In the midst of protesting surrounding the police involved deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, an 18 year old Black woman was found dead in her cell after being arrested for disorderly conduct. Her family and community demand answers.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The death of an 18-year-old woman while in custody in the city of Bessemer, outside Birmingham, has sparked controversy among residents of this largely African American community. Many, including the NAACP, are asking how she died and who was responsible.
County and city authorities aren’t talking, but the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) is looking into the Nov. 2 death of Sheneque Proctor in the Bessemer City Jail, according to SBI spokeswoman Robyn Bryan.
Ms. Proctor, who lived in neighboring Brighton, was at a Bessemer hotel with friends when she was arrested on Saturday night, Nov. 1. Her aunt, Tracy Rodda, said that officers told Proctor she was being charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
Early the next morning, she was found dead in her cell, according to Rodda, who said her niece had complained of problems with asthma.
Bessemer officers declined to give details when a reporter representing Weld asked them how Sheneque Proctor died and what she was charged with. The reporter asked to see a copy of the arrest report but was denied.
Bessemer City Attorney Shan Paden said, “I know the case. I know we had a death in the jail. Erring on a conservative side, not to protect the city but to protect the rights of an 18-year-old, the city of Bessemer will not disclose any information.”
Proctor’s mother, Scherita Proctor, reached at her home, said, “We don’t know what happened. I’ve heard lots of things. I don’t want to speculate. We’re waiting on a death certificate.”
Proctor graduated from Pleasant Grove High School in May. Her mother described her as “sweet and loving.” Sheneque leaves behind a 5-month-old son, Zamaruien Blevins.
Besides the controversy arising from the death of an 18-year-old mother, there are questions being raised about how exactly Proctor was treated. Relatives indicated that Sheneque complained of how officers had dealt with her.
“She said three officers were handling her really rough,” said Rodda, who added witnesses have claimed as many as six Bessemer officers were involved with Sheneque’s arrest.
Later calls to Scherita Proctor to confirm Rodda’s account were not returned.