2 coaches charged with murder, child cruelty in Clayton County basketball player’s death

CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. — A grand jury has indicted two coaches in the death of a Clayton County basketball player who died after participating in workout drills during extreme heat.

Imani Bell collapsed while taking part in outdoor basketball conditioning drills at Elite Scholars Academy on Aug. 13, 2019.

In July, the 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.

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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.

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. The heat index made it even hotter.

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A Georgia Bureau of Investigation autopsy from 2019 indicated Bell suffered from hyperthermia and rhabdomyolysis after exercising in temperatures that reached as high as 97 degrees with a heat index of 103 degrees.

The conditioning drills may have violated the county’s guidelines on outdoor workouts, Channel 2 previously reported.

Eric Bell, Imani’s father, told Channel 2′s Tom Jones 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,” attorney Justin Miller said.

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.

But he says it won’t being Imani back. Miller says her family keeps thinking about her 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.

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