Teen's Death in Police Custody Ruled Homicide After Physical Struggle While Restrained

A teen's death in police custody has been ruled a homicide after a physical struggle ensued while he was restrained inside a Kansas juvenile center, according to an autopsy report released Monday.

The report contradicts earlier findings that Cedric Lofton, 17, did not experience life-threatening injuries.

"In my opinion, Cedric Lofton died as a result of complications from cardiopulmonary arrest sustained after physical struggle while restrained in the prone position," wrote Chief Medical Examiner Timothy Gorrill in the report dated December 21. "The manner of death is homicide."

After he was handcuffed while lying on his stomach, Lofton's heart and breathing stopped, according to the report.

He had been in the custody of the Sedgwick County Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center in Wichita, Kansas, when a struggle occurred with staff members on September 24.

Staff members were "unable to locate a pulse" four minutes after they handcuffed Lofton, according to the autopsy report. Lofton was then transported to a local hospital, where he died two days later.

Lofton's treatment at the local hospital was complicated by brain injuries resulting from a lack of oxygen, along with respiratory failure and "acute kidney injury," Gorrill wrote. Lofton also had a positive COVID test result, and a screening of his urine had a "presumptive positive" for chemicals in marijuana, according to the report.

Cedric Lofton, Homicide, Autopsy Report
After Cedric Lofton was handcuffed while lying on his stomach inside a Kansas juvenile center, his heart and breathing stopped, according to an autopsy report. Above, Attorney General William P. Barr speaks to Kansas law enforcement officials at the Kansas Bureau of Investigation Forensic Science Center on October 2, 2019, in Topeka, Kansas. Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The staff members involved in the struggle have not been identified, but the county said they are on paid administrative leave. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett issued a statement saying his office is reviewing the autopsy report, along with a "lengthy investigation" by the local sheriff's office and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI).

The county issued a statement saying that its officials could not comment because of "the active investigation." Sheriff Jeff Easter said during a September 30 news conference—four days after Lofton's death—that preliminary autopsy results showed scratches and a bruise on Lofton but no life-threatening injuries.

The autopsy cited reports from authorities that Lofton ran away from a foster home on September 21, then was "erratic and aggressive" toward his foster parents when he returned on September 24. The KBI has said that Wichita police, responding to a call of a disturbance, encountered Lofton outside a house and tried to get him to seek mental health treatment.

He resisted by assaulting one or more of the officers and was taken to a juvenile center. The autopsy report said that staff at the center let him out of his cell at 4:20 a.m. to use the restroom, according to the KBI. Lofton was "uncooperative and agitated" and punched a staff member in the head, leading to the struggle with multiple staff members, according to the autopsy report.

Lofton's ankles were shackled and he was "moved to the floor" and rolled onto his stomach. He continued to struggle before being handcuffed. The autopsy said Lofton then "calmed down, making occasional snoring sounds." A minute after being unable to find a pulse, staff began chest compressions and called emergency personnel, just before 5:15 a.m.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.