NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City correction officer on Rikers Island has been arrested after prosecutors said he stood idly by, sipping a cup of coffee, as an inmate had a fatal seizure and fellow inmates held the dying man in their arms shouting for help.
But the officer, Wickenson DeMaitre, didn't help, prosecutors alleged. Instead, fellow inmates said he told them, "I'm not touching him."
DeMaitre pleaded not guilty Friday to official misconduct, falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing charges. He was released after posting a $50,000 bond. Neither his attorney, Noel Munier, nor a spokesman for his union immediately responded to requests for comment.
DeMaitre, 47, was on post at the Anna M. Kross Center on Rikers Island on Oct. 1, 2014, when inmate Victor Woods began convulsing around 4 a.m., authorities said. Fellow inmates rushed to tend to Woods and one eventually went and sought out another correction officer who called for a medical response team. In an incident report, DeMaitre claimed he was the first person to call for help, but prosecutors said a video showed he just stood around and did nothing.
Woods, an unemployed tunnel worker, had been arrested about a week before his death after he couldn't post $15,000 bail. Police said they had found more than 100 small glassine envelopes of heroin in his pockets.
The 53-year-old's death came at the height of scrutiny of the city's jail system after The Associated Press began detailing dozens of deaths at Rikers Island. The AP detailed Woods' death in December. An autopsy showed Woods died of natural causes, triggered by a gastrointestinal hemorrhage due to peptic ulcer disease.
An attorney for his family said Wednesday that Woods was just a man with a drug problem who needed help.
"Frankly, most decent people would not permit a caged animal to visibly suffer without proper medical attention," the lawyer, Carmen Jack Giordano, said.
DeMaitre is the sixth correction officer to be arrested by the city's Department of Investigation this month. Commissioner Mark Peters said the arrests are part of a widespread investigation into violence and contraband smuggling in the city's jail system.
"Correction officers who intentionally misrepresent the facts manipulate the official record and the city's ability to get at the truth," Peters said.
DeMaitre started working for the New York City Department of Correction in 2001. He was fired in October 2014 amid a probe into Woods' death, Peters said.
Associated Press writer Jake Pearson contributed to this report.