OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – There were sounds of frustration outside the Cleveland County Detention center Sunday after a crowd of nearly 100 people spoke up about recent deaths of two women in custody.
“We’re tired,” shouted one peaceful protestor. “We’re mad and we want change now.”
The group has felt a lack of transparency in the two cases and said they want answers.
“We have received very little information from the Norman Police Department, from the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Department and even the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation,” said Kate Bierman, a friend of one of the women. “We need to know what exactly happened.”
Bierman, who is also a former Norman City Council member, said she knew Shannon Hanchett for years. Hanchett was known in the community as the “cookie queen” and an advocate for many.
“These were people who had not been convicted of crimes,” said Bierman. “These are people who left behind families and friends and legacies that are going to live beyond them.”
Hanchett was arrested in late November after an incident at a Norman AT&T store. The encounter was caught on police body camera. The officer who arrested her said she was “exhibiting behavior consistent with some sort of mental health disorder.” Twelve days later she died inside a jail cell at the detention center.
Kathryn Milano also died in custody after she was taken to the hospital for what deputies called a “pre-existing medical condition.” She died at the hospital on December 20. The sheriff’s office did not release a statement on her death until nine days later.
“I don’t think anyone in their right mind can stand here and say that two people dying is appropriate procedure,” said Bierman.
Bierman said the group gathered outside the detention center, Sunday, wanted to know the truth about what happened inside those doors.
“At no point was 988 involved in the Shannon situation,” said Bierman. “Which is our first and, right now, our only tool for crisis response which tells us that there are deeper reforms needed.”
She also noted the county commissioners were directly responsible for administering the jail and providing its funding, adding “ they have been absolutely silent about these two deaths. They have not made a single public comment about what the failings were and how they’re going to fix them.”
The group said it intended to show up to the Cleveland County Commission and City Council meetings in January to demand answers for the two deaths.