Once again, we are wondering what happened to another young person of color who has died in police custody.
This time, the victim is 16-year-old Gynnya McMillen, who was booked at Lincoln Village Juvenile Detention Center in Kentucky on January 10 after a “domestic incident,” according to CBS. McMillen spent the night alone in a cell where she was found dead the next morning.
Few details were initially released about the time McMillen spent in custody, but the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting (KyCIR) reported on Friday that guards employed martial arts on the young girl. According to the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice, the teen was physically restrained after refusing to remove her sweatshirt:
“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 detention center.
Aikido is a modern Japanese form of martial arts.
While it is unclear whether or not the martial arts had anything to do with the teen’s death, attorney and juvenile justice expert Michele Deitch criticized the practice in particular, saying that youths in detention should only be restrained when there’s a risk of physical danger to themselves or others.
Deitch added that refusal to remove a sweatshirt is not acceptable grounds for restraint, reports CBS.
According to authorities, a staff member who failed to properly monitor McMillen while she was alone in her cell has been placed on “special investigative leave with pay.”
The scenario is one we have heard before: The teen’s death bears striking resemblance to the deaths of Sandra Bland and Kindra Chapman—both women of color who died under suspicious circumstances while in police custody last year.
Bland’s death made national headlines in July when the 28-year old was found dead in her Texas jail cell. She had been arrested as the result of a minor traffic violation, and allegedly hanged herself while in custody—despite claims from her family that she would have never committed suicide.
A day after Bland’s death, Chapman, another young black woman, was found dead in her Alabama jail cell. As in Bland’s case, the state claimed that Chapman hanged herself. The Chapman family had doubts, but later confirmed the suicide.
Twitter amplified Bland and Chapman’s deaths, which led to national outcry. It also shone a spotlight on the issue of police brutality, and black people dying in police custody. Twitter users are taking to the social networking site once again, this time to question the suspicious circumstances surrounding McMillen’s death:
McMillen’s family has also taken to social media to demand justice, and has created a Facebook page titled “Justice for Gynnya McMillen.”
Multiple agencies—including the Department of Juvenile Justice and Kentucky State Police—are investigating, while more details surrounding McMillen’s death emerge.