young woman on couch

Lala Smith/YouTube

Online movement calls attention to death of Lauren Smith-Fields after police take over a month to open criminal investigation

The 23-year-old was found dead while on a Bumble date with an older white man.

 

Moises Mendez II

Internet Culture

Posted on Jan 28, 2022   Updated on Feb 7, 2022, 9:40 am CST

An online movement to bring attention to the death of Lauren Smith-Fields was sparked after police took a month-and-a-half to open a criminal investigation into it.

According to TMZ, the attorney for Smith-Fields’ family, Darnell Crosland, believes that the only reason Connecticut police opened the investigation on Tuesday is that Cardi B put pressure on the department by speaking out Sunday. The Black 23-year-old was found dead while on a Bumble date with a 37-year-old white man, Matthew LaFountain, in December. LaFountain was reportedly the one to alert authorities that Smith-Fields was unresponsive the morning of Dec. 12.

LaFountain reportedly alleged in the police report that the two met on Bumble three days prior. After an autopsy, authorities reportedly determined Smith-Fields died of an accidental drug overdose.

While police originally ruled her death an accident, the Bridgeport Police Department’s narcotics department, according to Jezebel, opened a criminal investigation due to “the presence of fentanyl in her system.”

LaFountain alleged in the police report, which Jezebel reviewed, that the night before she was reported dead, the two drank tequila, played games, and watched a movie at her apartment. He reportedly told police that she vomited in the restroom and later spent at least 10 minutes in there before falling asleep on the couch. He reportedly also alleged that he carried her to her bedroom before falling asleep next to her. 

The police department is now being accused by the Smith-Fields’ family and their attorney of failing to collect crucial forensic evidence, allegedly including a used condom, a pill, and bloodstained sheets. Crosland told the Washington Post that the department only collected the items weeks later, after the Smith-Fields’ family put pressure on it to do so.

Crosland also reportedly alleged detectives with the department ruled LaFountain out as a suspect, telling Smith-Fields’ brother “‘Don’t go jumping to conclusions. This is a nice man.'”

One of the detectives, Kevin Cronin, has since been removed from the case and is being investigated by the Office of Internal Affairs at the Bridgeport Police Department after he allegedly broke protocol by not notifying Smith-Fields’ next of kin within 24 hours. Crosland told the Post that Cronin was dismissive of the family, first allegedly promising them that he would make a home visit to discuss the case and then standing them up and urging them to not call him anymore.

The Smith-Fields family reportedly intends to sue the Bridgeport Police Department for its handling of the case. On Monday, VICE reported that a claim was filed on the family’s behalf that alleges, “The police department has been racially insensitive to this family and has treated this family with no respect and has violated their civil rights.”

“They have failed to investigate this matter and they refuse to view the last person with Lauren Smith-Fields before she died as a person of interest,” it continued.

Online, Twitter users are using the hashtag #JusticeForLaurenSmithFields to express their outrage and amplify the case.

https://twitter.com/benjvmins/status/1484591193107304450
https://twitter.com/ashakiiii/status/1485609082841145344

Many are comparing it to the Gabby Petito case, pointing out the discrepancies in how much attention the two cases received. “Lauren’s case deserves the same energy that people gave Gabby Petito’s,” podcast host Bri Hall tweeted on Jan. 24.

Some creators on TikTok are also uploading videos about Smith-Fields’ case to help get the word out. As of right now, the hashtag #LaurenSmithFields currently has over 14 million views.

Smith-Fields was an Instagrammer with 12,000 followers and had a small YouTube channel where she uploaded videos about her hair and first kiss.

People are flocking to her social media accounts to express their sorrow and promise “justice” for Smith-Fields.

“I’m so sorry this happened to you beautiful we will keep fighting until you get the justice you deserve,” one viewer said under her latest YouTube video, uploaded in August of 2020.

“I hope they find justice for you sweet girl!” another said under her latest Instagram post.

The Daily Dot reached out to the chief of police for the Bridgeport Police Department via email.


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*First Published: Jan 28, 2022, 3:33 pm CST