Lauren Smith-Fields: Criminal investigation launched into death of woman who overdosed after Bumble date

Police launch probe six weeks after 23-year-old found dead inside her Connecticut home

Rachel Sharp
Tuesday 25 January 2022 20:30
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<p>Lauren Smith-Fields was found dead in her apartment on 12 December </p>

Lauren Smith-Fields was found dead in her apartment on 12 December

Police have launched a criminal investigation into the mysterious overdose death of a woman six weeks after she was found dead in her home after going on a Bumble date.

Bridgeport Police announced on Tuesday that its narcotics and vice division has opened a probe with the help of the US Drug Enforcement Administration to determine “the factors that lead to [the] untimely death” of Lauren Smith-Fields.

Ms Smith-Fields, a 23-year-old Black woman and Stamford High School graduate, was found dead inside her apartment in Bridgeport, Connecticut, back on 12 December.

For more than a month, her family have been demanding answers over her sudden death and vowed to take legal action against city and police officials for mishandling the investigation and being “racially insensitive” to her family.

On Monday, the medical examiner’s office finally released the autopsy findings, ruling her cause of death to be “acute intoxication” – an overdose – from fentanyl combined with prescription medications promethazine and hydroxyzine and alcohol.

Her manner of death was ruled an accident.

Bridgeport Police Chief Rebeca Garcia said on Tuesday that the circumstances that led to Ms Smith-Fields’ accidental overdose death are now under criminal investigation.

“The Bridgeport Police Department continues to treat the untimely death of Lauren Smith-Fields as an active investigation as we are now refocusing our attention and efforts to the factors that lead to her untimely death,” the police chief said in a statement.

“We have engaged several partners to assist with this portion of the investigation.

“Once again, we offer our sincerest condolences to the friends and family of Lauren Smith-Fields and ask that anyone with information to please contact 203 576-TIPS.”

Before the criminal probe was announced, the attorney for Ms Smith-Fields’ family questioned how officials could rule her death accidental, saying that the 23-year-old “didn’t use drugs”.

“I’ve never seen a medical examiner conclude a mixer of drugs as an accident without knowing who provided the drugs, or how it was ingested,” Darnell Crosland said in a statement on Twitter.

“Lauren didn’t use drugs.”

Police were called to Ms Smith-Fields’ apartment on 12 December by an “older white man” who said he had met her three days earlier on Bumble and had gone on a date with her the night before her death.

The man told investigators he came to her apartment that night and that they were drinking tequila together, according to a police report.

He said she began complaining about feeling ill and vomited at one point, before they continued to drink, ate food and watched a movie, the report says.

The man told investigators she received a text at one point and briefly went outside, to return some clothes to her brother.

When she returned, she went into the bathroom for around 15 minutes, the man told investigators.

He said he awoke the next morning to find Ms Smith-Fields wasn’t breathing and that she had blood coming from her right nostril, the report says.

The man called 911 and officers arrived on the scene to find the 23-year-old “lying on her back, on the floor” and that she did not appear to be breathing.

She was pronounced dead at the scene and responding medics said she had been dead for at least an hour.

Ms Smith-Fields’ family have slammed Bridgeport Police Department over its handling of the investigation and have been demanding answers as to what happened to the 23-year-old.

From the start, police said there were no signs of foul play and did not consider the young woman’s date as a person of interest.

The release of the cause and manner of death finally came one day after the family threatened to sue city and police officials over their alleged mishandling of the investigation into her death.

Mr Crosland announced on what would have been Ms Smith-Fields’ 24th birthday on Sunday that they were filing a lawsuit for violating their civil rights and failing to properly investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding her death.

In a notice of claim, filed by Mr Crosland and naming Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim and Acting Police Chief Rebeca Garcia among others, the family alleges that the Bridgeport Police Department failed to adequately collect physical evidence from the 23-year-old’s home as part of the probe, including a sedative pill, a used condom, the bloodstained bedsheet and alcohol bottles.

Officers also refused to consider the man she had gone on a date with as a person of interest in the inquiry, despite his family saying he was the last person to see her alive, the notice said.

The family also alleges that Bridgeport Police Department was “racially insensitive” to them and did not take Ms Smith-Fields’ death seriously.

They also allegedly failed to notify her family members of her death, leaving them to learn of her death when they showed up at her apartment concerned for her safety and saw a note on the door.

“The Police Department has been racially insensitive to this family, and has treated this family with no respect and has violated their civil rights,” the notice of claim reads.

Ms Smith-Fields’ mother Shantell Fields toldWNBC that she felt her daughter was being treated “like garbage” by law enforcement.

“They wanted us to forget about our daughter, their sister, our loved one,” she said.

“They thought they were just going to throw her away like she was garbage, like she wasn’t important, like she didn’t have family members who loved her. We’re fighting for her.”

The 23-year-old’s brother Lakeem Jetter said he felt police were treating the investigation differently because of the races of his sister and her date.

“I feel like because he’s a white guy and she’s a Black girl, they’re just throwing it under the rug,” he said.

One investigator described Ms Smith-Fields’ date to the family as “like a nice guy”, he said.

It is not clear if Ms Smith-Fields’ family is still planning to pursue legal action following the release of the medical examiner’s report.

The Independent has reached out to Mr Crosland for comment.

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