In the months since Lauren Smith-Fields was found unresponsive in her Bridgeport, Conn., apartment, the question of what happened to the 23-year-old has added to long-simmering anger over the way America talks about—or doesn’t talk about—dead or missing Black women and girls.
Bumble, an older white gentleman who lived in the home of the female college student for the night, was the last to be able to visit her. Smith-Fields had blood on her nose and he called the police Dec. 12. The Smith-Fields family has said that when they searched the home after her death, they recovered a used condom, a pill and bloody sheets—evidence, they AllergyThe Bridgeport police never conducted a proper search of the area. Family is Planning currently on suing the city, and family members have accused the department of violating their civil rights, mishandling the investigation and not notifying them that Lauren had died—a fact they only became aware of after finding a note left by her landlord on her apartment door.
In a statement released on Jan. 30, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim expressed his disappointment in the department’s handling of the case: “I want you to know that I am extremely disappointed with the leadership of the Bridgeport Police Department and find actions taken up to this point unacceptable.” Ganim went on to apologize, writing “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.” No arrests have yet been made.
Smith-Fields’ autopsy results Clearly indicatedThe cause of her death was an assortment of Promethazine and fentanyl are also available. Family and friends insist she never used drugs. “The idea that the medical examiners will say this was an accidental overdose leads people to believe that she was using drugs, and just took too much,” the family’s lawyer, Darnell D. Crosland, told Lola Ogunnaike as part of a TIME video report. “That’s a misconception. She wasn’t using drugs and took too much. She doesn’t use drugs.”
Out of frustration, several TikTok creators have used the platform to bring national attention to Smith-Fields’ case, calling out what’s known as “Missing White Woman Syndrome”: the media’s over-representation of missing and murdered white women in contrast to women of color. Indeed, the online campaign was successful.A major news outlet picked the story up, as was no doubt. Soon after, the Bridgeport Police Department with support from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced that the investigation would become a criminal case.Two detectives were involved in an investigation into internal affairs. In relation to the handling of Lauren SmithFields’ deaths and Brenda Rawls’ death, Brenda Rawls was a 53 year-old Black woman that died in Bridgeport in mysterious circumstances on the same day SmithFields. A Bridgeport police officer who was a supervisor on Smith-Fields’ case has also since retired. However, the police have not yet commented. CitationThe ongoing investigations into personnel.
Lola Ogunnaike looks at “Missing White Woman Syndrome” and the role social media played in shining a light on Lauren Smith-Fields’ case for TIME, through conversations with true crime TikTok creators Haley Toumaian Melissa Ellen, assistant professor of criminal Justice at Sacramento State University Danielle Slakoff; Journalist and founder of this website ‘Our Black Girls’Erika Marie, lawyer for Smith-Fields families Darnell D.crosland and Lauren’s close friend, Veronica De Leon. —Lola Ogunnaike reports