What would’ve been Lauren Smith-Fields’ 24th birthday celebration was instead a day of protest to demand answers and justice in her mysterious death. Today, approximately 100 family, friends, and activists gathered together in front of the Bridgeport, Connecticut, police department to march to the Margaret E. Morton Government Center, where they chanted “Happy Birthday, Lauren” and “Black Women Matter.”
“My daughter was a daddy’s girl,” Smith-Fields’ father, Everett Smith, said to the crowd. “To lose your daughter, your only daughter, your baby girl at the ripe age of 23 years old and to be treated the way we were treated by the Bridgeport police department is unacceptable. My daughter had a life, she traveled the world, she went to college and did tutorials on how to do hair and nails. She had a voice and that voice was stripped and the Bridgeport police station ain’t doing shit about it.”
On Dec. 12, following a Bumble date at her apartment, Smith-Fields was found unresponsive by a white man named Matthew Lafountain. Lafountain called police, reporting that Smith-Fields was unresponsive and had been bleeding from her nose. Smith-Field’s family — who learned of her death days later, after finding a note from the landlord on the door — found a used condom with semen and an unidentified pill in her apartment. They still have not received answers regarding her cause of death and describe communication with detectives as unprofessional and scarce. (Lafountain has not been charged with any crimes, and is not a suspect in the case. Rolling Stone has been unable to reach him for comment.)
The family is demanding answers from Bridgeport Police Department and are upset that they have not heard from city officials regarding the circumstances of Smith-Fields’ death. They also want an apology. The family says their frustration is rooted in the fact that the last person who saw Smith-Fields, Lafountain, was let go without further questioning and or investigation from police. They say the officers on the case have not been responding to their phone calls, and didn’t adequately examine evidence found at the scene of their daughter’s death. As of Friday, the family’s lawyer Darnell Crosland issued a letter to the Bridgeport City Clerk regarding their intent to sue.
“The police department has been racially insensitive to this family and has treated this family with no respect and has violated their civil rights,” wrote Crosland. “They have failed to investigate this matter, and they refuse to view the last person with Lauren Smith-Fields before she died as a person of interest. This behavior is unacceptable.”
Bridgeport Police Department has not responded to multiple requests for comment from Rolling Stone, but has previously issued a statement to NBC News: This investigation remains open and active. The Detective Bureau is awaiting the final report from the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office for cause and manner of death of Ms. Smith-Fields. The Bridgeport Police Department offers it’s sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Ms. Lauren Smith-Fields. We encourage anyone with information regarding this incident to contact either Detective-Sergeant Joseph Morales at 203-581-5219 or the Bridgeport Police TIPS line at 203-576-8477.”
Another family at the protest — that of Brenda Lee Rawls, 53, who died the same weekend as Smith-Fields — claim they were met with indifference by the Bridgeport PD after the untimely loss of a loved one.
“They treated my sister like a Jane Doe, like they found her on the side of the road with no identification,” said Dorothy Washington, Rawls’s sister. Similar to the Smith-Fields’ family, Rawls’s family say they received no notice or help from the Bridgeport police department.
“My family is very close and we don’t go a day without talking to each other. The last day we talked to Brenda was on Dec. 11,” Washington said. “On the 12th, she said she was going to a friend’s home to visit after that, we heard nothing from her.”
After days of calling and texting, the sister went to the man’s home that Rawls said she was visiting. “The guy said ‘Brenda? Oh, she died Sunday,’” said Washington. “‘A police officer and one coroner came to pick her up.’ My family called the hospitals, the police department and they knew nothing about her death.”
It wasn’t until the family contacted the Farmington Connecticut State Medical Examiner, that they found out where she was. Rawrs died Sunday and the family says they were informed on Tuesday. By the time they were aware, an autopsy had been conducted.
“They never called us for identification,” said Washington. “We went down there on Friday of that week and the guy at the window gave us the wrong detective’s name. That detective called me back and gave me the right detective’s name. They never started on the investigation. They never quarantined that guy’s house or questioned him. Never quarantined my sister’s apartment. I called [the detective] four or five times, he never reached out.” (Bridgeport PD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
Smith-Fields’ mother wants to create a bill in Smith-Fields’ name that will create police accountability and for families to be notified within 24 hours of the death of a loved one.
