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Walk for mental health awareness, in support of jail inmate who attempted suicide held Wednesday
Enid News & Eagle - 9/20/2023
Sep. 20—Chanting "justice for Blake" and "justice for Huff," 40-50 individuals left the grounds of Garfield County Courthouse downtown to walk 1.6 miles to Garfield County Detention Facility on Wednesday and bring attention to mental health and the need for better conditions at the jail.
The walk was organized in the wake of a 24-year-old inmate's attempt at suicide last week at the detention facility.
Blake Olson remains in ICU, still ventilated and in guarded condition, at St. Mary's Regional Medical Center, a hospital spokeswoman said early Wednesday afternoon.
Olson's family members at Wednesday's walk said he was taking breaths on his own and there was some movement of his body, indicating parts of his brain are functioning, they were told by medical personnel.
"... He's getting better, a little bit at a time," said Shandra Mungia, Blake's sister. She added that doctors are continuing to order MRIs and tests to determine the extent of damage to his brain. Later in the afternoon she reported that the hospital staff were asking him to squeeze their hands and he was trying.
Mungia credits inmates at Garfield County Detention Facility who saw her brother hanging in his pod and alerted staff at the jail with saving Olson's life.
Daylen Rivers, interim jail administrator, said after Olson was discovered following the attempt on his own life Thursday evening he "was taken out by LIFE (EMS) and was breathing when he left the facility."
He was not on suicide watch, Rivers said. Family members maintain they spoke to jail personnel via phone last week and urged him to be watched for signs of self harm, Mungia said.
Olson had been taken into custody in connection with failure to appear in court on a charge of threatening to perform an act of violence, according to court records. He also was arrested in connection with possession of paraphernalia and marijuana, though charges had not yet been filed before Thursday, Rivers said.
The jail released custody of Olson so the proper medical care and decisions could be conducted, Rivers said Saturday.
He said Wednesday an internal investigation by the jail administration was complete and Garfield County Sheriff's Office will conduct an investigation of the incident. He said he reached out to the sheriff's office because of concerns from the community and Olson's family.
Sheriff Cory Rink said his department already is in the process of going through video footage and will "make sure to try to conduct a thorough investigation to see what happened."
He said the investigation will include also going over recordings of phone conversations. Rink said he hopes the investigation will be completed by the middle of next week.
Wednesday's "walk for justice and mental health awareness" was arranged by Tony Andrews, who goes by Tony BluntZman on Facebook. He said he is a long-time friend of the family who conducts walks to spread awareness and was approached by Mungia to organize Wednesday's walk instead of a protest.
"Mental health awareness isn't talked about in our country," said Andrews before he and the crowd set out for the detention facility. "And that's what I do. I've done a lot of walks ... just try to spread awareness, tell people it's OK to not be OK.
"And that's what we're going to do here, but we also want justice on this one and policies have to change ... It has to change peacefully. It has to change soon. And so this is, like, just the first one because today just won't change nothing. So there's gonna have to be more. And it's gonna have to stay on it until there is change. And together we can make a change."
The group ended the walk with a prayer circle outside the detention facility and the group talked for several minutes afterward, vowing to continue to walk for mental health and justice.
Some of those walking carried signs that read "MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS AND SO DO YOU," "READY FOR CHANGE GARFIELD COUNTY JAIL," "ALL LIVES MATTER" AND "# PRAY FOR BLAKE."
Other signs held by walkers were in support of Anthony Huff, who died while strapped to a restraint chair in Garfield County Detention Facility in June 2016. A $12.5 million settlement was reached in 2019 regarding a lawsuit filed by Huff's family over the death, and former jail administrator Jennifer Shay Niles and jailers John Robert Markus and Shawn Caleb Galusha entered pleas and were sentenced in March 2019 in Huff's death.
Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation was called to probe the September 2019 death of 39-year-old Arjen Loeak, and there were two deaths at the jail in 2013 and one in 2007.
Hassler is the digital content coordinator for the Enid News & Eagle.
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