Listen to this article here
Update: Bridgeport police said Tuesday the death of Lauren Smith-Fields is now being investigated as a crime. The department’s narcotics and vice division has opened an investigation and will be assisted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
On Monday, the medical examiner ruled Smith-Fields’ death as “accidental” and caused by “acute intoxication due to the combined effects of fentanyl, promethazine, hydroxyzine, and alcohol.”
After the police department’s announcement Tuesday, an attorney for Smith-Fields’ family said the medical examiner’s report raises more questions.
“The M.E. findings doesn’t cure any of the Bridgeport’s lack of process, in (fact) it makes it worse. Instead we are left with more questions than answers as a result of a botched investigation or lack thereof,” attorney Darnell Crosland told CNN via text message.
The family of Lauren Smith-Fields intends to sue the city of Bridgeport, Connecticut as well as the local police department for their handling of the investigation into the 23-year-old’s death following a Bumble date.
Smith-Fields, 23, was with Matthew LaFountain, 37, a date she had met through the dating app Bumble, the night before she was reported “not breathing” to 911 on December 12.
According to ABC News, LaFountain had only known Smith-Fields for three day. He told police he visited her apartment for the first time the night before her death and claimed that she fell ill.
The two were reportedly drinking tequila at her apartment when she fell ill and vomited, according to a Bridgeport Police Department report. Smith-Fields allegedly spent some time in the restroom according to what LaFountain told police. “He thought it was odd, but didn’t feel it was his place to say anything as he didn’t know her that well.”
LaFountain stayed the night at the apartment. He woke up the next morning seeing blood flow out of Smith-Fields’ nostril with her not breathing. LaFoutain called 911 and, according to police reports, Smith-Fields was declared dead at 6:49am. Medical staff said she had been dead for at least an hour.
Smith-Fields death causes outrage, more questions
The family of Smith-Fields is frustrated with how Bridgeport PD are handling the investigation. They’re suing the police department for allegedly mishandling the case.
Shantell Fields, Lauren’s mother, told NBC Connecticut that she went to Lauren’s apartment on December 13 after not hearing from her. When they got to her apartment, they saw a note left on her door.
The family said the note had a number on it and said “If you’re looking for Lauren, call the number.” The number belonged to the landlord who later told Fields that her daughter had died.
Lauren’s family said they had to contact police and the detective about the case and did not receive confirmation about Lauren’s death until they reached out to the Bridgeport Police Department.
Police ignore family’s plea for help
Once her family found out about the Bumble date, they asked the detective about the man who Lauren met through the dating app. Yet, the family said the detective’s response was shocking. The family continued to seek answers in the investigation, but claim they were met with opposition from investigators.
“He told me directly on the phone to stop calling him and hung up in my face, it was just like total disrespect, like that’s what you tell a family that’s going through grief and trying to find answers?” asked Jetter. “The way they talked to me, the way they have talked to the family, how they treated my daughter, they treated her like she was nobody, like she was not important,” said Shantell.
The Bridgeport Police Department released the following statement:
“On December 12, 2021, the Bridgeport Emergency Operations Center received a call for service regarding an untimely death. Upon police arrival, it was found that Ms. Laruen-Smith-Fields passed away unexpectedly. This incident is currently being investigated by the Bridgeport Police Department’s Detective Bureau. This investigation remains open and active. The Detective Bureau is awaiting the final report from the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office for cause and manner of death of Ms. Smith-Fields. The Bridgeport Police Department offers it’s sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Ms. Lauren Smith-Fields. We encourage anyone with information regarding this incident to contact either Detective-Sergeant Joseph Morales at 203-581-5219 or the Bridgeport Police TIPS line at 203-576-8477.”
Police refuse to investigate Bumble date
The family is frustrated that investigators were uninterested in pursuing Bumble date LaFountain as a suspect.
“When I asked the officer about the guy, he said he was a very nice guy and they weren’t looking into him anymore,” said Jetter. “It was almost like he was sticking up for him and it seemed weird to hear that from a detective.”
After a month, the medical examiner has yet to release the cause of death. Currently they claim “her cause of death is pending further studies.”
The family proceeded to pay their own money for an independent autopsy and are awaiting those results.
The family’s attorney, Darnell Crosland, has pointed out the glaring difference in coverage between cases involving missing White women like Gabby Petito and cases involving Black women.
“We have seen the amount of resources that have gone to other cases involving missing white women like Gabby Petito and we know so many Black women are missing in this country,” said Crosland. “Everyone is speaking out, everyone is insulted with the way the Bridgeport police and the Bridgeport city has dealt with us.”