Coaches charged with murder in heat-related death of Georgia high school basketball player
Two Georgia basketball coaches have been charged with second-degree murder, second-degree child cruelty, involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct in the 2019 death of high school player Imani Bell.
Per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a grand jury concluded that coaches Larosa Maria Walker-Asekere and Dwight Broom Palmer were culpable after allegedly “conducting outdoor conditioning training for student athletes in dangerous heat, resulting in the death of Imani Bell due to hyperthermia and rhabdomyolysis,” a muscle fiber injury condition that can lead to kidney failure.
Autopsy: Bell collapsed near top of stairs, later died
Bell was a 16-year-old student-athlete at the Elite Scholars Academy in Clayton County, located just south of Atlanta. She collapsed on Aug. 13, 2019 and later died after running basketball drills outside while the heat index was 106 degrees, according to the Journal-Constitution. Per an autopsy report, her death occurred after running laps and stadium stairs with her teammates. The autopsy report ruled her death an "accident."
Per the autopsy report, obtained by the Journal-Constitution:
“Miss Bell attempted to run with the girls for the last lap but was unable and did a fast paced walk. One of the coaches noticed Miss Bell was tired, so he started walking the last lap with her and encouraged her. …
“A coach was with her, encouraged her and may have physically assisted her up the stairs. As Miss Bell neared the top … (she) leaned into the rail and then went limp.”
Coaches provided Bell with water, according to the report.
According to the Journal-Constitution, school district policy requires outdoor athletic activities to be suspended when the heat index reaches 95 degrees.
The attorney for Bell's family Justin Miller identified Walker-Asekere as the head coach of the girls basketball team and Palmer as an assistant. Both were present and in charge of practice that day, according to Miller.
The grand jury indictment was made July 1. News of the decision went public Tuesday. Bell's family filed a wrongful-death civil suit against the Elite Scholars coaching staff and the school district in February. The district declined comment to the Associated Press on Tuesday. Both coaches, who were released on bond, declined comment to Atlanta's 11 Alive.
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