The death of Kindra Chapman, an Alabama teenager who died in a local jail while in police custody, has officially been ruled a suicide, authorities announced Monday. The 18-year-old woman -- who was found dead in a holding cell July 14 -- died from "asphyxia by hanging," said Jefferson County Chief Deputy Coroner Bill Yates, according to AL.com.
Chapman was booked into the Homewood City Jail outside of Birmingham, Alabama, at 6:22 p.m. local time on a first-degree robbery charge for allegedly stealing someone's cell phone. Jailers reportedly last saw Chapman alive at 6:30 p.m. before she was found unresponsive at 7:50 p.m. from hanging herself with a bedsheet, according to authorities. Chapman was then taken to a local medical center where she was pronounced dead.
The teen's death came just one day after another woman died in a Waller County, Texas, jail cell after being detained for three days following a routine traffic stop. Sandra Bland's death was also ruled a suicide, a finding that many activists said they do not believe. The deaths of the women -- both of whom were black -- raised concerns about law enforcement's treatment of African-Americans in custody following protests surrounding a number of high-profile deaths of unarmed individuals at the hands of police, including Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Freddie Gray.
— The New Republic (@tnr) July 23, 2015
Lawyers for Chapman's mother released a statement on July 23 concerning her daughter’s death. "We are so grateful for the outpouring of support for Kindra. We are devastated that she is gone, and we miss her terribly,'' the family statement read, according to AL.com. "We want the world to know what a wonderful soul she was. At the same time, we want the world to know that her death was a suicide. We have hired lawyers to investigate how this could have happened while she was in police custody."
Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls said the death did not appear to be questionable. "At this time, I have seen no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing in the arrest and detention of Kindra Chapman, and I believe that her death is the result of a suicide," he said in a statement.
Authorities said Chapman had been arrested a couple months ago. They said she had been checking car doors in an apartment complex, had marijuana in her possession and tried to kick out the back window of a police car. Police reportedly said they also dealt with her the day before her death but made no arrest.
Homewood police put a 72-second clip of jail surveillance showing Chapman being taken into the police station on its Facebook page Saturday. The full video, which was not released, shows the booking process, Chapman being led to her cell and then her taking her own life, police said.
"Out of respect for Ms. Chapman and her family, the Homewood Police Department is not making the final minutes of the video public. The entire video was shown to the legal counsel representing Ms. Chapman’s biological mother," the Facebook post read.
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About 100 people gathered Sunday to hold a vigil for Chapman. Family members on Chapman's father's side of the family and local activists said they did not believe she committed suicide.
"I loved Kindra Chapman from the bottom of my heart, and I want some justice for Kindra Chapman. We did not say Kindra Chapman, suicide," said Linda Chapman, Kindra's grandmother, according to Al Jazeera. Linda Chapman told those in attendance that though she had not watched the police video of Kindra, "She wouldn’t do that."
Falls, the Jefferson County District Attorney, said the investigation was ongoing but that he had determined there was probable cause for Chapman's arrest and custody. "We have received the reports from the officers on duty the evening of her death as well as the reports of the investigating detective. We have also received the statement of a witness who was in the custody of Homewood Police that same evening,'' Falls said in a statement, according to AL.com. "Most importantly, we have received the video surveillance recordings from several cameras in and around the Homewood City Jail."
Falls said there was no evidence Chapman was injured while being taken into custody or during transportation to jail. He told AL.com that the video showed Chapman was agitated in her cell, damaged its contents and later committed suicide. When officers returned another inmate to the cell, they discovered Chapman and attempted to resuscitate her to no avail.