It’s not just Sandra Bland: Three more mysterious jail deaths

Stephon Johnson | 7/31/2015, 12:31 p.m.
With the attention focused on Sandra Bland’s mysterious death in a Texas jail cell, three other deaths involving the police ...
(top) Sandra Bland, Rixdale Henry (bottom) Ralkina Jones, Kindra Chapman

With the attention focused on Sandra Bland’s mysterious death in a Texas jail cell, three other deaths involving the police and jail are making their way into the national consciousness.

Community activist and Choctaw tribe member, Rexdale Henry, was found dead inside the Neshoba County Jail in Philadelphia, Miss. July 14. He had been arrested July 9 for failure to pay a fine. According to local television station WTOK, police officers found Henry’s lifeless body in his cell after he had been seen alive 30 minutes earlier. Henry was a candidate for the Choctaw Tribal Council.

The state crime lab in Jackson, Miss. conducted an autopsy on Henry that eliminated the possibility of any foul play, but the Missippi Bureau of Investigation is looking into the case. After his July 19 funeral, Henry’s body was flown to Florida for an independent autopsy paid for by anonymous donors.

According to the Jackson Free Press, Henry’s family is receiving help from civil rights activists John Steele, a close friend of Henry’s, and Diane Nash, cofounder to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. The family is also getting assistance from Syracuse University law professors Janis McDonald and Paula Johnson, who also work as part of the school’s Cold Case Justice Initiative.

In a statement, McDonald said, “At a time when the nation is focused on the terrible circumstances of the brutal death of Sandra Bland, it is critical to expose the many ways in which Black Americans, Native Americans and other minorities are being arrested for minor charges and end up dead in jail cells.”

Cleveland police officers (who were already in the news this week for their actions during a Black Lives Matter protest) have been given the proverbial side-eye by activists after the death of 37-year-old Ralkina Jones last Sunday morning.

According to the incident report, Jones smashed the driver’s side window of her ex-husband Brandon Jones’ Ford Expedition, parked in front of his place of employment. Brandon came out to stop her and she scratched his face and hit him with a tire iron. After Brandon and a friend managed to get the tire iron away from Jones, she got into her car and tried to run them over.

The police also stated that Jones’ 12-year-old daughter, Kayla, was in the backseat during the incident.

The report stated that Brandon didn’t want to press charges against his ex-wife. However, Jones was arrested and charged with felonious assault, domestic violence and child endangerment, and then taken to the Cleveland Heights City Jail. Cleveland Heights police said Jones was put in a cell Friday night with blood on her body, but no serious injuries. Police officials said Jones appeared lethargic the next day and was taken to a local hospital for examination before being brought back to the jail.

However, for some reason not explained by the police, paramedics were called a second time an hour after Jones was placed back in her cell, and they found her vital signs to be normal.

After allegedly being routinely checked on throughout the night, Jones died Sunday morning. An autopsy conducted by the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner determined there were no suspicious injuries. There’s still no exact cause of death.

The third police/jail-related death is one that closely mirrors Bland’s. July 14, 18-year-old Kindra Chapman was found dead in a Homewood, Ala. jail cell of a reported suicide. According to local authorities, Chapman allegedly hanged herself with a bed sheet.

Officers booked Chapman into Homewood City Jail at 6:22 p.m. that evening. She was charged with first-degree robbery charge for theft of another person’s cell phone. According to other jailers, Chapman was last seen alive at 6:30 p.m. She was found unresponsive at 7:50 p.m.

The Black Lives Matter organization posted a video to their Facebook page of an interview conducted with Chapman’s father and paternal grandparents, who dispute the police version of events.

In every aforementioned scenario, it’s the word of police against someone who is no longer here.