When Lauren Smith-Fields, a 23-year-old Connecticut woman, died suddenly after a night out earlier this month, her family wanted answers. Now, following the results of an internal affairs review, two police officers investigating her death have been placed on administrative leave, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim announced over the weekend. 

Ganim recommended that Detectives Angel Llanos and Kevin Cronin be placed on paid leave until the Internal Affairs review completes. It’s not clear which detective was handling which case, but the mayor said both probes were reassigned to other investigators. 

What Happened to Lauren Smith-Fields?

According to police reports obtained by local outlet WTNH, authorities were called to Smith-Field’s home on the morning of Dec. 12 by a man who said he’d only known her for three days. 

The 23-year-old was found unresponsive with blood trickling from her nose. Her date, who told police they’d met on Bumble that week, said Smith-Fields felt ill the night before while they were drinking and spent 10 or 15 minutes in the bathroom before going to bed. 

When he woke up, the date said Smith-Fields “was not breathing.” Detectives described the man’s behavior that morning as “frantic” and wrote that he was “trembling and visibly shaken” during the police interview. Breaking Daily News is not reporting his name, as he has not been charged with a crime. 

The Bridgeport death of Lauren Smith-Fields was officially ruled an overdose, but the city is reopening the case anyway.
The family of Lauren Smith-Fields said Bridgeport police never told them their loved one had died. Mayor Joe Ganim suspended two of the officers involved on Sunday night. Photo credit: Instagram

But her family said Bridgeport police never notified them of her death — loved ones said they only found out that she’d passed away when they showed up to her apartment and found a note on the door from her landlord. 

The office of the medical examiner later determined Smith-Fields had died from an overdose, but the family, through its lawyer, contends that police mishandled the investigation and ignored crucial evidence from the scene. 

“This family is not paranoid,” said attorney Darnell Crosland. ““The [medical examiner’s] findings doesn’t cure any of 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.”

After they threatened to sue, authorities vowed last week to open a criminal probe into Smith-Fields’ sudden death, and Mayor Ganim promised to review the police handling of the matter. 

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim Suspends Cops

On Sunday, the mayor’s office announced the findings of the Internal Affairs review. 

In a written statement, Ganim said Bridgeport police had shown a “lack of sensitivity to the public and failure to follow police policy” in probing the death of Smith-Fields and 53-year-old Brenda Lee Rawls. 

Rawls was also found dead by Bridgeport authorities on Dec. 12, but they failed to notify her family as well, reports indicate. 

According to her sister, Rawls had told family members she was going to spend the night at a man’s house on Dec. 11, but never returned. 

Days later, her loved ones walked to the man’s home to look for her, but he told them he “couldn’t wake her up” the morning after she’d arrived. He called authorities, who declared Rawls dead at the scene without bothering to notify her next of kin. 

Medical examiners have yet to determine the 53-year-old’s cause of death. 

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim said city police grossly mishandled the deaths of Brenda Lee Rawls, above, and Lauren Smith-Fields.
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim said city police grossly mishandled the deaths of Brenda Lee Rawls, above, and Lauren Smith-Fields. Both women died suddenly on the same day, and police never bothered to tell their families. Photo credit: Facebook

On Sunday, Mayor Ganim said it was “unacceptable” that officers didn’t reach out to either family on Dec. 12. 

“The Bridgeport Police Department has high standards for officer sensitivity especially in matters involving the death of a family member. It is an unacceptable failure if policies were not followed,” he said in the statement

“To the families, friends and all who care about the human decency that should be shown in these situations in this case by members of the Bridgeport Police Department, I am very sorry.”

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim suspended Detective Kevin Cronin for mishandling the investigation into the death of 23-year-old Lauren Smith-Fields.
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim suspended Det. Kevin Cronin, above, and Det. Angel Llanos for mishandling the investigation into the death of 23-year-old Lauren Smith-Fields. Cronin will still receive full pay and benefits. Photo credit: City of Bridgeport

According to CNN, the senior detective tasked with supervising Llanos and Cronin escaped disciplinary action by retiring suddenly on Friday. That officer’s identity was not immediately available.