insisted.
According to NBC News, the family was not even made aware of Lauren’s death until her landlord told them. They had to call police officials themselves about the case. Smith-Fields was dead for almost 48 hours when they found out. Upon calling the detective on the case, the family said, they learned Lauren had passed after meeting a man she met on a dating app.
The family asked about the man, only to be told that detectives were not looking into him.
“When I asked the officer about the guy, he said he was a very nice guy and they weren’t looking into him anymore,” Smith-Fields’ brother, Lakeem Jetter, said “It was almost like he was sticking up for him and it seemed weird to hear that from a detective.”
But that wasn’t all. According to the family, any question they asked was redirected.
“He told me directly on the phone to stop calling him and hung up in my face. It was just like total disrespect. … [T]hat’s what you tell a family that’s going through grief and trying to find answers?” Jetter said.
“The way they talked to me, the way they have talked to the family, how they treated my daughter—they treated her like she was nobody, like she was not important,” Shantell Smith-Fields, Lauren’s mother added.
Crossland said that the family is still awaiting the results of an independent autopsy, adding that the medical examiner’s findings don’t help the police department’s “lack of process,” but instead make it worse, since more questions have surfaced.
If the police had better investigated the scene and the man Smith-Fields was with, the family would have more answers, he said. “Black women don’t get the same treatment that Gabby Petito got,” Crosland told The Post. “Lauren Smith-Fields is dead, and a white man walks out, and [police] have absolutely no interest in him.”
I need y’all to be just as loud about #LaurenSmithFields as you were about #GabbyPetito. Lauren was a 23 year old Black woman who died under very mysterious circumstances after a Bumble date with Michael LaFountain, a 37 year old white man, and the police refuse to investigate pic.twitter.com/bTXsTF2UcF
— Tanesha, RN 👩🏾⚕️🩺💉🏥 (@ERnurse86) January 22, 2022
In an interview with TMZ, Crosland added that singer Cardi B was instrumental in getting Smith-Fields’ death investigated as a criminal death. Cardi B allegedly created public pressure for police to further investigate the incident by sharing Smith-Fields’ story on her platform.
Days after Smith-Fields’ birthday, her family held a march on Jan. 23 to walk in solidarity for her and remind the community that justice must be served.
“We’re going to get the word out on my daughter, Lauren Smith-Fields, because her life did matter. Her voice was silenced,” Shantell told Insider.
March on what would have been the 24th birthday of Lauren Smith-Fields of Bridgeport, found dead in her apartment Dec. 12. pic.twitter.com/58ExZhBUx6
— Ethan Fry (@ethanfry) January 23, 2022
“I’m going to be her voice. Her father, her brothers, her whole entire family… We are all going to be her voice. We’re going to work diligently to make sure that everybody knows what’s going on and how they’re treating Black people, Black women, and Black men in Bridgeport, Connecticut,” Shantell continued.
The case sheds light on the power social media and other platforms have to spread awareness. In the last few years, various cases have been reopened due to social media pressure and public outrage.
“People know Black women, Black girls have been going missing and haven’t gotten any attention, and I think it’s at a boiling point. We are just asking for process; that’s it. Treat these cases like you would treat any others,” Crosland said.
This content was originally published here.