Following the protest, Smith-Fields family and friends who were dressed in her favorite color, pink, released pink balloons into the sky as a celebration for her birthday. The crowd was then invited for cake at a local restaurant in the area.
“Today would’ve been her 24th birthday. In a couple of days she would have been leaving to go to Greece to celebrate but now that was taken away from her,” said her mother, Shantell Fields. “No one is going to disparage my daughter like she’s rubbish.”
Grimes Auctioning Off Her Met Gala Accessories to Support BIPOC Families in Ukraine
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Couture for a cause.
Grimes is doing her part to support the Black, Indigenous and people of color of Ukraine by auctioning off some of her most memorable fashion accessories.
“I’m auctioning stuff from my Met gala look last year to raise money to help get BIPOC families out of Ukraine since they’re having trouble exiting at the border,” she shared in an Instagram post on May 16, adding that the auction on display at Los Angeles’ HVW8 Gallery includes “the works of 50 distinguished artists who aim to support Emergency Response & BIPOC families in and out of Ukraine.”
Explaining that each piece in the auction “offers a unique interpretation of the theme ‘resistance,'” Grimes donated a whimsical pair of earcuffs, designed by Romantic Elf Jewelry, and chrome CHRISHABANA x Dune Harkonnen face mask.
The experimental musician wore the pieces to the 2021 Met Gala back in September, along with a sheer Iris Van Herpen gown, for the event’s “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” theme. Her look—which was inspired by the 1984 cult classic Dune (and subsequent 2021 remake) based on Frank Herbert’s novel—also included a replica Medieval sword repurposed from an Colt AR-15A3. The weapon, however, is not up for auction, as its “a permanent piece” of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection.
All proceeds from the auction will go to non-profit organizations Diaspora Relief and Razom for Ukraine, which will use the funds to provide food, shelter, and evacuation support to those in need, the “Genesis” singer explained. Bidding is open exclusively on Artsy and will start closing on May 26.
Theo Wargo/Getty Images
Grimes, 34—who shares two children with ex Elon Musk—is just one of many celebs who has made efforts to help Ukraine amid Russia’s recent invasion. In March, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis shared a video to Instagram to announce that they have achieved their goal of raising $30 million to help the European country.
“Over 65,000 of you donated,” shared Mila, who moved from Ukraine to the United States in 1991. “We are overwhelmed with gratitude for the support. While this is far from a solve of the problem, our collective effort will provide a softer landing for so many people as they forge ahead into their future of uncertainty.”
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Erinn Hayes Joins Kevin Can F**k Himself After Controversial Kevin Can Wait Firing
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Erinn Hayes has entered the television multiverse.
The Childrens Hospital actress has joined the cast of the second season of AMC’s Kevin Can F**k Himself, the network confirms to E! News. On the surface, Hayes jumping onboard the Annie Murphy-starring comedy doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.
Oh, but this is no ordinary casting news!
Kevin Can F**k Himself is largely speculated to have been inspired by the CBS comedy Kevin Can Wait, which starred Kevin James and ran for two seasons from 2016 to 2018. AMC and the show’s producers have never explicitly connected the dots, but the writing is basically on the wall.
Kevin Can Wait was a traditional sitcom featuring James as a recently-retired police officer on Long Island, whereas Kevin Can F**k Himself is a meta commentary on the traditional sitcom itself, featuring Allison (Murphy) as a woman in an unhappy marriage to her husband named Kevin, all while being reduced to a secondary character in her own story.
Hayes starred on season one of the sitcom before her character Donna was killed off in the season two premiere. Hayes, who played James’ wife on the show, was effectively replaced by James’ King of Queens on-screen wife Leah Remini and the rest was history.
A short history, in fact. Kevin Can Wait was canceled after its second season.
