On Tuesday, authorities released a new video that shines a little more light on the death of Ralkina Jones, a 37-year-old black woman who died in police custody in June. Activists, in particular those associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, have been demanding answers for Jones' death for well over a month, and this apparent intake video is the first glimpse we've had of Jones after her arrest and prior to her death. So what does the video tell us?
Jones was arrested in Cleveland Heights on Friday, July 24, and booked into jail that night, following an alleged domestic incident with her ex-husband. On the evening of Saturday, July 25, she was briefly hospitalized, ultimately being sent back to jail after a two-hour stint in the Emergency Room. And then, on Sunday, June 26, she was found dead in hell cell.
Jones' sisters have since said that she was suffering from a variety of health issues, including a heart murmur and a brain aneurysm. A preliminary autopsy was performed after she died, and a Cuyahoga County medical examiner's office spokesperson reportedly told The Guardian that she had "no suspicious injuries," although a full report is still pending. So what does the video show us?
Mainly, it makes it apparent that officers at Cleveland Heights jail were very aware of Jones' litany of health issues, as she told them about her concerns in length. In fact, she phrased it a very particular way, and it's deeply chilling now: "I don't want to die in your cell."
The footage was made public by Cleveland.com early on Tuesday, and while there's nothing explicitly disturbing about it the way many videos of black encounters with the police have recently been, it's still an exceptionally tough watch, knowing what happened. Jones makes it clear that she's on several medications for a host of conditions, including postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (which can cause dizziness and fainting when standing or sitting up too quickly), a past brain injury, depression, and seizures.
Basically, the video demonstrates that the officers Jones spoke to knew the stated extent of her medical concerns — one of them, in particular, weighed whether she should stay in a cell with a phone to stay in touch with her family, or whether she should stay in a nearer cell, where he felt it would be easier to keep an eye on her health. In other words, they knew what was up.
There's a lot the video doesn't tell, however, and those questions will likely form the basis of whether comes next. In particular, Jones' brief hospitalization (for what multiple outlets have described as lethargy) on Saturday, and what condition she was in when she was released from the ER, figure to loom large. As The Root detailed, she was sent back to jail at 10:45 p.m. Saturday night, and just under two hours later, she was dead. There's no telling whether she would've survived if she'd been kept at the hospital overnight, to be clear, but it stands to reason that she would've had a better chance.