The following represents the full letter Acting Police Chief Rebeca Garcia issued to the Board of Police Commission Chair Daniel Roach surrounding the timeline of events and actions she has taken into the deaths of Lauren Smith-Fields and Brenda Rawls.
TO: Daniel Roach
Board of Police Commissioner Chairperson
FROM: Rebeca Garcia
Acting Chief of Police
DATE: February 7, 2022
SUBJECT: Timeline of Events
Firstly, I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for your supportive comments quoted in the CT Post article on January 24, 2022. This specific article notated that you “have a lot of questions” concerning the ongoing investigation into two (2) untimely deaths which occurred on December 12, 2021, in the City of Bridgeport.
Pursuant to your request during our conversation today coupled with your public statement noting questions that you have, the following will serve as a detailed timeline of events relative to the actions of this office regarding the untimely deaths of Ms. Lauren Smith-Fields and Ms. Brenda Rawls.
On or about December 29th, I met with Deputy Chief Baraja and Lieutenant Lamaine in my office where they briefed me on what had occurred surrounding the untimely death of Ms. Lauren Smith-Fields and the related concerns raised. After being briefed on this matter, I advised both the Deputy Chief, who oversees the Detective Bureau, and the Detective Bureau Lieutenant of the following:
1. Detective Cronin was to be removed from the investigation in order to have someone assigned who was able to have open communication with the family
2. Another investigator was to be assigned
3. A canvass of the neighborhood was to be conducted
4. A follow-up with the family was to take place
I also advised both Deputy Chief Baraja and Lieutenant Lamaine that I was going to order an Internal Affairs investigation concerning the actions or inactions of Detective Cronin relative to this matter.
Immediately following the December 29, 2021, briefing with the aforementioned, I sent a directive to Sergeant Tjuana Bradley-Webb, who was overseeing Internal Affairs at the time, ordering her to open an investigation into the “actions or inactions of Detective Kevin Cronin regarding the untimely death investigation of Ms. Lauren Smith-Fields”.
I was also advised during this meeting that there was a second untimely death of Ms. Brenda Rawls on the same date of Ms. Lauren Smith-Fields, December 12, 2021. There was question as to whether notification had been made to the family. Lt. Lamaine advised that he would address this matter by looking into it further and filing a personnel complaint against Detective LLanos.
On January 3, 2022, I forwarded a similar request to Sergeant Tjuana Bradley-Webb, overseer of Internal Affairs, instructing that an investigation be opened into the actions or inactions of this Detective as well. At the same time, a personnel complaint was completed by Detective Bureau Sergeant Cosgrove and forwarded up the chain of command to my attention. After reviewing the document, it was decided that it would be returned to Sergeant Cosgrove for further information.
The personnel complaint against Detective Llanos was returned to my office, reviewed and forwarded to the Office of Internal Affairs for review. The investigator concurred with the findings however did not interview the detective therefore, it was returned for interview purposes. Currently this investigation and the investigation of Detective Cronin are at the Office of Internal Affairs.
As has been widely publicized, I did leave for a long-awaited and planned vacation on Thursday, January 27, 2022. Prior to leaving the state, I placed Deputy Chief Baraja in charge of the police department. I also took the following actions to make certain that should anything further arise during my absence, it would be properly addressed. I also participated in two conference calls with the Mayor and his staff regarding inquiries which had been made regarding Ms. Smith-Fields’ untimely death:
1. On December 29, 2021, I initiated an Internal Affairs investigation concerning the action or inactions of the initial detective (Cronin) who responded to the scene following the death of Lauren Smith-Fields.
2. On January 24, 2022, the Detective Bureau received the Medical Examiner’s toxicology report, which was the final report we had been awaiting relative to the passing of Ms. Smith-Fields. The ruling of the Medical Examiner was that the death of Ms. Lauren Smith-Fields was accidental and a result of a drug overdose. This information was shared with the family by the medical examiner’s office and subsequently with the administration and public.
3. Due to the findings that Ms. Smith-Fields’ death was related to a drug overdose, to include Fentanyl, the Bridgeport Police Department, in an effort to identify the factors that led to her death, engaged partnering agencies in an ongoing drug-related investigation. Although the death has been ruled accidental, the Bridgeport Police Department and our partners are continuing the investigation concerning potential criminal violations involving the sale of illegal drugs. Due to this being an ongoing investigation, we are unable to divulge any further details on this investigation.
4. In relation to point #3, on January 25th, the Mayor’s Communications Office issued a statement on my behalf. The statement indicated that the Police Department’s efforts would be refocused to the factors which led to Lauren Smith Field’s death.
