What is a nice guy? The despicable treatment of Lauren Smith-Fields and Brenda Rawls TRIGGER WARNING
Officers of the Bridgeport PD in Connecticut, NY are under fire for the gross mishandling of the deaths of two separate women: Lauren Smith-Fields, 23 and Brenda Rawls, 53. Despite being eerily similar these cases are unrelated, yet linked in the ways that their names and their families have been treated with the utmost disrespect at the hands of the police and the men involved in their deaths. Families of both women gathered at a rally against the police department on what would have been Smith-Fields 24th birthday.
Both of these women were last seen on dates with men, men who both told the police they found each woman dead in the morning. Families of both women have been dismissed by police and ignored by recommended detectives. Both incidents happened on December 12th 2021 and both families, more than six weeks later, are still waiting for proper investigations to begin. The police didn’t even take the clothes and shoes of Brenda Rawls for evidence - it was retrieved by her family when they took it upon themselves to go to the home of the man with whom Brenda was on a date with to ask her whereabouts, after two days had passed since their date and nobody had heard from Brenda. The police did not contact her family.
Matthew LaFountain is the Bumble date who ‘found’ Lauren Smith-Fields. Her family found a plethora of damning evidence at her home such as, used condoms, lubricant, bloody sheets and an unidentified pill: the police had no interest in any of these items.
When Smith-Fields brother, Lakeem, asked the detective his thoughts on LaFountain the detective responded with ‘he was a very nice guy and they weren't looking into him anymore.’ Lakeem was then told to stop contacting the officer and hung up on.
But what makes LaFountain ‘seem like a nice guy’? Surely anybody who was the only other person present at such a telling scene would be a suspect? It needs to be acknowledged that LaFountain is a 37 year old, white, design engineer and Smith-Fields is a young Black woman - time and time again we see the honorary code of white privilege protecting key suspects. He claims to have found her unresponsive with a bloody nose in the morning. A medical examiner ruled the death as an accident due to acute intoxication as Smith-Fields was under the influence of popular date-rape drugs Fentanyl, Promethazine, Hydroxizine and alcohol.
It is high time that society realises that anybody can be a suspect. It doesn’t matter their race, profession, how they speak, how they dress, what car they drive, where they were educated: ANYBODY can have tendencies that seem unimaginable.
It is not an officer’s job to assess who seems like a ‘nice guy’ it is their job to do their due diligence and rule out all possibilities, examine all evidence and ultimately the goal should always be to get the highest form of justice for the victim.
This case is also a comment on how Black women are valued in today’s society. Many have compared these cases to the awful case that occurred last year where Gabby Petito was killed while on a road trip by her partner, Brian Laundrie. This case was a global headline and had police investigating it relentlessly for weeks. This is how a case should be handled at all times but all too often Black women are overlooked.
“When a white woman goes missing, the whole world drops everything. We are done with this valuation,” said Darnell Crossland, family lawyer of the Smith-Fields’.
Since the rally, Bridgeport police officers involved have been placed on leave while the mishandling of these cases is investigated and hopefully, rectified.
We send our prayers out to the families of all of the women mentioned in this article: Lauren Smith-Fields, Brenda Rawls and Gabby Petito.
(Linked names are so you can donate to help the families complete their investigations and get the answers they deserve.)
If you have been affected by sexual violence please use these resources below:
National Hotline 800-565-HOPE
The Survivors Trust (US)
Free helpline: 08088 010818
Rape Crisis England and Wales
Supportline: 0845 30 30 900