Kentucky Juvenile Employee ‘Just Watched’ as Teen Took Last Breath

Gynnya McMillen
Gynnya McMillen

*It’s hard to believe the stupidity of some people. Especially those given such important positions; where their responsibilities can literally make a difference between life or death. Because a youth worker in a juvenile center in Kentucky just stood and watched a new inmate as she gagged and gasped to breathe while in her cell, a death has occurred.

Now a lawsuit has been filed by the estate of 16-year-old Gynnya McMillen. The teen had only been admitted to the center hours earlier, and according to the lawsuit, employee Reginald Windham’s comments to investigators are very different from what was observed on the surveillance cameras.

According to Windham’s statement: he walked over to McMillen’s door at 11:39 p.m. on Jan. 11, after he heard coughing. Investigators wrote that he wanted “to check on her to make sure she had not thrown up or was choking or something like that.”

Surveillance video, according to the lawsuit, shows the guard staring through a window for 18 seconds, witnessing “her last gasps and dying breaths and final uncontrollable movements and seizure.” Attorneys for the family say he then turned around and walked away.

There is nothing to show he did anything further to help the girl, who ultimately  rolled onto her side and never moved again.

Though the officials say McMillen died in her sleep, the lawsuit challenges this and LaChe Simms, the girl’s sister, states that:

“Seeing my sister in that casket, she didn’t look at peace. She didn’t look like she died in her sleep. It gave me a real uneasy feeling about what (officials) were saying,” Simms said in an interview Monday with CBS News. “If you had a seizure and you’re coughing, that’s not dying in your sleep. It’s not dying in your sleep when you wake up and choke for air.”

She is further concerned that “we might not ever know the whole story. What happened there?”

McMillen had been arrested earlier that day after an altercation with her mother. Shelbyville police had responded to a call, and apprehended the girl as she was walking down the street.

Though McMillens mother declined to speak on the altercation to police, a judge did order the girl to be taken to the juvenile center and stay overnight.

Officials say when McMillen arrived she refused to remove her sweatshirt in order to be searched by detention staffers. Minutes later, four staffers used used an Aikido Control Technique restraint to remove the shirt.

Attorneys for McMillen’s estate argue the staffers used excessive force and were not justified when they used the restraint, but state officials say they were following protocol.

The maneuver was performed behind a counter, which obscured the view of the one functioning surveillance camera in the room.

Windham’s attorney, J. Clark Baird, disputes that McMillen was visibly in her final throes of life.

“The Kentucky State Police and the Department of Juvenile Justice have all viewed the footage. The video does not show the young lady moving or thrashing about,” said Baird, who also questioned the assertion that McMillen died at 11:39. “I don’t know how they can get a doctor to look at video and say down to a three- or four-minute time frame her time of death.”

In a statement released to media after the federal lawsuit was filed on Aug. 31, the Department of Juvenile Justice insisted McMillen was not awake when she died.

“We respect the family’s right to bring this action and remain deeply saddened by their loss. We have also fully complied with three independent investigations, all of which confirmed that this tragedy was the result of natural causes,” the department said. “After reviewing all the evidence, medical examiners were clear that this child passed away in her sleep, without any signs of distress that would have prompted medical attention.”

A 16-year-old dying of “natural causes?” Hmm…

Read more of this story on CBS News.


2 thoughts on “Kentucky Juvenile Employee ‘Just Watched’ as Teen Took Last Breath”

  1. Another family looking for someone else to blame when a disrespectful, uncontrollable child is turned over to strangers who aren’t inclined to tolerate the abuse her family was willing to endure, and the situation ended badly. People need to understand that not everybody is going to handle your little angels with kid gloves when they act out, so you may want to think before you decide to call the police to handle problems that you aren’t equipped to deal with.

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