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Family Reacts to New Criminal Charges Against Coaches In Girl's 2019 Heat-Related Death
Two Clayton County high school basketball coaches have been indicted on criminal charges of second degree murder, second degree child cruelty, involuntary manslaughter, and reckless conduct.
Last month, a grand jury indicted Elite Scholars Academy coaches Larosa Walker-Asekere and Dwight Broom Palmer in the death of 16-year-old Imani Bell. The student collapsed during practice on Aug. 13, 2019, and later died from exhaustion caused by doing exercise in extreme heat, an autopsy by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation determined.
The heat index was over 100 degrees on the day Imani Bell died, and a heat advisory had been issued in Clayton County.
Imani’s father, Eric Bell, said that even though he's also a basketball coach, the actions of his daughter’s coaches don’t make sense.
“It’s just unbelievable," he said. "I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I couldn’t grasp it — the idea that someone would have their child, the team, out in this extreme heat."
Bell’s family also filed a civil suit against the coaches earlier this year. The family alleges that under Georgia High School Association policy, the mandatory outdoor practice in which Imani died should have never happened.
The complaint also asserts that ESA failed to follow the GHSA's mandate that practices or conditioning drills for the girls basketball team were not to begin until Oct. 21, 2019.
Attorney Chris Stewart is representing the Bell family in court. He said this case is more than a local sports issue.
“Imani Bell’s name will now stand for change in sports across this country,” Stewart said. "Coaches will have to think twice about the level that they’re willing to push athletes to win."