Skip to main content

Two Councilmembers Call For Independent Investigation Into Death Of Aleah Jenkins

Aleah Jenkins rides a swing with her son in this undated photo.

Credit: Keiala Jenkins

Above: Aleah Jenkins rides a swing with her son in this undated photo.

We're sorry. This audio clip is no longer available. A transcript has been made available.

Two San Diego City Council members are calling for the state attorney general to look into the treatment of a 24-year-old woman who became unresponsive while in police custody. Aleah Jenkins later died at the hospital.

District Attorney Summer Stephan said the arresting officer cannot be held liable for Jenkins’ death. Body camera video shows Jenkins asking multiple times for help.

Jenkins was pulled over last November and was arrested on an outstanding warrant. While in police custody she threw up and paramedics were called — but Jenkins told police she was just sick and pregnant so paramedics were called off.

During the drive to police headquarters, Jenkins made multiple outbursts that can be heard on the officer's body-worn camera. She is heard telling the officer she is sick and needs help. At one point the officer pulled over to check on her.

"It was very heart-wrenching to hear Ms. Jenkins asking for help and water for over an hour after vomiting and no assistance was rendered," said Councilmember Monica Montgomery. "The treatment displayed in the video further supports the need to reform our policing policies."

Council President Georgette Gomez had a similar reaction to seeing the officer's body camera video.

"I am deeply troubled about the treatment of Ms. Jenkins while in custody," said Gomez. "The video clearly indicates a decline in her wellbeing. We must all strive to do better to respect the basic human rights of everyone in custody."

According to the district attorney’s office, the officer driving Jenkins thought the noises she made were out of frustration or a fake complaint of pain. The officer also believed Jenkins did not want to go to jail and the whining noises could be stomach pains from recently vomiting.

RELATED: Council Member Promises Answers After Woman Dies In Police Custody

Once at police headquarters Jenkins became unresponsive. Officers tried to revive her and paramedics were called. A medical examiner's report said Jenkins had lethal amounts of methamphetamine in her system which ultimately caused her death.

District Attorney Stephan said criminal negligence requires extreme circumstances.

"It requires more than ordinary carelessness, inattention or mistake of judgment," she said. "We have determined there is no evidence that the officer acted or failed to act that rises to the level to make him criminally liable."

Councilmembers Gomez and Montgomery also want San Diego Police to review its paramedic and emergency treatment policy.

"In order to ensure we utilize best practices, the San Diego Police Department constantly reviews its policies, procedures and training with both our regional and national law enforcement partners," said an SDPD spokesman. "We will be reviewing our procedures related to this incident."

The California Attorney General's office said, "To protect the integrity of an investigation, we can’t comment on, even to confirm or deny, a potential or ongoing investigation."

Reported by Kris Arciaga

Two San Diego City Council members are calling for the state attorney general to look into the treatment of a 24-year-old woman who became unresponsive while in police custody. Aleah Jenkins later died at the hospital.

You can hear this story and other local news every morning by subscribing to San Diego Stories, KPBS’ daily news podcast. Subscribe via iTunes, Google Play or your favorite podcatcher.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.