Family members have been seeking answers about what happened to Ronald Gene Given in the Pottawatomie County jail since his 2019 death, which a medical examiner ruled a homicide.
Newly released video shows county detention officers twice slamming Given — arrested days earlier in the midst of a mental health crisis — to the concrete floor, kneeling on his upper body and dragging the unconscious man by the ankles across a cell.
The 42-year-old member of the Kiowa Tribe never regained consciousness following the six-minute altercation. Given died in an Oklahoma City hospital on Jan. 16, 2019.
The incident was part of more than seven hours of video footage released to Oklahoma Watch late Friday under the state Open Records Act. The Frontier sued in 2021 when jail officials refused to release video of the incident.
An appeals court judge ruled in The Frontier’s favor last month. Jail officials released a redacted version Friday with no audio and the faces of Given and detention officers blurred to obscure their identities.
Despite the ruling, Cleveland County officials are withholding video from the jail where two women died last month.
Given’s aunt Eva Kopdaddy filed a federal lawsuit against the trust that oversees the Pottawatomie County jail, jail staff and a police officer. The 2020 lawsuit alleges that jail video shows an officer placing his knee on Given’s neck until he was rendered unconscious. Blurred portions of the video released Friday make it unclear where the officer’s knee was placed.
Given was in the jail for less than seven hours after Shawnee police arrested him following a mental health crisis.
“We’re glad the information is out in the public domain,” said attorney Kevin Kemper who represents Given’s aunt in the lawsuit. “We will cooperate fully with prosecutors who may investigate this.”
No charges have been filed in Given’s death.
On the video, Given is alone at 6:24 a.m. on Jan. 9, 2019 in a concrete cell with two doors and cement benches wearing a baggy jail-issued orange shirt and pants.
He pushes and bangs on one of the doors, punching at the pass through window before kicking the door.
After spinning in circles, Given undresses. Naked, he resumes pounding on the doors for about five minutes. After Given removes a band from his wrist, he uses part of the band to try to pick the door lock. Then, a detention officer enters the cell.
As the officer walks behind Given, he attempts to grab the piece of wristband from Given’s hand. When Given steps forward, the officer tries to trip Given and instead grabs him while falling backward, slamming Given to the floor.
It is unclear whether Given hits his head on the cement bench or floor.
In an attempt to restrain Given, the officer places both knees on his torso as two other officers enter the cell. One holds Given’s legs as they roll him on his side. With the first officer’s right knee near Given’s head, which is blurred out, the other officers succeed in forcing him onto his stomach.
Lying face down, Given is handcuffed. About two minutes after he was thrown to the ground, Given is pulled up, covered with a blanket and escorted to a smaller cell. As he continues to struggle, the officers force him face down onto the cement floor.
Over the next four minutes, officers struggle over Given. One holds his ankles. Two are positioned around his midsection. One is near Given’s head, which is often out of view of the camera or difficult to see on the video.
At 6:36 a.m., about six minutes into the altercation, the officer holding Given’s ankles lets go of one and bends Given’s other leg, which is limp.
Officers begin letting go. One officer pats another officer holding Given’s ankles on the back before exiting the cell.
At 6:37 a.m. the remaining three officers move away from Given’s body, which is lying limp on the concrete floor, facedown and without restraints.
Two officers return to Given’s body lightly pressing into his back. Given does not respond.
One of the officers uses a radio before assisting two others in rolling Given onto his back.
Two officers roll Given onto his side, one using his boot to reposition Given’s legs. Then a woman in scrubs enters the room and checks Given’s pulse.
The two officers drag Given by the ankles, repositioning him onto his back before the woman begins CPR.
Given had been unconscious for at least three and a half minutes when chest compressions began at 6:40 a.m.
In the footage, first responders arrived with a gurney at 6:47 a.m.
On Jan. 9, Shawnee police responded to a Tractor Supply store where Given pushed a shopping cart into store windows and threw clothing on the floor while telling employees to call police because someone was trying to kill him, according to the family’s lawsuit.
Police took Given to a hospital where staff determined he needed to be admitted to a mental health facility. There were no state beds available so officers waited with Given for one to open up.
During the wait, Given became agitated and confused. When he tried to leave the hospital, Given pushed one of the officer’s shoulders. Given was arrested and taken to jail.
Police statewide are seeing an increase in emergency mental health calls like Given’s. In Oklahoma City, mental health calls have doubled since 2013, according to an Oklahoma Watch investigation.
The day after Thanksgiving, Norman baker Shannon Hanchett was arrested at an AT&T store after she called 911 to report that her kids were in danger.
Hanchett, who worked for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, was arrested on false reporting for her repeated 911 calls and resisting arrest. In court documents the arresting officer reported that Hanchett was “exhibiting behavior consistent with some type of mental health disorder.”
Hanchett, 38, died in a jail cell on Dec. 8.
Twelve days later, another Cleveland County jail detainee was found unresponsive in a cell, her face blue and blood dripping from her nose, according to a state health department report.
Kathryn Milano was arrested Nov. 9 for violating a protective order, according to a police report. The Sheriff’s department reported that Milano, 66, had a medical emergency related to a pre-existing condition.
Responding to an open records request by Oklahoma Watch, Cleveland County Assistant District Attorney Robin Moore refused to release the jail video saying it would jeopardize the safety and security of the jail and violate privileged information.
After one day in the City of Tulsa Municipal Jail, 48-year-old Eva Pickle was found unresponsive in her cell when detention officers began serving breakfast on Jan. 14, according to a police department press release.
Pickle was arrested at WinCo Foods for trespassing, improper pedestrian crossing, public intoxication, disturbing the peace and outstanding warrants.
The medical examiner has not yet ruled on the cause of death for Hanchett, Milano or Pickle.
(Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Pottawatomie County in the headline).
Whitney Bryen is an investigative reporter at Oklahoma Watch covering vulnerable populations. Her recent investigations focus on mental health and substance abuse, criminal justice, domestic violence and nursing homes. Contact her at (405) 201-6057 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @SoonerReporter.