C.J. “went from crisis to death because we got involved,” said Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Howell. “We all need to own what we did right and what we did wrong,” he added. “And the reality is there’s things that happened that were wrong.”
“Y’all here to protect me,” the youth asked the officers, beseechingly. “Right?”
The 17-year-old’s foster father, unable to deal with a teen who seemed to be in the throes of schizophrenia, had called Wichita police. When they arrived, Cedric “C.J.” Lofton refused to leave the porch and go with them; he was obstinate but afraid, meek but frantic, reports the AP.
After an hourlong stalemate, the police lost patience. It was time to take him away — by force, if necessary.
And so began the last two days of a life plagued by family dysfunction, brushes with the law, years in foster care and, finally, mental illness. The events leading to C.J.’s death, just a day short of his 18th birthday, would be captured on video; the result would be litigation, pleas for reform, cries that the system had failed yet another Black youth.
Authorities would decide against any prosecutions in connection with his death. But there were crucial errors, and vital holes in the safety net that had fatal consequences.
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