Ralkina Jones: Another Black Woman Dies in Police Custody

By Kenrya Rankin Jul 28, 2015

The family of Ralkina Jones, a 37-year-old black woman who was found dead in a Cleveland Heights, Ohio, jail cell on July 26, 2015, wants to know what happened.

Jones had been arrested two days prior, following a domestic dispute with her ex-husband, Brandon Jones, outside a local Save-A-Lot grocery store. After allegedly breaking one of his car’s windows and hitting him on the arm with a tire iron, the police report says she attempted to hit Brandon and another man with her car. According to the incident report, she was arrested for felonious assault, domestic violence and child endangerment (the fight happened with her 12-year-old daughter in the vehicle). Her ex-husband decided not to press charges, but Jones was held anyway.

“I went to go see her Saturday morning. Me and my sister went to take her her medication, and we had a talk. She was fine,” Jones’ sister Renee Ashford told WOIO. It’s what happened after that visit that has her family concerned.

According to a press release issued by the Cleveland Heights Police Department, Jones was being treated for “several medical conditions”—her family says they include a brain aneurysm and a heart murmur—and officers gave her medication as prescribed. At 7:15 pm on Saturday, the jail administrator noted that Jones appeared lethargic and called medics, who took her to HealthSpan Cleveland Heights Medical Center. She was “evaluated” and released three and a half hours later. The paramedics were called again at 12:45 am on Sunday for undisclosed reasons and her vitals were normal. The department says Jones was observed overnight, then found unresponsive in her cell at about 7:35 am on Sunday morning. Paramedics who were called to the jail pronounced her dead on the spot.

Her family is concerned she wasn’t given the proper level of care. “So if she did make a mistake and make the wrong decisions, she doesn’t deserve to be neglected, knowing she has health issues,” said Jones’s sister, Rita Samuels.

Ashford said that her family has repeatedly called the police department for updates: “Every time we call we don’t get an answer and that’s the upsetting part.”

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy Monday. Results are not yet available, but the police department’s statement says that “it revealed no suspicious injuries.”

Jones’ death comes less than two weeks after Sandra Bland died in police custody in Texas. Hundreds of people die in police custody every year.