Authorities are investigating the death in prison of popular business owner, mental health advocate

Authorities are investigating the death in prison of popular business owner, mental health advocate

State and county officials are investigating the death of a popular Norman business owner and mental health advocate who baked cookies in a small cottage on the corner of Main Street and Webster Avenue.

Shannon Hanchett, 38, died this week at the Cleveland County Detention Center.

She was found “unconscious and not breathing” by detention officers around 12:45 a.m. Thursday, according to a statement provided by the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Department.

“Lifesaving action has been taken and emergency medical services have responded to the Cleveland County Detention Center, the statement said. The state medical examiner’s office will determine the cause and circumstances of Hanchett’s death.

Hanchett was arrested Nov. 26 by a Norman officer on complaints of calling 911 with a false alarm and obstructing an officer.

The officer, in a court affidavit obtained by The Transcript, said he responded to a store at 1444 24th Ave. NW at the request of an employee.

“Upon arrival, I contacted the accused, who was exhibiting behavior consistent with some type of mental health disorder,” the officer wrote in the affidavit. “In trying to gather more information from the accused so that I could try to help her, she said she was going to call 911. I asked her not to call 911.

“The defendant ignored my instructions and showed me her phone screen to prove that she had dialed 911. The defendant spoke to the dispatcher shortly before hanging up. I told the defendant that [she] was under arrest and she said she wasn’t, and I couldn’t stop her.”

Hanchett “refused to comply with any order I gave him for several minutes while I waited for a support officer,” the officer said in the affidavit.

“Defendant again called 911 from the store’s landline and put it on speakerphone once the dispatcher answered. I informed the dispatcher of the situation and hung up the phone,” reported the officer.

The officer reported telling Hanchett a second time that she was under arrest when she “attempted to flee and then fell to the ground, where she physically resisted arrest.”

Normandy police, in a statement on Friday, said the call for service was “the result of multiple calls to 911 requesting assistance in verifying the safety of the caller’s family.”

“The subject, later identified as 38-year-old Shannon Hanchett of Norman, was found to exhibit irrational behaviors and provided inconsistent information regarding her family and their safety,” the department reported.

Police checked on Hanchett’s family and “found them safe with no need for assistance,” the statement said.

The department said it found “no violations of policy by responding Norman officers” during an initial review, but promised a full review of the agency’s involvement in the arrest “to ensure compliance with training policy and standards”.

“Our agency extends our thoughts and prayers to Hanchett’s family and friends for their loss,” the statement read.

Hanchett’s death is being investigated by the sheriff’s office and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

Friends told The Transcript on Friday that Hanchett called police the night of her arrest because she was having a “mental health crisis.”

“Something is wrong,” said former Norman City Council member Kate Bierman. “Everyone has questions about how someone can sit in the Cleveland County Detention Center for 12 days on two misdemeanor charges.”

Bierman said Hanchett was a strong advocate for mental health awareness who previously worked for the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

“Shannon was the kind of person who loved you instantly no matter who you were,” Bierman said. “She immediately found something special about you to highlight and enhance. She brought out the best and more in everyone she worked with.”

Hanchett, a mother of two, was a founding member of Norman Pride, an organization created to promote advocacy and provide support to the LGBTQ2SIA+ community, Bierman said.

Her friend Ashley Brand called Hanchett’s death “an absolutely devastating loss to this community.”

“Shannon’s light touched everyone,” Brand said. “You didn’t need to be with her all day. It was contagious within seconds.”

Brand and Bierman are among those holding a vigil for Hanchett at 7 p.m. Monday outside Okie Baking Company, 231 W. Main St.

“We all got her cookies from her,” Brand said. “Everyone loved him.”

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