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Video Released of Guards Killing Kansas Teen at Juvenile Facility; DA Says “Stand-Your-Ground” Law Prevents Him from Filing Charges

by Keith Sanders

The webpage of Kansas’ Sedgwick County crashed on June 10, 2022, under the weight of a surge in traffic driven by the release of surveillance video showing guards at the county juvenile facility struggling with a 17-year-old who then died.

District Attorney (DA) Marc Bennett previously declined in January 2022 to file charges in the death of Cedric Lofton, citing the state’s “Stand-Your-Ground” law and saying it shielded staffers at the Sedgwick County Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center whom the teen allegedly struck during the fatal altercation on September 22, 2021.

The video shows only some of the 35-minute struggle between guards and the high school senior, the last minutes of which occurred in a detention cell partially obscured from the camera’s view. That is where guards said they got Lofton on the floor to handcuff and shackle him, discovering about five minutes later that the boy had stopped breathing.

Lofton was transported to a local hospital, where he died two days later on September 24, 2021. County medical examiner Dr. Timothy S. Gorrill later determined that Lofton’s death was a homicide resulting from “complications of cardiopulmonary arrest after physical struggle while restrained in the prone position.”

Bennett cautioned that the medical examiner’s conclusion “does not reflect a legal determination,” saying that filing criminal charges against facility employees is a “separate, legal determination…based on the laws of the State of Kansas.” The DA claimed that under the state’s “stand your ground,” the likelihood that the four adult men who killed the 135-pound boy had “acted in self-defense” therefore made them “immune from prosecution.”

Bennett went on to note other instances where the law was applied and affirmed by appellate courts, citing a case where someone was allowed to “shoot an unarmed man in the back based on the belief that he was running to a car to retrieve a gun.” That, the DA argued, proves that the law shields individuals from prosecution even when they use deadly force against unarmed assailants.

Lofton’s family was understandably incensed by the DA’s decision, noting that the teen was clearly suffering a mental health crisis the night he was arrested. Andrew Stroth, a Chicago-based attorney representing the family, said that “[t]he idea of a stand-your-ground defense or immunity makes absolutely no sense based on the facts in this case.”

Stroth, of Action Injury Law Group LLC, along with attorneys from another Chicago firm, Hart McLaughlin & Eldridge, LLC, as well as Benjamin A. Stelter-Embry of Protzman Law Firm, LLC in Lakewood, filed a lawsuit on the family’s behalf in federal court for the District of Kansas on June 13, 2022, accusing Sedgwick County and five employees at the juvenile facility, as well as the City of Wichita and ten “Doe” officers involved in Lofton’s arrest, of violating the teen’s civil rights. See: Teetz v. Sedgwick Cty., USDC (D. Kan.), Case No. 6:22-cv-01134.

Additional sources: KSN, New York Times, Wichita Eagle

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Related legal case

Teetz v. Sedgwick Cty.