Man dies of pneumonia in Atoka County Jail

Published: Jul. 12, 2019 at 6:43 PM CDT
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"You're not under the influence of anything?" said the Tushka police officer.

"No," said Michael Hoeppner

"Are you having any physical problems?"

"I'm sick but other than that..."

Body cam footage obtained by the Frontier News in Tulsa, comes from a Tushka police officer after he pulled over Michael Hoeppner on the morning of March 8th.

The officer arrested the Wisconsin truck driver, and took him to an Atoka hospital to have his blood tested for drugs or alcohol.

When Hoeppner was getting out of the car, the officer noticed he was stumbling.

"Let me ask you a question, why are you staggering around so much if you aren't taking anything?" said the Tushka officer.

"I had leukiemia, but I am sick right now," said Hoeppner.

After the hospital, Hoeppner was taken to the Atoka County Jail, where he was found dead the next morning.

The medical examiner says he died of pneumonia.

Frontier reporters Kassie McClung and Brianna Bailey came across this case because they are working on a year-long project on deaths in Oklahoma jails.

In medical reports from Hoeppner's family, Michael had a low oxygen in his blood, and did not have any drugs or alcohol in his body.

"Got records from local law enforcement, more from the health department, medical examiner's office, and Michael's family ended up giving us his medical records as well from when he got his blood drawn," said McClung.

Their project, known as Cell by Cell, they found 222 people have died in Oklahoma jails in the past 10 years according to the State Department of Health.

Their goal is to learn more about how and why people die in Oklahoma jails.

McClung says they worked on Hoeppner's story for a month and a half, as his family is still searching for answers.

"They just don't understand how this could have happened, how Michael could have been so sick and no one noticed. He was in the hospital, he was in the jail, so many people saw him before he died and no one realized he had pneumonia," said McClung.

McClung says Michael Hoeppner's family is looking into options to take legal action, but nothing has been filed yet.

In McClung's report, the state cited the Atoka County Jail for failing to document sight checks on detainees the night of Hoeppner's death.

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