Two Atlanta-area high school basketball coaches were charged with second-degree murder after the August 2019 heat-related death of a 16-year-old, according to court records.
imani bell was a junior at the elite academics academy (esa) in clayton county and played varsity girls’ basketball. She was participating in mandatory outdoor conditioning drills in “extreme heat” the afternoon she collapsed after running up the steps of the football stadium, according to a lawsuit filed in February by attorneys for the Bell family.
Reading: Basketball coach charged with murder
a clayton county grand jury indicted her trainer larosa maria walker-asekere and her assistant dwight broom palmer in july with second-degree murder, saying, “regardless of malice, they caused the death of lmani bell, a human being.”
They were also charged with second-degree child cruelty, manslaughter and reckless conduct, court records show.
The outside temperature at the time of bell’s death was between 92 and 97 degrees, with a heat index between 101 and 103 degrees and a humidity level between 40 and 55%, according to the autopsy report by the georgia bureau of investigation.
Bell’s cause of death was classified as “hyperthermia and rhabdomyolysis during physical exertion at high ambient temperatures,” and no pre-existing conditions were found, according to the report. at the time, the manner of death was considered accidental.
Bell’s father, Eric, told reporters Wednesday that while he and the family are grateful to Clayton County District Attorney Tasha Mosley for pressing charges, the family is still grieving.
“it’s refreshing, but at the same time we want to keep fighting for justice,” said eric.
the bell family’s attorney, justin miller, added that it was a “historic day” for this type of case. “As far as we know, this is the first time in history that, in a case like this, murder charges have been filed against the trainers, who were negligent,” Miller said.
miller said the purpose of the lawsuit is to make sure this doesn’t happen to any other children.
the bell family filed a civil lawsuit earlier this year alleging that the coaches and administrators of that did not follow the safety guidelines established by the clayton county school board and the public school system’s heat index policy of clayton county.
“coaches will have to think twice about the level to which they are willing to push athletes to win,” said the family’s second attorney, chris stewart.
asekere’s attorneys denied the accusations against her and argued that she “was on her first day coaching the women’s basketball team, and she trusted the direction of the athletic director and the staff of the elite academic academy to carry out this conditioning activity. according to court documents.
CNN has attempted to contact Palmer’s attorney, Camelil Reddick, for comment. When CNN called Palmer’s phone number, a man said “no comment” and hung up. CNN has also reached out to Walker-Asekere and attorney Brian Spears for comment.
Calls to Clayton County Public Schools have not been returned at this time. CNN has also reached out to the Clayton County District Attorney and has not received a response.
walker-asekere and palmer are scheduled to be indicted on October 18, 2021.
CNN’s Gregory Lemos contributed to this report.