It’s unclear who Erinn will be playing on Kevin Can F**k Himself, but if it’s anything like her dismissal from Kevin Can Wait, we’re in for some juicy drama. Hayes’ firing was met with backlash from fans, who accused the show of improperly handling her departure.
“True, I’ve been let go from the show,” Hayes tweeted at the time. “Very sad, I had a great experience season 1. Thank you for all the support from our wonderful fans.”
Despite the hate, the show’s executive producer Rob Long defended the decision.
“The goal was to give Kevin’s character a real drive and a real predicament [involving] how a family comes back together [after tragedy],” he told TVLine. “Also, out of respect for the character of Donna—and certainly the way that Erinn Hayes portrayed her—it seemed like the only right and fair way to treat her character.”
But hey, sometimes there are happy endings—even in sitcom land.
“It’s true!” Hayes tweeted about the casting news May 17. “So fun doing the show. Can’t wait for you all to see.”
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This Is Us Killed Off a Major Character in the Penultimate Episode
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We knew this was coming—but it didn’t make it any easier.
After a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s, Rebecca (Mandy Moore) passed away during the May 17 episode of This Is Us. With only one week before the May 24 series finale, Rebecca’s death felt inevitable. Nonetheless, we hoped that Rebecca would make it one more week heading into the penultimate episode. But our hope did not last, and neither did our supply of tissues.
At the start of the episode, a younger Rebecca found herself on a train—just like the one she used to take into the city with her dad on Sundays. As her health took a turn for the worse in real-time, she began to interact with deceased people from throughout her life, including second husband Miguel (Jon Huertas), Dr. K (Gerald McRaney) and Randall’s biological father William (Ron Cephas Jones), who guided her through the train.
When it came time for sons Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Kevin (Justin Hartley) to say their goodbyes, the two swapped stories about their mother. At the same time, the memories that the they discussed visualized on the train for Rebecca.
Kevin confessed that he thought a pro baseball player had a crush on their mother at an autograph signing, and Randall didn’t need any proof. “Everybody had a crush on mom,” he said.
As William attempted to get Rebecca to enter the final train car, she stopped and said, “No, I told you I’m waiting for someone.” That’s when Kate (Chrissy Metz), who had been hustling to get back from a trip in time to say goodbye, made it to her mother’s bedside.
Kate tearfully told her mother, “I’m here. I love you, Mom. I love you so much.” When Rebecca heard Kate’s words over the train’s speakers, she knew that Kate made it, giving William the go-ahead to enter the final car.
With tears streaming, Randall said his final words. “I want to say the perfect thing to you, Mom. But I’m not sure what that is,” he said. “I don’t even know if you can hear me. I love you, Mom. We’re good now. You made us good. Thanks for all the meals. Thank you for always making us feel loved.”
In the train’s caboose, William gave his sage wisdom to Rebecca about death not being the end—but rather a brand new start.
“If you step back and look at the whole picture, if you’re brave enough to allow yourself the gift of a really wide perspective,” he encouraged her, “if you do that, you’ll see that the end is not sad, Rebecca. It’s just the start of the next incredibly beautiful thing.”
William then left Rebecca alone and…it happened. She lay down on a bed and next to her, of course, was first husband Jack (Milo Ventimiglia). The two said a simple “hey” to each other because, after all this time, what else needed to be said?
The episode also introduced us to the Brooks family, with patriarch Dulé Hill. In a flashback car crash, his son Marcus was critically injured. It just so happened to be the same night that Jack died due to smoke inhalation after setting the Pearson house on fire. Before Jack passed away, however, the two fathers had a chance encounter, in which Jack gifted him with Dr. K’s advice from 18 years prior: “There’s no lemon so sour that you can’t make something resembling lemonade.”
We later learned that Marcus, who survived, went on to to create a landmark Alzheimer’s drug, the disease that took Rebecca’s life.
We’ll need some time to recover, but in the meantime, we’ll use the wise words of William to carry us forward: “If something makes you sad when it ends, it must have been pretty wonderful when it was happening.”
The series finale of This Is Us airs May 24 at 9 p.m. on NBC.
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