On December 12, 2021, Lauren Smith-Fields was found unresponsive in her apartment in Bridgeport, Connecticut. She was found that morning by her Bumble date, Matthew LaFountain, who had spent the night before with her. According to LaFountain, the pair had spent the previous evening drinking and watching movies. He claims he woke up the following morning at 3 am to use the restroom and Smith-Fields was asleep. When he woke up again at 6 am, she was unresponsive with blood trailing from her nose. LaFountain called the police, who ruled her death an accidental overdose and did not consider her apartment, nor LaFountain important to investigate.https://connecticut.news12.com/police-report-details-moments-leading-up-to-death-of-lauren-smith-fields
Not only did the police not investigate her apartment or date, but they also failed to notify her next of kin. Shantell Fields, Lauren’s mother, told CBS News that she drove to her daughter’s home after she was unable to get in touch with her, “When I got there, there was a note on the door saying, ‘If you’re looking for Lauren, call this number.’”
According to the Fields Family, a detective told them they found Lauren dead about a day and a half ago. Lauren’s brother, Tavar Gray-Smith told CNN, the detective told him, “We didn’t need to reach out to any family member – we had her passport and ID, so we knew who she was, and had already performed an autopsy, and her body is at the medical examiner’s office.” Tavar also claimed that the detective hung up on both him and Smith-Field’s father. https://www.cnn.com/2022/01/24/us/connecticut-police-black-family-allegations-daughter-death/index.html
Regardless of any suspicion regarding Lauren Smith-Field’s cause of death and lack of investigation, the failure to notify the family suggests not only a lack of respect for the family of Lauren Smith-Fields but a lack of respect for Lauren. Shockingly, Lauren Smith-Fields is not the only case from the Bridgeport Police Department where detectives failed to report the death to family members. According to CNN in the case of Brenda Rowls, who was found deceased on December 12th, the same day as Lauren Smith-Fields, the Bridgeport police department also failed to notify the family of her passing. This was not a one-time incident, and considering both women were African American, it brings forward the question of if the Bridgeport Police Department values African Americans’ lives less than it does Caucasian lives.
According to Bridgeport’s Mayor, Joe Ganim, the officer who was “in charge of overseeing these matters” resigned on Friday, January 28th, 2022. Mayor Ganim also put out a statement which was quoted on CNN, “The Bridgeport Police Department has high standards for officer sensitivity especially in matters regarding the death of family members. It is an unacceptable failure if policies were not followed. To the families, friends, and all who care about human decency in these situations, in this case by members of the Bridgeport Police Department, I am very sorry.”
Although Lauren Smith-Fields passed away over a month ago, her case is only now coming to light. Through the help of social media, her case is being spread amongst hundreds and placing pressure on the Bridgeport Police Department to take the necessary actions to not only investigate Lauren’s case but also reprimand officers who failed to notify families and fulfill their duties properly. Although pressure should not be necessary to gain the answers and respect Lauren Smith-Fields deserved, there is no doubt that through the use of social media this case is finally deserving the recognition it deserves.
Social Media has become crucial in the recognition and exposure of cases. Last September millions followed, theorized, and aided in the search for Gabby Petito. This is just one example where social media amassed plenty of clues for investigators but also put pressure on police departments to not only leave no stones unturned but also to follow protocol and be proactive about leads (which should be done regardless, and unfortunately is not). Although Gabby Petito’s case immediately took off, for cases regarding African American men and women, exposure is much lower, and until families like Lauren Smith-Fields truly speak up and out about their loved ones’ cases little is known.
Please, take the time to share Lauren-Smith Fields’ story, along with other cases, especially those regarding African Americans and every other underrepresented Minority.
The family has created a Go Fund Me to help pay for hiring a private investigator as well as go to any legal fees.
If you would like to stay up to date with the Lauren Smith-Fields case and other cases regarding minorities I highly recommend you check out the “Cases of Color” podcast. It features missing persons, unsolved cases, and cases where the conclusion still raises questions all involving people of color.