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Bridgeport mayor announces internal investigation into handling of the death of Lauren Smith-Fields

The mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut, on Monday announced that the police department’s interactions with the family of Lauren Smith-Fields, a Black woman who was found dead last month, will be investigated by the Office of Internal Affairs. The announcement comes after Smith-Fields’ family called a detective’s handling of the case “racially insensitive” and announced plans to sue.

“There is no tolerance for anything less than respect and sensitivity for family members and their loss,” Mayor Joe Ganim said in a statement. “To that end, this matter has been referred to the Office of Internal Affairs to conduct a full and fair investigation.”

In December, 23-year-old Smith-Fields was found dead at her home following a date with a White man whom she met on the dating app Bumble. Smith-Fields’ mother, Shantell Fields, told CBS News that she drove to her daughter’s home after she was unable to get in touch with her. 

“When I got there, there was a note on the door saying, ‘If you’re looking for Lauren, call this number,'” she said.

According to the family, a detective informed them Smith-Fields had been found dead about a day and half earlier, but nobody reached out to them. Lauren’s brother, Tavar Gray-Smith, told “CBS Mornings”  that the detective told them, “We didn’t need to reach out to any family member – we had her passport and her ID, so we knew who she was, and had already performed an autopsy, and her body is at the medical examiner’s office.”

Gray-Smith also said that the detective hung up on his and Smith-Fields’ father.

The detective has since been removed from the case, the family said.

The medical examiner’s office on Monday said Smith-FIelds died of “acute intoxication due to the combined effects of fentanyl, promethazine, hydroxyzine, and alcohol,” and ruled her death an accident.

Ganim also announced Monday that Bridgeport will be updating its policies on family death notifications.

“Death notifications should be done in a manner that illustrates dignity for the deceased and respect and compassion for the family,” he said. “Therefore, I will work with the Chief of Police to make appropriate changes here in Bridgeport to our department’s policies and practices regarding notifying family members of a death. I support and add my voice to the family, community, and elected officials who are calling for state legislation on this issue.”

According to a police incident report, the man Smith-Fields went on the date with, who has not been charged with any crime, told police the two spent the night drinking, eating and watching a movie. He said Smith-Fields went outside to meet someone at one point. Later, she fell ill, but the two continued drinking. The date said that Smith-Fields eventually fell asleep and he carried her to bed, where he went to sleep next to her. He said when he woke up several hours later, around 6:30 a.m., Smith-Fields was not breathing and her nose was bleeding, so he called 911.

An attorney for Smith-Fields’ family, Darnell Crosland, told CBS News that possible key evidence, such as bloodied sheets, wasn’t processed at the scene until two and a half weeks later.

“At the scene we find a pill, we find a condom with semen in it,” Crosland said.

On Monday, a spokesperson for the Connecticut forensic science laboratory said in a statement,The State of Connecticut, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protections, Division of Scientific Services to this point has not received any submissions of evidence in relation to the death of Lauren Smith-Fields.”

CBS News correspondent Elise Preston contributed reporting.


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