Who Was Gynnya McMillen? A 16-Year-Old Kentucky Girl Is Being Compared To Sandra Bland
Troubling circumstances surround the recent death of 16-year-old Gynnya McMillen, who died in police custody on Jan. 11 in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. An initial autopsy report conducted on Jan. 12 found no "visual bruising" or other external signs of trauma, but with no official cause of death, tension and outrage in the community and online have reached an all-time high.
Shortly before 2 a.m. on Jan. 10, police responded to a "domestic incident" at McMillen's home in Shelbyville, Kentucky, and transported her to the Lincoln Village Juvenile Detention Center in Elizabethtown, over an hour's drive from her home. McMillen was charged with a misdemeanor assault, and her alleged victim had "minor injuries," according to Kelly Cable, spokesman for the Shelbyville Police Department.
Police say they called a court-designated worker to handle McMillen's case because she was a juvenile. The worker then reportedly contacted a judge and requested that McMillen be detained. The 16-year-old was then allegedly left alone during the night, and less than 24 hours after McMillen entered the detention center, she was found dead in her cell.
According to insiders, the police may still be responsible for her death. A former Lincoln Village employee gave an anonymous interview to the New York Daily News and outlined some lapses in standard procedure while McMillen was in custody. The source stated that children are supposed to be checked on every 15 minutes while in custody, and minors are rarely kept in holding cells overnight. That protocol was allegedly ignored in McMillen's case.
Not much is known about McMillen or her family, other than the domestic disturbance call. For some undetermined amount of time, McMillen lived at Home for the Innocents, a nonprofit agency which provides a home for children in crisis. Karen Whaley, a counselor at the facility, told CBS News that McMillen was a “quiet, beautiful person.” A person claiming to be McMillen's sister started a Facebook page called "Justice for Gynnya McMillen" that now has over 9,000 likes and hundreds of shares of her pictures.
The slow release of information is frustrating citizens and journalists alike. Graham Kates, a CBS News correspondent, stated that he has "been getting a lot of silence" from state officials during his investigation into McMillen's death. Skepticism and doubt are the prevailing sentiments from online commenters, and parallels have been drawn between McMillen's death and the death of Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old woman who died in a Texas jail last summer. "There's another Sandra Bland already and this time she is a 16-year-old Black girl named Gynnya #SayHerName," one user tweeted.
McMillen's family held a funeral for Gynnya on Jan. 19, and a full autopsy report is expected from the Hardin County Coroner's Office in coming weeks. "On face value, our detectives didn't suspect that foul play was involved," said state trooper Jeff Gregory, a spokesperson for the ongoing investigation into McMillen's death. It seems it will take much more than that to dispel the disbelief of many who are following the case.