Officials have ruled the cause of death of the woman found dead in mysterious circumstances after going on a Bumble date to be acute intoxication, just one day after her family accused the local police department of being “racially insensitive” in its handling of the investigation.
The medical examiner’s office announced on Monday, January 25, 2022, that Lauren Smith-Fields died from acute intoxication due to the combined effects of fentanyl, promethazine, hydroxyzine, and alcohol.
Her manner of death was ruled an accident, they said.
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 December 12, 2022.
Police said they were called to the home by an “older white man” who said he had met Smith-Fields on Bumble just three days earlier and that they had gone on a date 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 carrying on drinking, 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 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, with responding medics saying she had been dead for at least an hour before she was found.
From the get-go, police said that there were no signs of foul play and did not consider the young woman’s date as a person of interest.
Almost six weeks from her death, her death remained a mystery and her family said they were still waiting for answers as to what had happened to the 23-year-old.
The release of the cause and manner of death finally came one day after the family threatened to sue city and policy officials over their alleged mishandling of the investigation into her death.
Darnell Crosland, the family’s attorney, 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 told WNBC 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.