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PM NewsBrief: Sept. 7, 2023

This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Thursday, September 7, 2023.

Cover-up Alleged in Pottawatomie County Jail Deaths

Pottawatomie County is accused of keeping details on deaths in the county jail from the deceased detainees’ family members and from reporters.

Oklahoma Watch journalist Whitney Bryen reported that the county ignored the families’ requests for information on the deaths and refused to comply with court orders to produce records on the seven people.

"Of those people, only two of them were reported to the state health department, which the jail is supposed to do by law any time somebody dies," Bryen said.

Bryen also said officials cancelled and interview she had with them about the jail deaths, claimed an attorney told them to not do the interview and refused to tell her who their attorney was. One of the seven was Ronald Given, who died in 2019 after he struggled with jailers while he was naked and hallucinating.

Bryen said three of the families of the deceased, including Given’s family, have sued the jail over the lack of information about the deaths.

Superintendent Walters Faces Another Lawsuit

State Superintendent Ryan Walters is facing his seventh lawsuit. This one comes from a former State Department of Education employee who was terminated after she spoke at her children’s school board meeting.

Former department employee Janessa Bointy filed suit last week against the state department and its head, Superintendent Ryan Walters, alleging she was wrongfully terminated and her First Amendment rights were violated.

Bointy is the parent of four Edmond Public Schools students. At an Edmond school board meeting’s public comment period, she spoke about mental health resources in light of a student’s recent death from suicide.

That, according to the state department, constituted a breach of confidentiality and a violation of the agency’s media policy.

"I just felt compelled to speak at the school board meeting just to share some of the current statistics, data, surrounding child and adolescent mental health. I never thought for a minute that I was doing anything that was violating any policies at work, or would put my job in jeopardy" said Bointy.

Asked for a response, a spokesperson for Walters says the office doesn’t comment on personnel matters.

Lighthorse Police Officer Killed In ATV Accident

The Choctaw Nation is mourning the death of a Lighthorse Police Officer.

Rance Warren was a 13-year veteran of the Choctaw Nation’s Department of Public Safety.

He worked in the Pittsburg County Division of the Lighthorse Police.

He died at a McAlester hospital following an ATV crash in rural Latimer County on Labor Day. The McAlester News-Capital reports the crash was caused by high speed.

Warren was not wearing a seatbelt. A child and a woman who were passengers during the crash were also hospitalized, but both were treated and released.

Public Services for Warren will take place next week at the McAlester Expo Center.

Free Mental Health And Substance Abuse Trainings

The State Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is offering three free mental health first aid trainings.

In recognition of National Suicide Prevention and Recovery Month, two Oklahoma prevention services are offering classes to Oklahomans 18 years or older so they can assist adults and youth exhibiting mental health or substance abuse warning signs.

The training addresses the importance of early intervention, as 4.1% of adults in Oklahoma had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year, with one in 10 students reporting attempted suicide in the past 12 months.

It will also teach attendees how to handle crises through role-playing exercises and videos illustrating real-life situations.

The mental health first aid training will be offered through in-person, blended and virtual sessions. To learn more and register, head to this website.


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