A grand jury has charged two coaches with murder and child cruelty in the death of a Georgia high school basketball player who suffered a heat stroke after practicing outdoors in nearly 100F (38C) weather, an attorney for the player’s family said Tuesday.
The Atlanta-area grand jury indicted Larosa Walker-Asekere and Dwight Palmer last month, according to court records and news outlets.
Imani Bell, a 16-year-old junior at Elite Scholars Academy in Clayton county, just south of Atlanta, was participating in drills for the girls’ basketball team in August 2019, when she collapsed after running up the football stadium steps, according to a lawsuit her family filed in February against administrators at the school. The temperature was in the high 90s fahrenheit (more than 35C), and the area was under a heat advisory.
Imani died later that day of heat-related cardiac arrest and kidney failure, according to the suit.
Justin Miller, an attorney for the girl’s family, said Tuesday that the indictment “sends a signal that the DA is taking this seriously.” His office had received a copy of it.
But he added that he wants to see the case move ahead “swiftly.”
“The point of the case is the prosecution, not just the charges,” he said.
Miller identified Walker-Asekere as the head basketball coach and Palmer as an assistant, and he said both were on site at the time and in charge of the children.
Court records do not list an attorney for either defendant. Messages for attorneys listed for Walker-Asekere in a separate case were not immediately returned.
The family’s lawsuit says school officials violated a Georgia High School Association rule banning outdoor practices in weather conditions such as those that Imani faced. It also says they never properly measured the temperature in advance.
The school district declined comment.