Amid nationwide protests, group renews call for ‘justice’ in Shawnee man’s death

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A group of people gathered in front of the Pottawatomie County District Attorneys office in Shawnee on June 6, 2020, seeking justice for Ronald Given. KASSIE MCCLUNG/The Frontier
On a sweltering day in Shawnee, a group of people belonging to several Oklahoma tribes gathered in front of the Pottawatomie District Attorney’s office, moved by recent protests spurred by George Floyd’s death.

Following a march to the office, the group renewed calls for District Attorney Allan Grubb to file criminal charges in the death of Ronald Gene Given, who died after becoming unwell at the Pottawatomie County jail. Speakers at the rally Friday also asked Grubb to release more records related to Given’s death, including the name of the jailers who were on duty.

Ronald Given. Courtesy.

“No justice has been brought. We’re tired of it,” said Michael Rowe, who knew Given. “We’re in front of this office that can do something about it. We want justice.”

Grubb did not respond to a message left by The Frontier with his office Friday afternoon.

The Frontier reported earlier this year that Shawnee police officers in January 2019 took Given, 42, to a hospital for a mental health evaluation and wanted to transfer him to a mental health facility, records show. However, there were no beds available in the state.

Given stayed the night in the hospital, but about 12 hours into the stay, he stood up from his hospital bed and tried to leave the room, shoving an officer in the shoulder, according to records.

Officers arrested Given for assault and battery on a police officer and took him to the Pottawatomie County Public Safety Center. Given stayed at the jail for less than 10 hours before he was released on a medical bond, according to a jail release report.

He died in an Oklahoma City hospital about a week later. The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide.

A group of people gathered in front of the Pottawatomie County District Attorneys office in Shawnee on June 6, 2020, seeking justice for Ronald Given. KASSIE MCCLUNG/The Frontier

Given’s family and friends, as well as the community, want to see someone held accountable, Rodney Factor said.

“We do need to have some kind of justice or something done in the name of justice,” he said. “We as Native people will probably never see true justice on our part.”

A report from the state’s medical examiner found Given died from organ failure caused by cardiac arrhythmia from struggling as officers restrained him. Given became ill or injured at the jail and the death was ruled a homicide, the report stated. The report noted he had a violent mental disorder.

The Frontier requested video and incident reports for Given related to any injury or use of force at the jail earlier this year, but the jail refused to provide any records other than Given’s booking and release reports, claiming all others were exempt from the Oklahoma Open Records Act.

The jail staff did not report his death or injuries to the state health department’s jail inspection division. The jail was not required to report the incident because Given did not die at the jail, a health department spokeswoman told The Frontier earlier this year.

A spokeswoman for the Shawnee Police Department had said the department was told there was a struggle between Given and jail staff.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation opened an inquiry into Given’s death in 2019 and passed the findings along to Pottawatomie County’s district attorney.

Grubb earlier this year refused to release the investigation’s findings after a spokesman for his office initially offered to let a Frontier reporter review the document.

Grubb did not file criminal charges in connection with Given’s death.

In 2019, 20 people died after becoming injured or ill in Oklahoma jails, according to a database maintained by The Frontier.

Related reading:

For those struggling with addiction or mental health, Oklahoma jails can be deadly

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Kassie McClung

Staff writer

Kassie McClung joined The Frontier in May 2016. She reports on health, criminal justice and other state issues. Kassie holds a bachelors degree in multimedia journalism from Oklahoma State University. She likes dogs, maps and data. She can be reached at Kassie@readfrontier.com or 918-935-1044. Follow her on Twitter @KassieMcClung.
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