The family of a 23-year-old woman who died under mysterious circumstances are now saying that local police are dodging their calls and telling them to keep quiet about her death.
Lauren Smith-Fields was found dead in her apartment in Bridgeport, Connecticut one month ago. According to local media reports, police initially found Ms Smith-Fields in her apartment unresponsive, and she died there before she could be transported to a hospital.
According to accounts from her family, Ms Smith-Fields had met up with an “older white man” she met on the Bumble dating app the night she died. The man she met up with was the one who alerted the police to her condition. His name has not been released to the public.
In the month since Ms Smith-Fields’ death, little new information has been revealed. Her cause of death is still being determined, and one of the responding officers has been removed from the case for disregarding protocol.
“We haven't had any answers since the day that we found out that she passed away,” Ms Smith-Fields’s mother, Shantell Fields, told Yahoo News. “When you ask questions, [Bridgeport Police] don't know how to answer it at all … and they made it such a hostile environment.”
She said that her family has been told numerous times to stop calling the police department.
The Bridgeport Police Department said it is continuing its investigation into the death, but that it would take time.
“The family and community want answers,” Rowena White, communications director for the city of Bridgeport, told Yahoo News. “The challenge is that you have to wait.”
The length of the investigation is not the only element troubling the woman's family; they have also called the department's competence into question.
Lakeem Jetter wrote a letter to News 12 Westchester expressing his belief that the police were not conducting a thorough investigation. In the letter, he claimed that police were not investigating the man Ms Smith-Fields met via Bumble because he was a “nice guy”.
The family claims they had to pressure the police to seriously examine the woman's death. Ms Smith-Fields' mother recalled entering the woman's apartment and finding evidence the police missed, including a used condom and an unidentified pill.
“It's appalling that we have to prosecute our own cases,” the family's attorney said. “The [family] has a right to know that the police consider this case as serious as any other case, and they haven't gotten that.”
The city maintains that the department's investigation is still active and ongoing, and Ms White noted that the full medical examiner's report could take months to produce. She also said that an initial coroner's report found that there was no foul play involved in Ms Smith-Fields' death.
“When there is no foul play, there is no crime,” Ms White said. “That doesn’t mean the cause of death isn’t being investigated.”
Despite the city's reassurances, the family is still sceptical. Ms Smith-Fields' father has contracted for a second autopsy, and is still waiting for those results. The family has also launched a GoFundMe to raise funds to pay for their own investigative efforts.
“[Bridgeport Police] wants us to disappear, be quiet and just shut up,” Ms Smith-Fields' mother said. “And that's not gonna happen. … Just like I told the police department: You’re going to forever remember Lauren Smith-Fields’s name.”
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