'We Want Justice’: Lawsuit Alleges Pott. Co. Jail Staff Kneeled On Inmate’s Neck After Mental Health Crisis

Tuesday, March 23rd 2021, 11:06 pm


The family of a Shawnee man filed a civil lawsuit against the Pottawatomie County Public Safety Center alleging staff used excessive force and denied medical care to Ronald Given, who died a week after he was booked into the jail. 

“We want justice,” said his aunt, Eva Given Kopaddy, who filed the lawsuit in federal court in December. 

Given, 42, on Jan. 8, 2019, experienced a mental health episode that initially prompted Shawnee police officers to seek medical help, according to arrest reports. 

Officers took Given into custody at a Tractor Supply store in Shawnee after employees said Given caused chaos by throwing clothes and other store items. During the incident, employees told police officers Given repeatedly said to call the police because his life was in danger. Employees said Given never attempted to hurt anyone, according to the SPD arrest report. 

After he was taken into custody, Given told police he believed someone was trying to kill him. Officers wanted to admit Given to a behavioral health facility, but no facility in the state had space available. 

Around midnight the next day, while officers waited with him at an Oklahoma City hospital for space to open up, Given attempted to leave. Given pushed one of the officers and was immediately arrested and transported to the Pottawatomie County Public Safety Center, according to the arrest report. 

“Just reading the report, and him being that scared, I’m thinking he just wanted to get out,” Kopaddy said. “He wasn’t getting any help.” 

Less than 12 hours after he was initially booked into the jail, Given was released in critical condition and hospitalized. He died a week later. 

Given’s death was caused by “struggle resisting restraint by officers,” his “violent” psychiatric disorder, and cardiac arrhythmia, according to an autopsy report by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. 

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation reviewed Given’s death and did not recommend any criminal charges. In a letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Pottawatomie and Lincoln County District Attorney Allan Grubb said the OSBI investigation found the death “should be ruled justifiable.” 

Related: Investigation Still Open After OSBI Recommended No Charges In Inmate’s Death

In the letter, Grubb requested the FBI should review Given’s death. News 9 has requested a copy of the jail security footage. 

Ronald “Skip” Kelly, Kopaddy’s attorney, said Grubb showed him a clip of the security footage inside the jail. 

In the lawsuit, Kelly claims the footage shows jail staff strike Given in his cell, which caused the back of his head to hit the concrete floor. 

Three unidentified officers restrained Given while he was on the ground, according to the lawsuit. One of the officers “placed his knee into Mr. Given’s neck. The neck restraint remained until Mr. Given was rendered unconscious” and showed no signs of breathing. “He never regained consciousness.” 

“It’s something that was unnecessary no matter how it happened. It was unnecessary,” Kelly said. 

The lawsuit is seeking damages from the jail’s administration, the Shawnee police officers involved in the arrest, and jail staff for allegedly violating Given’s constitutional rights through excessive force and denial of medical care. 

The attorney representing the jail administration did not have a comment on the lawsuit on Tuesday, citing the ongoing litigation. 

Given’s case has caught the attention of the NAACP Oklahoma State Conference and its president, Anthony Douglas. 

“What happened to Mr. Given should not have happened to anyone,” Douglas said. 

The organization said it is demanding criminal charges against the jail staff involved. Douglas said the incident is a reflection of the lack of care given to mental health incidents by law enforcement personnel. 

“Our jails, our police and our prison systems are not capable of handling people with mental issues,” he said.