Sedgwick County, Wichita create task force to review teen’s death
Local elected officials are continuing to look into the death of 17-year-old Cedric Lofton.
Sedgwick County and the City of Wichita have created a task force to review the circumstances around Lofton’s death and to recommend policy changes.
Lofton died at the county juvenile facility in September while experiencing a mental health crisis.
The county district attorney last week decided to not press charges in the teen’s death.
The task force is composed of almost 20 members, which includes supporting members from local authorities:
- Larry Burks Sr. – NAACP, Wichita Branch
- Liliana Rivera – NAACP, Wichita Branch
- Mike Fonkert – Kansas Appleseed
- Holly Osborne/Valerie Leon – St. Francis Ministries
- Marquetta Atkins – Destination Innovation
- Jasmine Rogers – Progeny
- Dr. April Terry -- Kansas Advisory Group on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
- Steve House – Juvenile Defense Council
- Shantel Westbrook -- COMCARE
- Lamont Anderson – Community Operations Recovery Empowerment (CORE)
- Dr. Rhonda Lewis
- Poncho Bustos – USD 259
- Monique Garcia
- Paul Cruz – Wichita Police Department
- Steven Stonehouse – Sedgwick County Department of Corrections
- Hope Cooper – Kansas Department of Corrections
- Kristin Peterman – Department for Children and Families
The task force will present its recommendations to the county, city and state once the work is done.
With the legislature in session, County Commissioner Sarah Lopez said that now is the time to look at policy changes.
“We’re not going to let this drag on in any way because it is so important to all of us at the city, at the county, at the state,” she said, “and right now we have a willingness to have a collaboration between all three and that’s not something we’ve seen before.”
Commissioner Lacey Cruse said she supports the task force, but says an independent, third-party investigation into Lofton’s death needs to be done.
She posted a video to Facebook Tuesday afternoon expressing her frustrations.
“A system that works to protect a system will not be changed in three months,” Cruse said in the video. “This group cannot do this work with redacted statements, zero access to personnel files and no clear direction as a place to start.”
County officials said at a news conference earlier Tuesday that an outside investigation would not be done and it’s not something that the task force should do.
“Anything beyond that is outside the scope of our authority and so we want to make sure what we’re doing is what we actually have the ability to do and change,” Lopez said, “and if we go outside of that, I worry that it could muddy the waters and we can’t get as much done.”
The task force's first meeting is Feb. 3.
Gov. Laura Kelly has also asked the Department for Children and Families to investigate Lofton’s case and determine whether the foster care system responded properly.
“This situation is tragic, and we must find a way to ensure something like this never happens again,” Kelly said in a statement.
In the same statement, Kelly also said she looked forward to hearing recommendations from the District Attorney, the legislature and advocates to modify or clarify stand your ground laws.
The Sedgwick County District Attorney cited the law as justification for not pressing charges in the teen’s death.