Larosa Walker-Asekere and Dwight Palmer charged with murder and child cruelty in death of Imani Bell teen basketball player. Coaches argued to have acted recklessly.
Imani Bell collapsed while taking part in outdoor basketball conditioning drills at Elite Scholars Academy on Aug. 13, 2019.
In July, an Atlanta-area grand jury indicted Larosa Walker-Asekere and Dwight Palmer on second degree murder, child cruelty in the second degree, involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct. According to Bell’s family, Walker-Asekere and Palmer were two of her coaches.
Earlier this year, the family filed a lawsuit against the team’s coach, the athletic director, principal and assistant principal of Elite Scholars Academy among others as negligent parties in her death.
The high school student died later that day of heat-related cardiac arrest and kidney failure, according to the suit.
Coaches insist on teen performing drills despite illness
Bell’s parents said the 16-year-old teen was forced to perform conditioning drills outdoors on one of the hottest days of the summer, despite the teen student exhibiting signs of illness, WSB-TV reported.
A Georgia Bureau of Investigation autopsy from 2019 indicated Bell suffered from hyperthermia and rhabdomyolysis after exercising in temperatures that reached as high as 100 degrees fahrenheit (38 degrees celsius).
The conditioning drills may have violated the county’s guidelines on outdoor workouts, Channel 2 previously reported.
Eric Bell, Imani’s father, said the coaches were negligent and that someone needed to be held accountable. He said he is a coach as well and would never send his students into the searing heat that led to his daughter’s death.
‘The assistant coach saw Imani struggling and how hot it was and did not stop the practice,’ family attorney Justin Miller 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.
Miller says the charges are huge news since coaches aren’t usually charged after incidents like this.
‘This is only the second time in history a coach has been charged in this way and the first time a coach has ever been charged with murder,’ he said.
Miller says her family keeps thinking about Imani’s potential and what could have been.
‘She was taking college classes in high school so she had enough credits. She probably would have been a sophomore on her first day of college,’ he said.