CONNECTICUT - The death of a Connecticut woman while on a date with a man she met online was ruled an accident.
Lauren Smith-Fields, 23, died Dec. 12 from "acute intoxication due to the combined effects of fentanyl, promethazine, hydroxyzine and alcohol," the state medical examiner’s office said Monday. Fentanyl is a powerful opioid. Promethazine and hydroxyzine are antihistamines used to treat allergies.
She was found in her Bridgeport apartment after the man she was with called the police to say he awoke to find her unresponsive. Published reports indicated she had met the man days earlier on the dating app Bumble.
Bridgeport police said Tuesday that its narcotics and vice division, with help from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, is investigating to see if any crimes were committed and if anyone should be charged.
"We are now refocusing our attention and efforts to the factors that (led) to her untimely death," acting Police Chief Rebeca Garcia said in a statement.
The family of Smith-Fields said authorities did not give the investigation enough attention because she was Black. Police never notified them of her death, which they learned about more than a day later through a note left on her apartment door by her landlord. A detective eventually asked them to stop calling, they claim.
The family’s attorney, Darnell Crosland, notified the city of his intent to file a lawsuit accusing police of failing to properly investigate.
"The police department has been racially insensitive to this family and has treated this family with no respect and has violated their civil rights," Crosland wrote in the intent to sue notice.
Crosland posted a statement on Twitter late Monday questioning the medical examiner's finding that Smith-Fields' death was an accident. A message from the Associated Press seeking comment was left Tuesday for Crosland.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said the death was "tragic."
"My understanding is it is getting the coverage. It is getting the resources," said Lamont during FOX 5 morning program, ‘Good Day New York.’
The family of Smith-Fields launched a GoFundMe campaign- Justice for Lauren- to hire a private investigator into her "suspicious death."
"In the beginning of this nightmare our family was extremely mistreated by The Bridgeport Police Department who as we stated initially declined to investigate Lauren’s untimely death. Although BPD has now decided to begin to conduct an investigation, our family would like to conduct one of our own!" they wrote on the GoFundMe site.
"We've got to get to the bottom of what happened here in this incredibly tragic death. Right now, local police are going to follow up in any way we can and if we need to do something over and above that we will," said Lamont.
Dr. James Gill, the chief medical examiner, said Tuesday in an email to The Associated Press that he could not discuss specifics of the case because his office is only allowed to release information on death certificates.
Mayor Joe Ganim said Monday the police department's internal affairs office is investigating the agency's response to Smith-Fields' death and he is working with the police chief to change department practices for notifying family members of a death.
"Sensitivity and care is of utmost importance when working with the family of a victim," Ganim said in a statement. "There is no tolerance for anything less than respect and sensitivity for family members and their loss."
With the Associated Press