Transparency and cooperation remain keyWalters Appointment: A Step in the Right Direction
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) today welcomed the news that Dr. Rod Walters has been retained to lead the independent investigation into the death of Braeden Bradforth at Garden City Community College (GCCC) in Kansas.
“This is an encouraging and welcomed development, given Dr. Walters’ extensive experience both in sports medicine and in conducting investigations—including the review of football player Jordan McNair’s death at the University of Maryland,” Smith said.
In March, Smith joined Braeden’s mother Joanne Atkins-Ingram and her attorney Jill Greene in their fight for an external, independent investigation into Braeden’s death. Bradforth died on August 1, his second day on campus, having collapsed after evening football practice at GCCC. After being taken to the hospital in an ambulance, he passed away from “exertional heat stroke,” his autopsy later revealed.
After Smith pushed for weeks for an independent investigation into Braeden’s death, the college announced on May 15 that it would conduct an external investigation into Bradforth’s death, and shortly afterward contracted with the firm Lewis Brisbois regarding the investigation. Smith expressed concern about attorney Randy Aliment’s history of reviewing colleges which are already anticipating legal or government action.
“In order for this probe to find the truth, help provide Braeden’s family with some sense of closure, and reveal crucial, life-saving information about heat stroke, it absolutely must be independent and transparent,” Smith said. “Dr. Walters must have complete freedom to conduct a thorough investigation as he sees fit. We will be watching, with cautious optimism, to see to it that this is an independent process.”
“So long as the college is fully transparent and gives Dr. Walters and the other investigators complete access to records, eyewitnesses, coaches, trainers, administrators and any remaining surveillance video—we will be on a path to providing Braeden’s grieving family the information they deserve about what happened to him on the night he died,” Smith said.
After Smith met with Braeden’s mother in March, he promised to do everything he could to assist her in her efforts to find out more about her son’s death, and what actions could be taken to prevent such tragedies from happening in the future. On Friday, March 22, Smith sent a letter to Ryan Ruda, President of Garden City Community College, requesting an independent investigation into Bradforth’s death. On April 30, Smith led a letter of the entire NJ House delegation requesting an independent investigation.
It was after Smith’s letters that President Ruda reluctantly agreed to share limited details of the internal review, and even agreed to finally meet with Braeden’s mom. That meeting, however, was postponed after the college’s attorney declined to discuss some of Ms. Atkins-Ingram’s most basic questions.
After the University of Maryland football player Jordan McNair died in 2018 of heat stroke following football practice, the university commissioned an investigation led by Dr. Walters that reviewed the college’s protocols for maintaining student-athlete health and safety in light of best practices, and whether they were appropriately implemented. The report assessed the college’s Emergency Action Plan and examined documents relevant to McNair’s death, including his workout notes and medical records.