ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) — In a case that is getting national attention, two Clayton County coaches are facing murder charges two years after high school basketball player Imani Bell, 16, died during practice. Her family’s attorneys say it could set a precedent for how future cases like this are handled.
Her father, Eric Bell, and the attorneys responded to the murder charges filed by the Clayton County District Attorney against Elite Scholars Academy coaches Dwight Palmer and Larosa Walker-Asekere. “The family is still grieving, so we want to just thank the lawyers involved, Clayton County involved, and for the love and support we’ve received from around the nation,” said Bell. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time in history in a case like this that murder charges have been brought against the coaches,” said Justin Miller, one of the attorneys and a partner of Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys.READ MORE: Sarasota County Sheriff's Office Received Funding For A High Visibility Enforcement Initiative
They blame the coaches for Imani’s sudden death during a basketball practice in 2019. The team was instructed to run in extremely hot weather, and Bell collapsed and died. “My wife’s birthday was a couple of days ago. Imani’s death date is August 13th,” Bell said during the press conference, which was held two days before the two year anniversary of her death. “Clearly this case is bigger than just the two coaches, which is why we filed a civil suit. We are trying to hold the whole school accountable,” said L. Chris Stewart, another partner with the firm, referencing the civil suit filed earlier this year.READ MORE: Polk County School Cafeteria Worker Arrested for Murdering Boyfriend
Asekere’s attorney declined to comment on the murder charges. His response to the civil case indicates it was her first day as coach for the girl’s basketball team, that she was counting on the direction of the athletic director and that she was eight months pregnant at the time. The public defender’s office representing Palmer referred CW69 to their state office, where we were unable to reach anyone for comment.
Attorneys say the case could make schools around the country rethink their practicing procedures. “You have coaches that want to win more than take care of these children,” Miller said. “Imani Bell’s name will now stand for change in sports across this country,” said Stewart.MORE NEWS: Man Taken Into Custody After Barricading Himself Inside His Home
Clayton County Public Schools indicated it does not comment on personnel matters or pending litigation.