Bridgeport lawmakers have proposed a new bill in response to the deaths of Lauren Smith-Fields and Brenda Lee Rawls last December.
Smith-Fields and Brenda Lee Rawls, both Black women who were living in Bridgeport, Connecticut, died in seemingly suspicious circumstances. Neither deaths were treated as such by law enforcement. The cases have sparked outrage across the country.
According to Connecticut Post, House Bill 5349 would require officers who respond to or encounter “a deceased person or the remains of a person” to notify next of kin within 24 hours of the person’s identification.
If not, the officers must “document the reason for the failure or delay of notification and any attempts made to make such notification.”
Twenty-three-year-old Smith-Fields was found unresponsive in her home on Dec. 12, 2021, by a Bridgeport Police Department officer after receiving a call from was a man she had met on the Bumble dating app. She had been on a date with him the night before.
The man told police they had taken tequila shots before Smith-Fields became sick in the bathroom. She then went outside before returning to the bathroom for 10 to 15 minutes. He says they continued drinking before they both fell asleep. The man claims he then woke up at 3. a.m. Smith-Fields was snoring. Hours later, he woke up and saw blood coming from her nose. He also noticed that she was not breathing.
An autopsy determined that Smith-fields died from an accidental overdose of a combination of fentanyl, alcohol and other drugs.
Brenda Rawls, 53, also died on Dec. 12.
Her sister Dorothy Rawls Washington said Brenda told her family that she planned to go to the home of a male acquaintance who lived down the street from her. They were unable to contact her for two days. She then walked to the male acquaintance’s house.
When they asked him whether she was there, he told them that he couldn’t wake her up and that she had died. The police failed to notify the family.
The coroner determined that Rawls died of cardiovascular disease brought on by diabetes.
Both families expressed that they felt they had been “mistreated” by the Bridgeport Police Department.
“The family of Brenda Lee Rawls has reason to question the M.E. report and we are continually disappointed with the way the City of Bridgeport and the State of Connecticut has shown a lack of value for black lives,” Darnell Crosland, attorney for the Brenda Lee Rawls family, said in a statement.
A detective involved in the death investigation of Lauren Smith-Fields was placed on paid administrative leave pending an internal police probe. A second officer was placed on leave in connection with Rawls’ investigation.