As questions and suspicions surrounding the mysterious death of 16-year-old Gynnya McMillen continue to swirl, CBS reports that a staffer at Lincoln Village Juvenile Detention Center in Elizabethtown, Kentucky used an “Aikido restraint” on the teen the day before she was found dead in her cell on January 11.
The center issued an official statement saying that McMillen was restrained because she wouldn’t remove her clothes.
“The staff performed an Aikido restraint hold to safely conduct a pat-down search and remove the youth’s hoodie,” wrote Stacy Floden 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.”
The teen’s “repeated refusal to cooperate with staff and remove her outer garment prompted the restraint,” Floden continued. A female staff member conducted the pat-down and removed the hoodie, she said.
Reginald Windham, a ten-year veteran with Kentucky’s juvenile justice department, has been placed on paid administrative leave for using the martial arts hold on McMillen, though officials claim they believe she died in her sleep and don’t believe that a martial arts hold inflicted on a girl-child by a grown ass man had anything to do with her death.
McMillen was placed in a cell by herself on Jan. 10, and officials say she was found dead, in a sleeping position, the next day at 9:55 a.m. Officials previously confirmed to 48 Hours’ Crimesider that McMillen did not respond that day when food was offered at 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., or later when her mother called. It is not clear when McMillen died, but she was not checked on, despite her lack of communication.
Michele Deitch, an attorney and juvenile justice expert who lectures at the University of Texas at Austin, said youths in detention should only be restrained when there’s a risk of physical danger to themselves or others. Deitch criticized the use of martial arts in particular.
“I’ve never heard that phrase used in the context of a corrections setting,” Deitch said, adding that in her opinion, refusal to remove a sweatshirt is not acceptable grounds for restraint.
“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 had only been in the detention center for 24 hours following an altercation in her home.
A Facebook page demanding justice for McMillen has been created by McMillen’s sister, Lache Simms. “My 16yr old sister died in custody of a detention center but they’re not giving out any info on how she was found and they’re saying (her) autopsy shows no cause of death,” said the social media post. A GoFundMe page has also been created to cover the family’s funeral expenses.