Aug 12, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Basketball coaches charged with murder in teen's death after practice in heat

Photo of an empty basketball court
Photo: Liang Sen/Xinhua via Getty Images

Two high school basketball coaches in Georgia have been charged with murder following the death of 16-year-old Imani Bell, who collapsed after running drills in nearly 100-degree heat.

Why it matters: The murder charges are the first ever levied against coaches accused of negligence, according to a lawyer representing the family in a related lawsuit.

Driving the news: Last month, a grand jury in Clayton County indicted LaRosa Maria Walker-Asekere, the head basketball coach at Elite Scholars Academy, and Dwight Broom Palmer, the assistant basketball coach, on charges of second-degree murder, cruelty to children, involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct.

What happened: Bell, then a junior at Elite Scholars Academy, was running up football stadium steps on Aug. 13, 2019, during a practice session held in "extreme heat," per a lawsuit filed in February by the girl’s parents.

  • The temperature that day was approximately 98 degrees. The heat index temperature was between 101 and 106 degrees, according to lawyers for the family. Clayton County had issued a heat advisory for the day, they said.
  • That afternoon, Bell "struggled to run up the stadium steps as directed," the New York Times reports. At one point, she was forced to hold on to the railing to remain upright. Upon nearing the top of the steps, she collapsed and lost consciousness.
  • An ambulance arrived to transport her to the hospital, where she died later that evening.
  • A subsequent autopsy by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations found that Bell's death was "solely attributable to heatstroke caused by strenuous physical exertion in extreme temperatures," the lawsuit says.

What they're saying: "Imani Bell's name will now stand for change in sports across this country. Coaches will have to think twice about the level they are willing to push athletes to — to win," attorney Chris Stewart said during the press conference

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