Kansas 'Stand Your Ground' Law Prevents Charges in Black Teen's Death: District Attorney

Sedgwick County, Kansas, District Attorney Marc Bennett announced at a news conference on Tuesday that he was legally unable to file charges in the September 2021 death of 17-year-old Cedric Lofton because of the "stand your ground" laws in place in the state.

Lofton was arrested September 24 on suspicion of battery of a law enforcement officer after police responded to a disturbance call and found Lofton allegedly acting erratically.

He was taken to the Sedgwick County Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center, where he was placed in a cell. Later, he was taken to the restroom by an employee of the center just after 4:00 a.m.

While returning to his cell, Lofton allegedly attacked the employee, which led to his ankles being restrained and officers holding him down until he was handcuffed, which is when he sustained the injuries that the medical examiner later determined led to his death, the Associated Press reported.

Lofton was taken to a local hospital after he became unresponsive, and he died two days later on September 26. A December autopsy from the county's medical examiner ruled Lofton's death a homicide, contradicting a prior report from police that claimed he did not sustain life-threatening injuries during the encounter.

Cedric Lofton, Wichita Kansas, Police Custody Death
Sedgwick County, Kansas, District Attorney Marc Bennett said Tuesday that he can't file charges over the death of Cedric Lofton, a Black 17-year-old who became unresponsive while being restrained after an altercation with staff at a Wichita, Kansas, juvenile center in September. Above, Lofton is seen in this April 21, 2019, photo provided by Sarah Harrison. Sarah Harrison via AP

Tuesday, Bennett said any charges filed related to Lofton's death would not hold up in court because of the fact that Lofton allegedly started the altercation in which he sustained the injuries and that he continued to resist as the staff at the facility restrained him, according to the AP.

"Pursuant to Kansas self-defense and stand your ground law, they're immune from prosecution. If I bring this case, the immunity statute says they cannot be prosecuted. I am not supposed to file this charge. If I did it anyway, the judge would be duty-bound to dismiss the case," Bennett said at a news conference, according to KSNW.

Bennett did say several policies should be reviewed after the incident, like whether Lofton should have been taken to a mental health facility instead of a correctional facility and whether the restraints used on Lofton were appropriate. However, the AP reported that Bennett said those considerations did not amount to justifying an involuntary manslaughter charge that he was considering.

"We are extremely troubled by the district attorney's decision not to charge anyone in connection with the unjustified killing of 17-year-old Cedric Lofton. This is yet another instance of an unarmed Black teenager killed by law enforcement with impunity, threat of reprisal or even an ounce of accountability," attorneys Andrew Stroth and Steven Hart said in a statement to KSNW on behalf of Lofton's family. "Similar to the George Floyd case, Cedric's death was caused by authorities obligated to protect him. In this case, they restrained Cedric in the prone position and took his breath away."

Earlier this year, Lofton's family and other local activists requested the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate his death, as well as the release of the surveillance video from inside the facility of the incident that led to Lofton's death.