Unsolved Deaths of Two Women Raise Questions

By Lauren Victoria Burke

BRIDGEPORT, CT. – Two Bridgeport, Connecticut, police detectives are now on administrative leave after public attention that spurred attention from the media and brought scrutiny surrounding the deaths of two Black women.

The two Black women, Brenda Lee Rawls, 53, and Lauren Smith-Fields, 23, died on the same day: Dec. 12, 2021, in separate incidents. The Chief Medical Examiner in Bridgeport has not determined a cause of death for Rawls. Rawls was close to her family by text and by phone and informed them she was to visit a male acquaintance. When she was non-responsive two days later the family became concerned.

Lauren Smith-Fields, was in contact with a man she met on the dating app Bumble. Smith-Fields was found dead in her apartment after that date. That man, who is 37 and white, called 911 on Dec. 12 but it’s unclear if police contacted him for questioning in Smith-Fields’ death.

The medical examiner said on January 31 that Smith-Fields’ death was an accident related to “acute intoxication.”

An attorney for Smith-Fields’ family, Darnell Crosland, has indicated that the family intends to sue the city of Bridgeport over what he described as the police department’s “racially insensitive” handling of Smith-Fields’ case.

In reaction to growing criticism of the lack of investigation on the part of police, Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim extended condolences to the families of Smith-Fields and Rawls in a statement on January 30.

Ganim also said he was planning to work with the police chief to “make appropriate changes here in Bridgeport now for our department’s policies and practices regarding notifying family members of a death.”

The news of the two police detectives being placed on administrative leave gives an indication that the cases of Rawls and Smith-Fields will receive more attention and scrutiny.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE.

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