Connecticut shares expiry’s notification bill after tragic deaths of 2 Black women

 Connecticut shares expiry’s notification bill after tragic deaths of 2 Black women

Lauren Smith-Fields was found dead in Bridgeport, Conn., on Dec. 12, 2021. (Family photo)

More than three months after the peculiar deaths of two Black women in Bridgeport, Conn., a bill advanced to the full Legislature last week hiring police in the state to ensure the family of an expired person within 24 hours of identification.

House Bill 5349 would need police who respond to “a deceased person or the remains of a person” to notify the family within 24 hours or if not, to document the reason they broke down to do so.

State Sen. Dennis Bradley, a co-sponsor of the bill, called it a no-brainer. “This is such a basic concept that we think should take place in the state of Connecticut to ensure human dignity, we want to make sure that the family is treated with a delicacy in a delicate situation that it deserves,” Bradley said at a public meeting about the bill last month, according to the local NBC affiliate WVIT.

“This piece of legislation, although at its first glance sounds pretty fundamental, will be monumental to ensure that we make a bridge between police departments and families.”
The bill’s proceeds come after Lauren Smith-Fields, a 23-year-old college student, expired on Dec. 12 in her Bridgeport apartment after meeting up with an older man before the time that evening.

It wasn’t until the next day that Smith-Fields’ mother, Shantell Fields, says she found out about her daughter’s death after discovering a note on her apartment door to call the landlord.

“How do I not get any notification that my daughter passed away?” Fields were questioned in an interview with Yahoo News in January. “I don’t even get grieving time at all.” It was only after the family called the police after speaking to the landlord that Smith-Fields’ family was notified of her death.

Darnell Crosland, the family’s attorney, reported that police failed on the first day of the inquiry. There’s a typical protocol that’s followed when you have a situation like this,” Crosland told Yahoo News. “If you have a husband or wife or boyfriend or girlfriend call the police because one of them is dead, typically the person who is surviving is pivotal to the investigation.

Most times they are looked at as a suspect because they were the last person with the deceased, and in this particular case, the police have been very hesitant to even call this person a ‘person of interest.’” The man Smith-Fields was last with — recognized by her family as Matthew LaFountain — called the police the morning after their date to say she was insensitive. He was never delayed and has yet to be named a person of interest in the case.

In a tragic incident, another Bridgeport woman, Brenda Lee Rawls, 53, went to visit a male friend near her home on Dec. 11, but never came back, according to Newsweek. After not hearing from Rawls for two days, her sister, Dorothy Rawls Washington, made a series of anguish calls to the police, only to be told that nothing could be done. It wasn’t until Washington and two family members went to the friend’s home that they were told that Rawls had died in her sleep a day earlier, on Dec. 12.

“Nobody ever notified us that she died,” Washington told NBC News. “We had to do our own investigation and find out where she was.” After an inquiry, the office of the chief medical examiner directed that Rawls expired of natural causes, WVIT reported.

“We have to have streamline mechanisms that we can get to the Inspector General rather easier with these cases, because if we’re not, we’ll be lost in the red tape, and we’ll be having a bill with no teeth,” said Crosland, an attorney also representing Rawls’s family.

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim exchanged his support of the bill as public evidence.

“This bill is about human decency and the fact that human decency does not stop when someone dies. It extends to the living and to the family and loved ones of the deceased and should be carried out in a respectful and dignified way,” he said.

Related post