An Ohio woman died while in police custody in the Cleveland Heights jail early on Sunday morning. Ralkina Jones, 37, was picked up after a domestic dispute in a parking lot with her ex-husband on Friday night.
According to the incident report, Jones drove to a local business and smashed the driver’s side window a Ford Expedition belonging to her ex-husband, Brandon Jones. She also attempted to smash the windshield of the vehicle. Police say that when her ex-husband came outside to the parking lot to try to stop her, Jones scratched his face and hit him with a tire iron, causing a 2- to 3-inch cut. Family members told local media that the incident occurred at her ex-husband's place of work.
After her ex-husband got the tire iron away from Jones and walked away from the fight with a friend, Jones got back in her car and tried to run over the two men. Jones’s 12-year-old daughter, Kayla, was in the backseat of her car during the incident.
An independent witness at the scene corroborated Brandon Jones’s version of the dispute. However, according to the incident report, Jones told police that he didn’t want to press charges against his ex-wife.
Ralkina Jones was arrested and charged with felonious assault, domestic violence, and child endangerment. She was then taken to Cleveland Heights jail.
According to a press release issued by the Cleveland Heights police on Monday, Jones was placed in a cell at approximately 10:25 p.m. on Friday night. She had blood on her but no serious injuries, according to police.
At around 7:15 p.m. the next day, Jones appeared “lethargic” in her cell and was transported to the Cleveland hospital, HealthSpan. Four hours later, she was transported back to the jail.
After this the police information starts to become unclear. According to the police, a little over an hour after she arrived back at the jail, the paramedics were called a second time for Jones for an unspecified reason. The police say the paramedics “determined her vitals to be normal” at that time and Jones was thereafter given routine checks throughout the night.
Jones died some time early Sunday morning. The police did not say how many times she was checked during the night or what time she died.
The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner completed Jones’s autopsy on Monday and it revealed no suspicious injuries. The exact cause of death is yet to be determined.
BuzzFeed News reached out to Cleveland Heights Police Chief Jeffrey Robertson to ask why Jones was held for over a day after her ex-husband declined to press charges, why the paramedics were called a second time for Jones, why she was not taken to the hospital, how many times she was checked during the night, and what time she died, but he has not yet responded.
Jones's is the third high-profile death of an African-American woman while in police custody in two weeks. On July 13, 28-year-old Sandra Bland died while in custody in Texas, and then one day later 18-year-old Kindra Chapman died in Alabama. Both women allegedly hanged themselves in their cells, and their deaths have been ruled suicides by officials.
Michael Hayes is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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