Family of teen who died at Kentucky detention center files suit

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A judge has sealed surveillance video from a Kentucky juvenile-detention center that shows what employees were doing before and after a 16-year-old girl's death in January 2016.

U.S. District Court Judge Colin Lindsey ruled the video of Gynnya McMillen’s time at the Lincoln Village Regional Detention Center in Hardin County on Jan. 10-11 will be kept from the public and possibly destroyed 60 days after the conclusion of a lawsuit filed by the teen’s family.

Gynnya’s family objected, arguing in part that current and past state employees had not shown why the footage should be sealed, and that the public has a right to see it.

The family is seeking nearly $27 million in damages. The judge has dismissed the state of Kentucky from the suit.

The defendants argued releasing the surveillance video would “reveal security features of Lincoln Village” and other juvenile justice facilities. But Lincoln Village has since been shut down.

The center is now being used by the Kentucky State Police. Lindsey ruled releasing the video “could create security and safety risks to the current staff of that facility and to the public.”

If the footage was available to the public, “it would be relatively simple for an enterprising person to discover blind spots in the cameras," the judge ruled this week.

The judge’s protective order requires that within 60 days of the conclusion of the lawsuit, the video is destroyed or returned to the “producing party.”

The video would likely only be seen publicly now if the case goes to trial. 

The video allegedly shows staffers eating Gynnya’s food, leaving her lying in the same position for 10 hours without doing a close examination and failing to immediately provide CPR when they learned she was not breathing.

The lawsuit accuses Lincoln Village employees of using “martial arts restraint techniques” on Gynnya prior to putting her into an isolation cell, “unmonitored and without medical care, for hours leading to her death from a cardiac event,” according to the new documents.

In the minutes before she died, McMillen coughed a few times and seized in an "uncontrolled manner," while a guard watched, according to the federal lawsuit.

Former supervisor Reginald Windham, according to the lawsuit, said he checked on Gynnya "to make sure she had not thrown up and was choking or something like that." He looked through her cell door at 11:39 p.m. for 18 seconds, watching "her last gasps and dying breaths and final uncontrollable movements and seizure," the suit claims.

An autopsy determined that Gynnya died in her sleep from a rare heart condition known as sudden cardiac arrhythmia, 

However, a prominent cardiologist hired by the defense looked at the evidence and concluded that if Windham had “inspected the cell and looked directly at Gynnya, he would have realized that she had lost consciousness or that she was losing it. A prompt resuscitative intervention and an emergency call would have in all likelihood saved the girl’s life.”

Former supervisors Windham and Victor Holt pleaded guilty last year to official misconduct second degree and agreed to pay a $200 fine. They did not have to serve time in jail.

The men were accused of lying about performing more than two dozen bed checks on the teen during the time she died.

Gynnya was arrested about 2 a.m. on Jan. 10, 2016, on a domestic violence related offense at her home and charged with fourth degree assault.

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