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One year ago, 17-year-old Cedric Lofton died after being held down for over 30 minutes by four workers in a juvenile detention intake facility. That wasn’t what was supposed to happen. His foster father had called 911 seeking help for Cedric, who was in a mental health crisis, expecting Cedric would be taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation. But after an altercation with Wichita police, Lofton was taken instead to Sedgwick County’s Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center (JIAC).
The Sedgwick County medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, but Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett declined to charge the JIAC workers, citing a state “stand your ground” law that allows people to defend themselves. In the year since his death, a community task force met for three months to identify what systemic problems in foster care, emergency response and law enforcement contributed to his demise. The task force issued 60 recommendations, about one-third of which have been implemented so far.
The Wichita Beacon interviewed Cedric Lofton’s older brother Mark Teetz, who is still fighting for accountability he says was never given. What follows is a transcript of the conversation, edited for clarity and length.
Can you tell me about your and Cedric Lofton’s early life?
We were both born in and from El Paso, Texas. Cedric knew his dad. He lived with us for two years, two and a half years. We were there with our biological mom. He was 3 and I was 5 (when his dad left). And then after that, we were just everywhere. From an early age, just moving around.
How did CJ get into rapping?
He used to freestyle at school just for fun, like, kids would sit at the lunch table and drum on the table and make beats with their hands. He would rap over them. He always had a crowd around him and loved to entertain people. That’s originally why he did it, because he just wanted to spread his message through music.
He just got into it because that’s what he liked. He just liked entertaining people. It was also his medicine for himself.
Was that what he wanted to do when he got out of high school?
Yeah, he was set to go to California. A lot of people were hearing his music around Wichita and a lot of people were trying to work with him. I can remember one person, he really wanted to get him to California. He wanted to help pay for everything, like, “When you’re out of school you can go straight here. You can live here for a year and see where your music takes you out here.” That was the goal right after graduation.
What do you think happened on Sept. 24, 2021?
He was going through a lot of mental stuff. I mean, 2021 was a hard year for a lot of people. And, we had just taken him to our grandmother’s funeral. Literally, just a few days before that we were at a funeral.
It’s just being in that environment. You’ve got no real family, you just feel all alone. Anybody would snap in situations like that… Most of the stuff we went through and knowing we went through it together, I’m surprised we made it as far as we did.
What do you mean by 2021 being a hard year?
Ever since 2020, with the pandemic and having to be in isolation, quarantine and a lot of people having to get more used to death. People just being alone and being to themselves, and just having been isolated during times of when we need people the most, that is why I believe the mental crisis is going on.
What do you wish had been provided for Cedric Lofton that night?
I wish the foster dad, I know he has my number, I don’t know why he didn’t contact me. I wish I got contacted by him at the very least or some kind of family. He had other people. He had a cousin. He had a couple people in our family. I wish he would have contacted us.
Instead he contacted the foster care system and they told him to call the police.
Do you feel like the foster care system should be looked at more in relation to this case?
Yes. I just have a lot of friends in foster care and any time they’re dealing with their caseworkers there’s no real love, no compassion.
What should Wichita police have done in your opinion?
They should have done what they promised him. They straight up lied to his face. They said they were going to take him to the hospital. That’s what they should have done. But they were in their feelings, or whatever, so when he fought back they wanted to take him in.
They’re trying to say he’s on drugs, OK? If he is on drugs, he still should be going to the hospital.
Do you think enough has been done in response?
Definitely not. Definitely not. I feel like some will get done. It just takes a lot of time.
I feel like, if they got a chance to do this to another kid, if they really wanted to, it could still happen. I mean, obviously they probably wouldn’t be stupid and do it again, but like, at the end of the day, it’s just like they’re protected pretty heavily.
And it’s like, they say, they feared for their life, how are you in fear for your life? If you’ve already shackled him and he’s on his stomach, on the ground, and you are on top of him for over 30 minutes, how?
How do you feel about the decision delivered based on ‘stand your ground’?
The fact that they’re supposed to be trained to handle this type of stuff, I feel like this is bullshit. And like, it just makes you wonder a lot more about the judicial system and just like what else is messed up about it. I don’t know. It’s like there was no real justice.
If we do not fight, if there is no justice, then five, 10 years down the line this is going to happen again.
What do you hope happens from all of this in the end?
More than anything, I want (the JIAC staff involved) to be punished in some way. I feel like they should be locked up or fired, but that’s just me. They all got sent on leave, but they were all being paid, so, it’s really vacation.
Like, there’s so many of these types of cases, it always takes a long time for someone to be held accountable.
What is your opinion on the racist text messages that were being passed around in some Wichita Police Department circles?
I feel like racism will always be here and that’s going to be with every generation. Hopefully one day it will stop. There has been progress but honestly, I feel like it just takes time to weed those specific types of people out.
Do you think racism played into the decisions made that night CJ was arrested?
Oh, definitely. I feel like if it had been a white child it would have been handled differently. Just by looking at the news, you see what happens to, like, school shooters that have been white and have been properly taken (in) without being killed. And yet, unarmed Black men are being killed all the time.
It’s just obvious watching the videos. You can even see it a little bit too just on the stuff they say when they get angry. I believe what’s in the heart. If it would have a white kid that night, it would have been handled differently. He would have definitely gone to the hospital.