Why Did a Former Fla. Prom Queen Die a Week After Being Booked at County Jail?

Polk County Sheriff’s Office
Polk County Sheriff’s Office

A 29-year-old former prom queen wound up dead in a Florida jail a week after she was arrested. The Polk County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office says that Shamirah Johnson died Oct. 31 at a Lakeland, Fla., hospital after being transferred there from the Polk County Jail, where she was being held without bond.


According to WFLA, officials say that Johnson’s blood pressure was borderline high when she was booked Oct. 24; subsequently, she was placed under medical supervision and had her blood pressure monitored twice a day.

Her condition worsened, however, and Johnson alerted jail officials that she was vomiting and experiencing diarrhea. She was admitted to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center, where she died the next day.


The Associated Press reports that autopsy results “showed no evidence of trauma,” though results from a toxicology test are pending. According to AP, Johnson was active in her community and volunteered for more than 1,000 community service hours. She also won an essay contest in 2016 for Black Heritage Weekend in Jacksonville, Fla.

So why was Johnson being held in a Polk County Jail without bond? Officials arrested her last month for a probation violation, WFLA reports. Johnson had been convicted earlier this year of possessing prescription medication without a prescription and possessing marijuana and paraphernalia—a conviction that resulted in one year’s probation.

Johnson’s case is rife with questions: Why was she denied bond? How responsive were jail officials to her condition? How did her condition worsen under their care? Polk County officials say that they are investigating the death, but it’s important to note that this isn’t the first time the department has taken heat.

If the Polk County Sheriff’s Department’s name sounds familiar, it may be because the department made nationwide headlines in September after the sheriff, Grady Judd, threatened to arrest Hurricane Irma evacuees seeking shelter if they had outstanding warrants. Many criticized Judd’s Twitter threats, which declared that law-enforcement officers would check IDs at storm shelters, for potentially deterring Floridians desperately in need of help, including the county’s undocumented immigrants.


Read more at WFLA and WCTV.

Staff writer, The Root.


Yes...They Are Real!

I’m probably just projecting my own experiences with opiate addiction. Before I even read what the charges were, I only read up to the part that discussed her symptoms of HBP and diarrhea, opiate withdrawal immediately popped in my head. I’m addicted to opiates and those were the same symptoms I suffered after I was arrested. And upon informing the jail I’m an addict, they don’t actually treat you for any symptoms, they’ll just monitor you. Youre constantly shitting everywhere. Stomach cramps. Body aches so bad you literally begin digging your nails into your skin. And your BP goes out of control. The protocol sucks. Again I’m probably just projecting my own experiences, but my money is on that it was a death directly/indirectly caused by some kind of withdrawal. Most likely opiates.

I’m not sure why they jails refuse to treat withdrawal. But whatever the reason, I believe it’s killing people.

Remember folks, addiction can happen to anyone. The prom queen like Ms. Johnson, and the high school nerd like me. I just hope baby girl is finally at peace from whatever demons she was running from.