NEW YORK - A man held at Rikers Island has died shortly after a judge granted him emergency release, the man's attorney said.
The New York Post reported that 64-year-old Victor Mercado was the 13th person to die in the city's jail system in 2021. Mercado was held at Rikers Island since July, following his arrest on gun charges.
Attorney James A. Kilduff and a Department of Correction spokesperson said Mercado, of the Bronx, died at Elmhurt Hospital at 12:39 p.m. Friday.
The corrections spokesperson said Mercado's death appeared to be "medical in nature." The medical examiner's office said Saturday that it's determining what caused his death.
Kilduff said Mercado — who had underlying health conditions and used a wheelchair in recent weeks — spent most of his time at Rikers in the infirmary. The attorney said he spoke with Mercado's family on Wednesday night and learned Mercado had contracted COVID-19.
Kilduff spoke with Mercado by telephone on Thursday, following his transfer to Elmhurst Hospital. Kilduff said Mercado sounded "frightened" and asked him to help him "get me out of here."
On Friday morning, the attorney contacted the office of the Bronx district attorney, who agreed to ask the court for an emergency compassionate release.
A judge granted the application following a noon video appearance.
But Mercado's brother told Kilduff soon afterward that it was too late.
Kilduff said Mercado appeared in court on Sept. 27 in a wheelchair to unsuccessfully ask to have his $100,000 bail lowered.