5. On Tuesday, January 25, 2022, I participated in a telephone conference call with Mayor Ganim, City Attorney Christopher Meyer, Chief of Staff Dan Shamas and Media Person Rowena White. During this conversation several questions were asked on behalf of Attorney Crosland, who represents the family of Ms. Smith-Fields, via Mayor Ganim. These inquiries were made and answered by me. I was advised that a meeting would be taking place with Attorney Crosland, Mayor Ganim, and either myself or a representative from the department. At that time, I advised everyone on the call that I was leaving the state on Thursday and not returning until the following Thursday. All were notified that Deputy Chief Baraja would be the contact person for the PD during my absence. I was informed that Attorney Crosland would be leaving on vacation on that Monday. No further plans for a meeting were relayed or made. Be advised that this was not the first discussion engaged in with members of the administration to clarify inquiries made.
6. On January 26th during my Command Staff meeting, I informed those in attendance via zoom that I would be away from the 27th and returning February 2nd. I further informed the command staff that Deputy Chief Baraja would be overseeing the department during that time. Later that afternoon I sent out an “all commands” to the department indicating that I would be out of office beginning the 27th and that Deputy Chief Baraja would be overseeing the department. Not only did I send out an “all commands” for in-house personnel, I sent an e-mail to the Administration to include Mayor Ganim, Dan Shamas, Janene Hawkins, Rowena White, members of the City Attorneys’ Office, etc. advising that I would be out of the office and that Deputy Chief Baraja was the contact person in my absence. Also, provided was a contact number for Deputy Chief Baraja. Additionally, I marked my emails with an “out of office” response with the message that Deputy Chief Baraja was to be contacted in my absence as well as left a message on my voicemail to indicate the same.
7. There are also several persons assigned to my office who have access to me via personal cell phone including but not limited to my administrative assistant and aide. The aforementioned practice has been implemented and followed by me. I do not recall my predecessor affording the same resources. Any suggestion made that I was not available or could not be reached was categorically false.
8. I left the state for the pre-planned vacation on January 27th and did not speak with anyone from the City of Bridgeport until Monday, January 31st.
9. On Sunday the 30th at approximately 9:30pm, I received an email from a private person informing me that the issue in Bridgeport had generated national attention. Due to the hour, I would not be able to reach anyone in the office at that time.
10. On the morning of January 31st, I contacted Mr. Shamas, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, and Deputy Chief Baraja regarding the decision made to place both Detective Cronin and Detective Llanos on administrative leave as well as the mayor’s statement regarding the leadership within the police department. Presumably, Deputy Chief Baraja took this action as the individual in charge of the Police Department. Since my return I have made no effort to countermand this order as a grievance has already been filed by the Union and forwarded to Labor Relations. I was neither consulted nor did I have any input in advance of this order being issued. To reiterate, both investigations had already been ordered by me and were in the process of investigation prior to my documented time off.
11. I returned to the office on Thursday, February 3rd and have been briefed on the decisions made during my absence and updated on the pending matters by Deputy Chief James Baraja.
Be advised that Investigative Services, also identified as the Detective Bureau, comes under the purview of Deputy Chief Baraja. He is and was, prior to my scheduled time off, intimately familiar with the details of the Lauren Smith-Fields and Brenda Rawls investigations. He was a participant in briefing me on these incidents with Lieutenant Lamaine prior to my scheduled time off. He was also familiar with the fact that I had ordered investigations to be conducted by the Office of Internal Affairs regarding these two matters therefore, he was the appropriate person to have as the point person during my absence.
I assure you and the members of the Police Commission that these investigations, which I initiated, will be thorough, professional, without political influence and will be conducted based on the requirements of due process and the rule of law. As police chief, I give you my personal commitment that there will be no influence on the outcome of these investigations and the correlating reports neither by me nor anyone else that is not a part of the investigating source (OIA). The investigation will be fair and impartial to all involved. Final reports will be compiled at completion of the investigations.
As required by Chapter 13, Section 5(7) of the City Charter, when the investigation is complete, I will “report the results” of the investigation to the Board of Police Commissioners. This procedure is appropriate not only because of the requirements of the City Charter but based upon your powers and prerogatives as Police Commissioners pursuant to CGS section 7-276, which gives you the ‘general management and supervision’ of the Police Department.
I look forward to meeting with you in the near future should you have any further questions, understanding that these are ongoing investigations, and they must be handled thoroughly and without compromise.
Thank you for your attention. If I could be of further assistance, please feel free to contact me.
A/Chief of Police