Seeking answers & justice for Native lives!
Family & Community Want Answers
LAWTON, OKLAHOMA — On December 13, 2014, the family and friends of Christina Tahhahwah, who died under suspicious circumstances while in police custody, held a vigil in Shepler Park, across the street from the Lawton Police Department. Hundreds gathered to honor her memory and to support her family as they seek answers for the many questions surrounding her death.
The Lawton Police arrested Christina Tahhahwah at her grandparents’ home on November 13. She suffered from bi-polar disorder and stopped taking her medications, which led to the family calling the police to aid in taking her to the hospital for medical care. According to the police report, she had “become angry and agitated and started throwing objects around” and refused to leave the property, so they took her into custody and charged her with trespassing.
On November 14, Tahhahwah was found unresponsive in her cell, minutes after being handcuffed to the cell door for unknown reasons. She had gone into cardiac arrest and resuscitation efforts were given by emergency medical personnel until the ambulance crew arrived and was able to transfer her to the hospital, where she was put on life support and admitted to the intensive care unit.
Her family was not immediately notified of these events.
According to Christina’s aunt, Martina Minthorn-Callahan, they were only made aware of her hospitalization 12 hours after it had happened via a Facebook message sent to one of their cousins by a family friend who worked at the hospital.
After receiving the message, the family called the Lawton Police Department and the hospital to try to find out what had happened to Christina. Once they knew that she was, in fact, hospitalized they gathered at the hospital. It was there that they heard began hearing reports from fellow inmates that she was tased for refusing to obey a command to stop singing Comanche hymns.
The Lawton Police have said that Tasers were not used on Tahhahwah and their logs show there was no activity recorded for any of the Taser units in use at the police station. In compliance with their policies, they will not issue a statement until they have autopsy results from the Medical Examiner. They did, however, release a surveillance video showing the time leading up the events that put Christina Tahhahwah in intensive care and her death 3\three days later.
With the conflicting reports of what occurred before her death, the family of Christina Tahhahwah is searching for information from those who may have witnessed what happened in the jail cell and asking that they come forward.
Johnnie Jae is of the Jiwere-Nutachi and Chahta tribes of Oklahoma. She is the Managing Partner & Midwest Regional Director @ Native Max Magazine | Contributing writer to Native News Online | Founding Board Member of Not Your Mascots | Member of the Native American Journalists Association.