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Kentucky Girl, 16, May Have Died from Martial Arts Hold, Neglect

Gynnya McMillen
Gynnya McMillen

More details are emerging about the death of a Black Kentucky teenager who was found lifeless in a juvenile detention center.

CBS News reports that a detention center worker used a martial arts restraint on 16-year-old Gynnya McMillen after she refused to remove her sweatshirt and have her picture taken. She was being booked into the Lincoln Village Regional Juvenile Detention Center after a domestic incident.

“The staff performed an Aikido restraint hold to safely conduct a pat-down search and remove the youth’s hoodie,” said Stacy Floden, a spokesperson for the center. “The purpose of having multiple staff involved in a controlled restraint is to ensure the safety of the youth and staff.”

McMillen was found dead in a sleeping position on Jan. 11. However, news reports say that detention facility workers may have failed to perform regular checks on McMillen to see if she was OK. Her cell was also under video surveillance.

According to CBS News, Reginald Windham, a Lincoln Village employee, has been placed on administrative leave over the McMillen case. He is accused of failing to perform 15-minute checks, which are required for children put in the isolation unit. McMillen was placed in the cell on Jan. 10 and detention center workers allegedly didn’t check on her again until she failed to respond to a breakfast call the next morning. The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting said that detention center workers also waited 11 minutes to perform CPR on her.

Michele Deitch, an attorney and juvenile justice expert who lectures at the University of Texas, criticized the use of a martial arts hold on McMillen. He told CBS News that juveniles should only be restrained if they are a danger to themselves or others.

“As far as I’m concerned that is a completely inappropriate use of a restraint,” Deitch said. “This goes back to not being so punitive with kids. That’s not just how you interact if you want to achieve a positive social response.”

McMillen’s family has demanded a full investigation and also requested access to the video. McMillen’s death is the first in 16 years at a state-run juvenile detention center. Local police initially reported that foul play was not suspected.

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