The Cuyahoga County medical examiner released Ralkina Jones' autopsy report Friday, nearly four months after the 37-year-old Ohio mother of one died in police custody.
Medical Examiner Thomas P. Gilson, M.D., ruled Jones' death an "accident," according to the report Fusion obtained.
Ralkina Jones was arrested following a verbal and physical altercation with her ex-husband and another man on July 24. She was held at the Cleveland Heights Jail Facility on charges of felonious assault, domestic violence, endangering a child, criminal mischief and disturbance, although her ex-husband declined to press charges.
A police statement issued at the time of her death stated that Jones was being treated for several medical conditions and administered her prescribed medication as directed. But some medical experts believe that she might have been "improperly medicated" while in custody—perhaps even administered twice her prescribed depression medication.
Gilson determined that Jones died from a "sudden cardiac death in association with postural tachycardia syndrome [also called 'postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome' or 'POTS'] and obesity with amphetamine therapy." POTS refers to a sudden increase in heart rate associated with shifting one's body from lying down to sitting up, the medical examiner's office confirmed.
A toxicology screen tested positive for oxycodone, butalbital, alprazolam, and zolpidem. The report also lists "obstructive sleep apnea"—a condition that causes a person's breathing to become interrupted while they are sleeping—as another factor in her death.
The American Civil Liberties Union's Cleveland branch told Fusion that the nearly 16-week wait for Jones' autopsy report is "not uncommon."
Hugh Shannon, an administrator at the Cuyahoga County medical examiner's office, said that the delay is "a bit longer" than normal, but he "wouldn't say that it's abnormal based on the series of complications involved in this particular case." He said that "nothing held [the release of the autopsy report] up" and that the medical examiner's office has been in communication with the Jones family's attorney.
Attempts to contact Jones' family were not returned.
Jones appeared "lethargic" during her second night in jail. She was taken to nearby medical center HealthSpan for treatment but returned to jail later that night. The next morning, July 26, Jones was found to be "unresponsive" in her cell.
Body camera footage released about three weeks after Jones' death shows her describing her medical needs to officers at the Cleveland Heights Jail Facility.
"I'm not asking any exception to any rules," Jones says. "But I will tell you this: I don't want to die in your cell."
Jones' death came two weeks after Sandra Bland died in police custody in Waller County, Texas. Their deaths, and the deaths of at least three other black women, spurred a wave of #SayHerName efforts within Black Lives Matter activism, which aims to call attention to the ways in which black women specifically are harmed by police violence and other forms of institutionalized racism.
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