Cases of troubling NYC jail deaths deemed medical

AP News
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Posted: Oct 22, 2014 4:03 PM
Cases of troubling NYC jail deaths deemed medical

NEW YORK (AP) — Hundreds of documents obtained by The Associated Press raise serious questions about the quality and timeliness of care given to least 15 inmates who died over the past five years while being held at New York City's Rikers Island jail.

Here are brief accounts, based on the city and state documents, of some of those cases:

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MARK JOHNSON

Died: May 28, 2013

Johnson, 32, died of a bacterial infection in his stomach and bowel after demanding medical care from jail guards for days because of bloody stools.

One day he was told he wasn't on the list for sick call. Another day there was no guard to escort him to the clinic. It wasn't until inmates staged a protest by refusing to go to a meal that doctors came. Johnson underwent emergency surgery but died soon after, his stomach full of pus.

A preliminary internal investigation found no negligence by the Correction Department and said Johnson had a pre-existing condition that caused his death.

DAVID CABAN

Died: Jan. 25, 2009

Caban, a 38-year-old who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, died four days after arriving at Rikers from a psychiatric hospital. He received care later deemed so substandard that a psychiatrist was fired.

The medical examiner found that Caban died of a sudden heart problem, aggravated by his mental illness, and ruled it natural.

But state investigators found that Caban received a drug injection to calm him down without being monitored or sent for emergency hospitalization. Then he was sent back to a dorm where he ran amok, charging at a guard. He was then handcuffed and left alone on a holding cell floor, rocking and grunting.

One guard checked on an unresponsive Caban and nudged him with her foot but didn't call doctors because, she said, he was still breathing. He was found dead 10 minutes later.

ROLANDO PEREZ

Died: Jan. 19, 2014

Perez, 36, died at Rikers in January, two days after he was put in "The Bing" — solitary confinement — for fighting.

Inmates told investigators they heard Perez screaming for his medication — pills he relied on since age 16 to control a severe seizure disorder.

The medical examiner said he died of a seizure disorder and heart problems and ruled his death natural.

He had been put in solitary without the required clearance from the mental health and medical staff.

DARNELL SMITH

Died: Nov. 9, 2013

In an email, the city's former jails commissioner said preliminary reports indicated Smith, 48, didn't complain of being sick before he died of heart disease after vomiting blood in his cell.

But another inmate told investigators that Smith had complained a day earlier of being in pain. Scott Silverstein also said it took health workers 20 minutes to arrive after getting an emergency call from guards.

By that time, Smith was naked from the waist down, vomiting blood and unable to move, despite health workers' demands that he stand up. Three inmates had to carry him out. He died on the way to the hospital.