The next morning his cold dead body was found by cellmates, who tried to notify shift personnel. An autopsy confirmed he had no impairing substance in his body, except the deadly flu virus which was left untreated by law enforcement.
The Atoka County Sheriff, Tushka police, and the 'nursing officer' all seem to insist that it was the gravely ill man's duty to self diagnose and report all his medical conditions. The man was barely conscious for most of his interactions, and in fact, passed out in the hospital parking lot, falling onto the police cruiser. The Atoka County jail has no on-site medical personnel, so it's left to unqualified law enforcement officers to decide if a medical condition requires a trip to the local hospital. That could take several additional hours. And only if & when the jail staff decides that the priority is high enough to act.
This also points to the vulnerability of the mentally impaired. Those who are mentally incompetent (even temporarily) are in grave danger because of the contradictions of law enforcement. they get arrested for lacking coherence in public, but are still assumed to have responsibility for their fate when the cops deny them the freedom to seek help. Many mentally ill individuals will only confide a health need to close family and trusted friends. They know their impairments leave them vulnerable to exploitation and public shaming, so they guard their medical history(even if they don't suffer paranoia).
This story was detailed as part of the series of that Frontier News has researched, into the 17 known jail house deaths in Oklahoma, so far this year. 6 of the 17 deaths occured in Oklahoma County (metro OKC). Tulsa County had no reported jailhouse deaths so far this year.
Name: Michael James Hoeppner
Died: March 9, 2019
Location: Atoka County Jail, Atoka
Cause and manner of death: Double bronchopneumonia due to the flu.
What happened: Hoeppner died after being booked into the Atoka County Jail on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs, but post-mortem toxicology tests found no drugs or alcohol in his system. Before Hoeppner’s arrest, the Atoka County Sheriff’s Office received multiple 911 calls about a possible impaired driver weaving in and out of traffic, according to a jail incident report. Police took Hoeppner to a local hospital for a blood test before he was booked into the jail. A corrections officer found Hoeppner dead in his cell at about 6:30 a.m. the next morning. Hoeppner appeared to have died in his sleep, the sheriff’s office reported.
"Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed,
nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."
These elementary principles establish the government's obligation to provide medical care for those whom it is punishing by incarceration. An inmate must rely on prison authorities to treat his medical needs; if the authorities fail to do so, those needs will not be met. In the worst cases, such a failure may actually produce physical "torture or a lingering death," In re Kemmler, supra, the evils of most immediate concern to the drafters of the Amendment. In less serious cases, denial of medical care may result in pain and suffering which no one suggests would serve any penological purpose. Cf. Gregg v. Georgia, supra, at 182-183 (joint opinion). The infliction of such unnecessary suffering is inconsistent with contemporary standards of decency as manifested in modern legislation codifying the common law view that "it is but just that the public be required to care for the prisoner, who cannot, by reason of the deprivation of his liberty, care for himself."
We therefore conclude that deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain," Gregg v. Georgia, supra, at 173 (joint opinion), proscribed by the Eighth Amendment. This is true whether the indifference is manifested by prison doctors in their response to the prisoner's needs or by prison guards in intentionally denying or delaying access to medical care or intentionally interfering with the treatment once prescribed. Regardless of how evidenced, deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious illness or injury states a cause of action
Mike Hoeppner was taken to the Atoka Medical Center where he staggered out of the cruiser.
He's heard on the video telling the officer;
"I had a leukemia, and I am sick right now."
Officer Buddy Sanders does not pursue the discussion of his sickness and takes him into the E.R. and simply tells the receptionist, "blood draw".
Note: This story went largely unreported at the time. The victim had no family in Oklahoma and law enforcement had little motivation to report their own incompetency and ignorant brutality. We were alerted to the case by a summary report of 2019 jailhouse deaths in Oklahoma, that Frontier News recently published. (better late than never).