Lauren Smith-Fields: Supervising Sergeant Retires After Public Outcry - Rolling Stone
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Supervising Sergeant on Lauren Smith-Fields Case Retires, Two Detectives Suspended Amid Internal Affairs Investigation

On Sunday, the mayor announced that two officers had been suspended in connection with work on the investigations into the deaths of Smith-Fields and Brenda Lee Rawls

Lauren Smith-felds caseLauren Smith-felds case

Shantell Fields, Lauren Smith-Fields' mother, speaks during a protest rally in front of the Morton Government Center, in Bridgeport, Conn. Jan. 23, 2022.

Ned Gerard/Hearst Connecticut Media/AP Images

The Bridgeport, Conn. police officer who was a supervisor on the case of Lauren Smith-Fields has retired and two other detectives have been suspended amid a national controversy over the department’s investigation into the 23-year-old Black woman’s death.

Sergeant Joseph Morales of Bridgeport Police Department retired on Friday, a representative for the department tells Rolling Stone, following Mayor Joe Ganim’s announcement on Sunday that Detectives Angel Llanos and Kevin Cronin, had been put on administrative leave. These suspensions came amid an internal investigation into the cases of Smith-Fields as well as Brenda Lee Rawls, both of whom died in December. Both of their families have said that they were not properly informed of the deaths, and alleged that adequate care was not put into the investigations. Morales was the supervising officer in both cases “regarding death notifications,” the spokesperson said.

Officers Llanos and Cronin are now subject of the Bridgeport Police Department’s Internal Affairs investigation and disciplinary action for their alleged lack of sensitivity to the public and failure to follow police procedure for both cases. It is unclear if Morales’ retirement spares him further investigation. 

“I want to express my condolences to the families of Lauren Smith-Fields and Brenda Lee Rawls,” said Ganim. “It is an unaccepted failure if policies were not followed. To the families, friends, and all who care about human decency that should be shown in these situations — in this case, by members of the police department — I’m very sorry. The officer who was in charge of overseeing these matters has retired from the department as of this past Friday”. 

Smith-Fields, 23, was found unresponsive in her home after meeting up for a date with a man she met on the dating app Bumble. Smith-Fields was reportedly found bleeding from her nose when the man called police. (The man has not been charged with any crimes, and is not considered a suspect in the case.) Smith-Field’s family — who learned of her death days later, after finding a note from the landlord on the door — found a used condom with semen and an unidentified pill in her apartment when cleaning up her apartment over a week after her death. According to the family, detectives were unresponsive and did not conduct a proper crime scene investigation until over a week after Smith-Fields’ death. (After she was found to have been killed by an overdose of alcohol and fentanyl, among other substances, the state’s vice task-force and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration opened a criminal investigation into her death.) 

That same day Rawls, 53, died also after visiting a male acquaintance who lived near her. After not hearing from her for approximately two days, her family went to her home and then to the home of the man who she said she was visiting last. It was then and through the acquaintance that they learned of her death. When Rawls’ family called the police they had no information, it wasn’t until they called the Connecticut Medical Examiner that they were able to confirm Rawls death and locate her body.

In both cases, the families accuse the detectives of not responding to phone calls and providing information regarding their deceased loved one. In the case of the Smith-Fields family, they say they were told by their detective to “stop calling.”

“Insensitivity, disrespect in action or deviation from policy will not be tolerated by me or others in this administration,” Ganim concluded on Sunday. Ganim noted that both Smith-Fields and Rawls investigations are actively open and have been reassigned to personnel in the department. 

“The Mayor’s statement yesterday is a step in the right direction,”  Darnell Crosland, family attorney representing both Smith-Fields Rawls, wrote to Rolling Stone. “The city is liable for the behavior of its police department and its officers. I am pleased that the Mayor has accepted that liability publicly and has apologized to the families for the suffering they have endured.” 

While the Mayor’s sentiments may show progress, Crosland says, he is still pursuing a lawsuit on behalf of Smith-Fields family for punitive damages. As of now, Rawls’ family has not confirmed whether or not they are filing a lawsuit. “The family has had to grieve and advocate for justice at the same time. That is unfair and unacceptable.” 

 

Tues., Feb. 1, 2022: A representative for the Bridgeport Police Department mistakenly told Rolling Stone that Det. Angel Llanos had retired amid the investigation. This story has been corrected to state that it was Sgt. Miguel Morales who retired; Llanos remains on administrative leave. 

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