by Irvin Muchnick
The father of the Garden City Community College football player who died mysteriously following the first practice of the season last August says he spoke to the chiefs of both the campus and the city police about the incident. The campus police chief referred him to the city police, and the city police chief, in turn, did not make at least one of the three follow-up contacts he promised the father.
The inactions of campus and local law enforcement are the latest evidence of a possible calculated failure to create a clear record of the August 1, 2018, fatality, the most recent in college football conditioning and at least the 36th this century.
At the time of the incident, the Garden City football team’s head coach, Jeff Sims — now at Missouri Southern State University — gave the media a misleading hearsay account of an emergency room doctor’s speculation as to the cause of death; Sims said Bradforth suffered a heart attack from a random blood clot that was “an act of God.” A November autopsy report, however, would state unequivocally that the forensic pathologist determined that the cause was exertional heat stroke.
Since then, Concussion Inc. has published hospital records, a paramedics’ report on the 911 call, and a first-day autopsy intake document by the Finney County medical examiner. In combination, they leave little doubt that the coaching and training staff were well aware that Braeden Bradforth was in deep medical distress from the heat. Specifically, the hospital records say Bradforth was found “in water,” and the paramedics document being told that the coaches directed the unresponsive student-athlete to be doused with a water hose on the grounds near the campus dormitory where he had collapsed.
Yesterday Sean Bradforth, Braeden’s father, told me of his phone conversations on January 4 both with Rodney Dozier, chief of the community college campus police, and with Michael Utz, chief of the city police. Bradforth, who had read portions of our coverage, was demanding investigations into reports that coach Sims had ordered the withholding of water from the players while they participated in rapid-repeat sprint drills in the summer heat.
“Chief Dozier said there was no report on the death of my son, which I found unbelievable,” Sean Bradforth said. “He explained that the campus force has a very small staff. He advised me to call Chief Utz of the Garden City Police Department, and I did.”
According to Bradforth, Utz said his agency, too, had no record of the death incident. But Utz said he would contact the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and also. the following week, he would call Jill Greene, the New Jersey-based lawyer of Braeden’s mother, Joanne Atkins-Ingram. Sean had told Utz that Greene had information regarding allegations that the coaches systematically refused to hydrate their players during the practice session under the August sun.
At the time, attorney Greene confirmed to me that she was standing by for a possible call from Chief Utz on January 8. The next day and at later intervals, Greene told me that Utz never called.
In an email this morning, Utz acknowledged that he never called Greene but denies that he promised Sean Bradforth that he would call her. The chief said, “I asked for her name and phone number.”
Utz added: “The Garden City Police Department currently does not have an active criminal investigation into this matter. Sean Bradforth has contacted the Chief of Police who returned his telephone call. The GCPD has inquired with other law enforcement agencies regarding the death of Braeden Bradforth. We have not contacted the Bradforth’s attorney pending additional inquiries. However, there is no additional information to release.”
Concussion Inc. also requested comment from campus police chief Dozier and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. As this article was being published, neither had responded.
DEATH OF BRAEDEN BRADFORTH — CHRONOLOGICAL HEADLINE LINKS