For nearly 8 minutes, Rikers Island guards ignored inmate who hanged himself, DA says
NEW YORK - A New York City grand jury has indicted current and former corrections officers for allegedly failing to help a Rikers Island inmate who tried to hang himself three years ago.
The four officers made an appearance in court in the Bronx on Monday for arraignment. Captain Terry Henry, 37, Officer Daniel Fullerton, 27, Officer Kenneth Hood, 35, and Officer Mark Wilson, 46, pled not guilty to first-degree reckless endangerment, second-degree reckless endangerment, and official misconduct.
The DA said Nicolas Feliciano, then 18, tried to kill himself while in custody at Rikers Island in 2019. He tied two sweatshirts to the ceiling of the holding cell, wrapped them around his neck, and then stepped off a partition, according to the DA.
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Video evidence shows the officers waiting 7 minutes and 51 seconds before helping Feliciano, prosecutors said.
"The defendants ignored their duty as Correction Officers to maintain custody, care and control of the person incarcerated, by allegedly waiting nearly eight minutes until they rendered assistance to the inmate whom they saw hanging," Bronx DA Darcel Clark said in a statement. "The young man is now living with extensive brain damage."
Feliciano's family said that he will need medical care for the rest of his life due to the brain damage.
Madeline Feliciano, his grandmother, said that seeing her grandson struggle to eat, talk, and even breathe has been traumatic.
"What these officers did was wrong and nobody deserves to go through that," she told FOX 5 NY outside the courthouse. "I wouldn't want this to happen to anybody else."
Feliciano's lawyer, David Rankin, said he doesn't know why Rikers Island is still being used when inmates cannot be kept safe.
"This case also shows really just the human catastrophe that is Rikers Island—the island needs to be shut down now," Rankin said. "It needed to be shut down years ago."
The president of COBA, the union for the corrections officers, called the case politically driven.
"Today's indictment of our officers, stemming from an incident that occurred over three years ago, is further evidence that this case is being driven more by politics than by facts," Boscio said in a statement. "The U.S. Attorney's Office previously conducted a thorough investigation of this same case and decided not to pursue any criminal charges. The Bronx DA's Office, however, is searching for scapegoats."
Boscio criticized the DA for hundreds of cases pending against inmates who are accused of attacking corrections officers going back several years.
"[The inmates] should be arrested and brought to justice at once—with the same enthusiasm that the DA apparently has in going after officers," Boscio said. "We will vigorously defend the rights of these officers and believe they will be exonerated of any alleged wrongdoing."
Fullerton and Wilson resigned in February, a DOC spokesperson said. The department has suspended Hood and placed Henry on modified duty.
Bronx Supreme Court Justice George Villegas ordered the men to return to court on Sept. 15.