San Diego

Child of Woman Who Died in Police Custody Seeks Legal Action

Claim obtained by NBC 7 alleges police ignored Aleah Jenkins' pleas for help.

The child of a woman that died in police custody from a methamphetamine overdose last year has filed a legal claim with the City and County of San Diego.

The claim, a precursor to a potential lawsuit, alleges police officers ignored Aleah Mariah Jenkins pleas for help. Jenkins lost consciousness inside the police cruiser. She died less than a week later.

NBC 7 Investigates obtained the claim through a public records request.

Police pulled over a car that Jenkins was riding in on November 27, 2018, during a traffic stop on La Jolla Village Drive. Police found small baggies of drugs next to the 24-year-old woman’s seat.

Police Officer Lawrence Durbin arrested Jenkins and placed her in his cruiser.

Durbin transported Jenkins from La Jolla to police headquarters. During the drive, according to bodycam footage later released to the media, Jenkins began crying for help. Officer Durbin pulled over and checked on Jenkins, later deciding to continue on to police headquarters.

By the time they arrived Jenkins was unresponsive in the backseat.

The Medical Examiner’s Office had listed the death as accidental and was caused by a lethal dose of methamphetamine and lack of oxygen to the brain.

In March of this year, District Attorney Summer Stephan announced that her office had declined to file criminal charges against Durbin. 

Two days after Stephan’s announcement two San Diego City Councilmembers asked California’s Attorney General to launch an independent investigation into Jenkins’ death. 

Now, Jenkins’ child, whose name was redacted due to them being a minor, is taking legal action.

“[L]aw enforcement ignored numerous signs that Ms. Jenkins required immediate medical assistance despite obvious and clear symptomology, and in fact ignored repeated requests for assistance and water,” reads the May 8 legal claim.

The claim states the City is liable for what attorneys called the “police officer’s gross negligence.”

A San Diego Police Department spokesperson declined to comment on the claim. 

Attorneys for Jenkins’ family did not respond to a request for comment.

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