Nearly four months after a 24-year old woman died while surrounded by New Haven Police, her family fights back.
No one disputes that Lakeia “Ke Ke” Dunkley died the night of March 1, while surrounded by New Haven Police officers during a traffic stop. Dunkley turned 24 that night.However, the police and Dunkley’s family have radically different ideas about just who is to blame for her death. Her family is taking its version to U.S. District Court, having filed a lawsuit against the city earlier this month. Police stopped Dunkley on Chapel Street around 7:30 p.m. that night, according to the complaint. They ordered her out of the car. She cried profusely during the stop, but police ordered her to the rear of the vehicle, spread her legs and searched her, the lawsuit said.“Some time during the detainment, [Dunkley] collapsed,” the lawsuit said. “Despite the presence of numerous officers, there were no attempts to revive her.” The city’s Emergency Advance Unit was dispatched approximately ten minutes later, the complaint said, while Dunkley’s companion in the car was taken to police headquarters, questioned for hours and then released. New Haven Police and the city’s Corporation Counsel Thomas W. Ude Jr. did not return calls for comment. However, Assistant Police Chief Bryan Norwood told the New Haven Register in March that Dunkley died from an aneurysm and not because of any actions by the police.“As a department, we always want to express our condolences to the family,” Chief Francisco Ortiz Jr. told the Register. “It’s a tragedy.“However, the autopsy was conducted without the family’s consent, with police officers present, the lawsuit said. Dunkley had visited the doctor that same day and no medical conditions were detected.“Because of the unauthorized autopsy, the family was unable to confirm the presence of an aneurysm,” the lawsuit said. “There is no medical evidence to support the defendant City’s claim of death due to aneurysm.“Though the police said the situation was a traffic stop, the lawsuit contended that if such were the case, she would not have been pulled out of her vehicle. The police had no probable cause to search the car, the lawsuit said, and Dunkley would likely be alive had the police provided medical care in a timely manner.