2:06 PM PDT, August 12, 2021
Two years ago, 16-year-old student athlete Imani Bell suffered from heat stroke during an outdoor basketball practice in Atlanta and died. Now, her two high school coaches are being charged with murder in connection to her death.
Larosa Maria Walker-Asekere and Dwight Broom Palmer have both been charged with second-degree murder, second-degree child cruelty, involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct. They were released on a $75,000 bond.
“Coaches will have to think twice about the level that they are willing to push athletes to to win,” Bell’s family attorney Chris Stewart said in a press conference. “These people didn’t follow the rules. They’re being held accountable.”
Walker-Asekere had reportedly started a new job just one year after Imani’s death, in August 2020, as a math teacher with Main Street Academy in College Park, WXIA reported. Following her arrest and indictment in July, she reportedly posted a video, welcoming her students back for the 2021 to 2022 year, according to WXIA.
Main Street Academy announced the firing of an 8th grade teacher, citing a violation in the school’s code of ethics, in a statement to parents shortly after WXIA reached out to the school, asking if they knew about Walker-Asekere’s charges. However, they did not specify which teacher and declined comment to WXIA, citing “pending litigation.”
Imani, who was a junior at Elite Scholars Academy, had been climbing stadium stairs during conditioning drills in 98-degree heat when she collapsed, Clayton News Daily reported.
She died at the hospital of hyperthermia and rhabdomyolysis, according to Atlanta Journal-Constitution, citing a grand jury indictment. An autopsy reported that she “died of a heatstroke caused by strenuous physical exertion in extreme temperatures,” WGCL reported, citing a lawsuit.
Bell’s father, Eric Bell, said he is also a sports coach and cancelled his practice that day as it was too hot, WXIA reported.
Neither Palmer nor Walker-Asekere have an attorney listed. Both have declined to comment to other media outlets.
The school also declined to comment, citing “personal matters” and “pending/ongoing litigation” in a statement.