YORK COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — To Crystal Ouedraogo, York County Corrections Sgt. Lenward McMillan — or “Wood,” as almost everybody called him — was a “superhero.”
But then “my superhero became mortal” when McMillan, 51, died Friday of COVID-19 — a death Ouedraogo thinks was fully preventable.
“My brother being as dedicated as he was and working, covering people’s shifts, I think they should have set up better parameters for the employees,” Ouedraogo, echoing complaints about COVID-19 protocols heard by abc27 by workers and inmates, as well as public complaints in late 2020 by the union representing employees.
Sharing the blame, in the view of some: state officials for not making the vaccination of prison workers a higher priority. The Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association, which represents state prison workers (although not those at York County Prison), reiterated its call Wednesday for prison workers to be vaccinated urgently. McMillan died two weeks after contracting the virus, according to Ouedraogo, which was weeks after people in “category 1A” got their first shots.
“I’m so saddened that my brother has passed from it,” Ouedraogo said. “But it’s like, okay, maybe they’ll get the picture now.”
A York County spokesman previously confirmed 834 positive COVID-19 tests among inmates as of early January and “about 30” among staff as of late December, meaning greater than one in every 1,000 COVID-19 cases in all of Pennsylvania has occurred inside the facility.
Asked to comment about allegations of poor COVID-19 protocols at the prison, York County commissioners released a joint statement to abc27 news praising McMillan as a mentor and someone who volunteered for the toughest assignments, although they did not specifically address COVID-19 protocols. (Their full statement is below.)
Ouedraogo said McMillan was the “calming force” who helped her and their brother Wayne cope with the loss of another brother, Chris, in 2018. Now she’ll have to apply what McMillan taught her as she grieves for him.
Statement from York County Board of Commissioners
The York County Board of Commissioners extends its deepest sympathies to the friends and family of Sergeant Lenward A. McMillan, who passed away Jan. 22. Sgt. McMillan was a dedicated County of York employee for 20 years.
Those who worked with him in the Prison said he was not just an outstanding employee, but also a leader, protector and mentor.
“He volunteered for the more challenging roles, such as working in housing units with inmates who have mental health or behavioral issues,” said York County Prison Deputy Warden Adam Ogle. “He worked for many years as a member of our Correctional Emergency Response Team (C.E.R.T.) and he was willing to be the first one on scene when staff called for assistance.”
Sgt. McMillan lived a life of mentorship that reached people at the Prison as well as young men on the football field. Whether it was the value of teamwork and dedication or advising staff on the right way to do things at work, people listened to Sgt. McMillan because they knew he was not merely speaking the truth but also living it, Ogle said.
Sgt. McMillan’s presence made York County a better place and his absence at York County Prison is sadly apparent. While we recognize the community’s interest in Sgt. McMillan’s passing, we feel it is paramount to allow his coworkers, friends and family the appropriate time and space to grieve his loss.