Gynnya McMillen Video: Lawsuit Alleges Guard Watched Her Die In Jail Cell, Then Walked Away

Surveillance video of the death of 16-year-old Gynnya McMillen allegedly shows the on-duty guard at Lincoln Village Juvenile Detention Center come to her window, watch her violently cough, gasp for air, and eventually have a seizure — and then walk away, without saying anything about what he just saw.

That’s according to a new lawsuit that says both the video of Gynnya’s death and the subsequent investigation into it prove she died as the result of negligence, and, perhaps, even police brutality, reported the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting. The young woman was found dead in her jail cell as much as 12 hours after she suffered heart failure from what a Mayo Clinic examination determined to be a genetic disorder. McMillen’s estate is directing their claim against both the Department of Juvenile Justice and the staff directly involved.

The visual evidence may help piece together what happened after Gynnya was taken into custody for domestic violence for physically fighting with her parents, one of whom made the call that resulted in her arrest. Also captured on tape is an altercation between McMillen and staff where they put her in an Aikido-style restraint to wrestle her sweater off of her. She declined to do so of her own accord while checking in. The young woman is then escorted, with hands above her head on both sides, to the cell where she would spend the last hours of her life.

Even before this video was released, the timeline surrounding Gynnya’s passing had been more or less established by the testimony of the guard who appears in the surveillance tape, Reginald Windham. In interviews with investigators, he stated that he had gone to check on McMillen’s cell around 11:39 p.m. after hearing coughing coming from within.

After 18 seconds, he appears to believe that Gynnya is not in any danger and leaves the door of her jail cell. Seemingly not preoccupied by what he just saw, Windham not only did not report the incident, but he also failed to perform required bed checks later in the evening that may have sped up reaction to her death. He wasn’t the only one at fault — in total, 64 bed checks were skipped in the just-over 24 hours McMillen was detained.

Eventually, employees realized that Gynnya was no longer alive around 10 a.m., when they attempted to rouse her for a court appearance. Before that, McMillen had been checked on a few times, including once to deliver breakfast — which she, obviously, did not wake up to receive.

In the wake of the incident, Windham and at least two other employees have been fired from the facility — at least partially for lying on prison documents about having checked in on inmates, including Gynnya, during the night. Windham’s attorney, J. Clark Baird, says that the new video of McMillen does not prove what the lawsuit alleges about his client.

“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. 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.”

Rebecca DiLoreto, a law professor at University of Kentucky and Northern Kentucky University, doesn’t accept this explanation for the end of Gynnya’s life. She says that staff, knowing McMillen had been involved in two recent violent clashes, did not carry out due diligence.

“If all they did was call out to her, I don’t know how they could have determined that she heard them. They’re entitled to go shake her and say, ‘let’s get up, let’s sit up.’ If they failed to have that degree of contact with her, they’re dealing with an unknown.”

Evidence resulting from the probe into the last moments of Gynnya’s life have helped bring answers to some of her surviving family members. McMillen’s older sister, LaChe, told CBS News that she had found the official story suspect from the very beginning.

“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. 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… we might not ever know the whole story. What happened there?… Nobody wakes up fine every day for 16 years, and then goes to a detention center one day and 17 hours later randomly dies.”

Both the video and employee testimonies will face further scrutiny when the lawsuit over the death of Gynnya McMillen finally finds its way to court.

[Image via Justice for Gynnya McMillen/Facebook]

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