Two basketball coaches have been indicted for murder
and other charges after a 16-year-old girl died
practicing in extreme heat. Head coach Larosa Maria
Walker-Asekere and assistant coach Dwight Broom
Palmer were formally charged with murder, cruelty to
children, involuntary manslaughter, and reckless
conduct back on July 1, records show, but media
outlets first reported the development on Tuesday. It
is almost two years to the day since young Imani
Bell died practicing with the girls basketball team at
Elite Scholars Academy in Clayton County, Georgia.
“Due to the extreme heat and humidity outside, Imani
began experiencing early signs of heat illness and was
visibly struggling to physically perform the outdoor
conditioning drills,” said a lawsuit filed in February
and obtained by sources. “Defendants directed her to
perform. Defendants observed Imani experiencing
early signs of heat illness during the outdoor practice
but nevertheless directed Imani to continue
performing the conditioning drills with her team and
directed Imani to run up the stadium steps.”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s autopsy report
said that coaches at the scene gave Bell water as they
saw her falling behind teammates during practice,
according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The
school district, however, reportedly had a policy to
suspend outside athletic activities when heat index
reached 95 degrees. Temperatures were reportedly as
“Miss Bell attempted to run with the girls for the last
lap but was unable and did a fast paced walk,” the
report read. “One of the coaches noticed Miss Bell was
tired, so he started walking the last lap with her and
The coach accompanied her, encouraged her, and
might have physically helped her up the stairs,
“As Miss Bell neared the top … [she] leaned into the
rail and then went limp,” the report said.
Bell had no underlying conditions, her family has said.
Defendants in the lawsuit were the academy’s athletic
director, the girls’ basketball team coach, the school’s
principal, the assistant principal, and other
unidentified school officials connected to that practice
on Aug. 13, 2019, according to sources. Now
prosecutors claim that Palmer and Walker-Asekere
are criminally responsible for Bell’s death.
The 16-year-old died primarily from a heart attack she
had because of physical exertion in high temperature,
according to the GBI’s 2019 autopsy. She suffered
from hyperthermia (resulting from the body’s
inability to regulate heat) and rhabdomyolysis
(skeletal muscle breakdown), authorities said.
Records show no attorneys of record for Palmer and
Walker-Asekere. They have been released on bond.
Both declined to comment.