LISTEN HERE (Support this project at patreon.com/AfricanElements)
“Mayor Ganim, step up,” they chanted.
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)
The city has not responded to specific questions about the case, citing an open investigation. Smith-Fields’ cause of death is pending further study, according to the state’s medical examiner.
At the end of the march, Smith-Fields’ family gathered at the plaza in front of the city’s office building and reiterated their demands — an independent investigation by state police and attorney general, a transparent internal affairs probe about how local cops handled the case, and a bill in her name requiring cops notify families sooner in cases of untimely deaths.
They said they became concerned when Smith-Fields wasn’t answering text messages and went to her apartment in Bridgeport. By the time they got there, she had already been dead for more than a day, and her body had been taken from the apartment, all without their knowledge.
Instead, Alexis Farrow, a family friend and spokesperson, said they were greeted by “a note on her door.”
It contained a number — not to police, but her landlord, who told the family she had died.
“The police didn’t even leave a note,” she said Sunday.
Once the family was able to reach cops, they said, the first detective assigned to the case told them to stop calling to ask questions.
As Farrow spoke, a man in the crowd asked why Mayor Joe Ganim did not attend the rally.
Later, her father, Everett Smith, said the family’s treatment by the city and police is “totally unacceptable.”
Shantell Fields said her daughter had been treated “like rubbish.”
“The arrogance. The insensitivity,” Smith said, describing his daughter’s life and achievements before taking aim at the police response. “My daughter had a life. My daughter traveled the world. She was in college.”
“All we keep getting is doors closed in our face and empty promises,” Smith said.
According to the police report on Smith-Fields’ death, a man she met through the dating app Bumble called police just after 6:30 a.m. on Dec. 12 when he reported waking up and finding her on the floor and not breathing with dried blood around her nose.
Medical personnel pronounced Smith-Fields dead at 6:49 a.m., and said she had been dead for at least an hour, according to the police report.
The march paused at one point at the top of the Broad Street Steps, where the family publicly identified the man they said was on the date with Smith-Fields the night of her death and discussed other information they said they had found out about him.
He has not been named as a suspect or person of interest in the case.
Maria Pereira, a city councilwoman who represents the district where Smith-Fields lived, noted she and fellow council members Michelle Small and Jorge Cruz were the only elected officials at the gathering.
“I am angry about this as a mother,” Pereira said, calling on Ganim to speak about the case.
Smith-Fields’ brothers, Tavar Gray-Smith and Lakeem Jetter, thanked those marching for showing up and wishing their sister a happy birthday.
“We all loved her. She was a lovely spirit, kind-hearted, funny, a great dresser and a beautiful girl, and she’s supposed to be here today,” Gray-Smith said.
“My sister was supposed to have breath in her lungs today,” Jetter said.
Crosland, the family’s lawyer, said he and the family “will speak truth to power every hour of every day” about the case.
“We are sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Crosland said. “But we know this: Lauren-Smith Fields’ name will stand for change.”
Naii Dawkins, a lifelong Bridgeport resident who said she has been involved in activism since 2019, said she came to Sunday’s march in solidarity with Smith-Fields.
“I’m an African-American female and I’ll be 25 next month,” Dawkins said. “This could have been my life. My parents could have been here today doing something like this. So it’s important we stand together in unity and make sure we are highlighting things happening in the community and advocating for change.
This content was originally published here.