Coaches charged with murder in heat death of Georgia student
JONESBORO, Ga. (AP) — 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 100-degree 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, was participating in required conditioning drills for the girls’ basketball team on August 13, 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 35 degrees Celsius), 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, and Clayton County prosecutors did not immediately return an email seeking that information and details about the indictment. Messages for attorneys listed for Walker-Asekere in a separate case were also 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.