As the mother of a former Garden City Community College football player continues to question what role current Missouri Southern coach Jeff Sims may have played the day her son died, a New Jersey senator has called on the Kansas Attorney General’s Office to help provide answers.
Joanne Atkins-Ingram’s son, Braeden Bradforth, died two days after he left his Neptune, New Jersey, hometown to start his college football career in Garden City, Kansas, where Sims was then head coach. Bradforth's death occurred less than two hours after he partook in a conditioning workout at Broncbuster Stadium on the night of Aug. 1, 2018, the team's second practice of the day.
In late November an autopsy report concluded Bradforth — a 19-year-old 300-pound lineman — died from exertional heat stroke, a condition that could come as a result of circumstances such as strenuous activity in hot or humid conditions; dehydration; poor physical condition; and sleep deprivation.
“Based on all of the facts we’ve gathered since the day my son died, I believe his death was absolutely preventable,” Atkins-Ingram said in an interview with the Globe last week. “Those responsible should be held accountable and be made an example of, but not much has come from the school, law enforcement or anything in the last six months.”
New Jersey Senator Vin Gopal did his part recently to try to get the needle moving, noting that the family was from his legislative district.
On Thursday, the Globe obtained a letter Gopal sent to Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt on Jan. 27, in which Gopal requested Schmidt “help this community and Braeden’s family find both closure and justice.”
Gopal suggested the help should come in the form of an independent investigation into Bradforth’s death, as well as the professional practices of Sims, the Garden City coaching staff and the athletics department.
“This matter needs the force, authority and expertise that only the Kansas Attorney General’s Office can provide,” Gopal wrote in his letter to Schmidt. “Braeden’s death was entirely preventable. Not only does Braeden and his family deserve justice, but every athlete attending Garden City Community College deserves to know that the school’s leadership will put the health and safety of its students before all else.”
Gopal also wrote of Bradforth, "His time was cut short by what may have been a carelessness and a callous disregard for safety by those who were entrusted to care for him.” Gopal cited the conditioning test that players were put through on the night Bradforth died, which involved running 36 sprints of 50 yards and finishing each in eight seconds or less in the heat of August.
"Exertional heat stroke should never be fatal," Gopal continued. "Had appropriate measures been taken to treat him, Braeden’s death may have been entirely preventable. We know some details surrounding Braeden’s death, but truthfully, we do not know enough."
On Thursday, the Globe learned that the Kansas Attorney General has declined to take up the case.
“We have responded to New Jersey State Senator Gopal’s letter and let him know that the circumstances surrounding Braeden’s death are not within the civil investigative purview of the Kansas Attorney General," the statement said. "Under Kansas law, any criminal review of this situation would fall within the authority of local law enforcement agencies and the Finney County Attorney.”
Garden City announced in a press release on Dec. 5 that it would conduct its own internal review to get a better understanding of what happened on the day of Bradforth’s death, but findings from the review have yet to be released by the school.
Atkins-Ingram’s attorney, Jill Greene, said she contacted Garden City Community College attorney Randall Grisell and requested documents relating to the internal review. Greene indicated that the report is done, but it has not been released to the public. Grisell, responding to Greene, denied her request on the grounds of the review records being “attorney work product” due to the possibility of litigation by Bradforth’s family. The school also cited the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act when denying Greene's request.
Greene said she thought the justification for not releasing the review was "without merit."
The family also was seeking any security camera footage that may help explain what happened, but has been told the college that none existed from the area where Bradforth was found.
Globe requests for the internal review also have gone unanswered.
Atkins-Ingram said she and Greene are still considering a lawsuit, but nothing has been filed to this point.
Phone messages left with Sims and Garden City Community College officials were not returned on Thursday. Sims told the Globe previously that he had been advised by both schools not to comment on the matter.