NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Four guards at Rikers Island have been suspended. They’re accused of standing by as an inmate attempted suicide.
Three Department of Correction officers and one captain may end up getting fired. They’re accused of doing nothing for several minutes as an 18-year-old inmate tried to hang himself, CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported Wednesday.
The incident happened at around midnight last Thursday.
Department of Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann issued a statement saying, “The claims being made here are extremely troubling and we are taking them seriously. The safety and well being of those in our custody is our number one priority and an investigation into this incident is underway.”
However, Correction Officers Benevolent Association President Elias Husamudeen said his members are being scapegoated, adding that as soon as they realized what was happening they went to help.
“Every day we cut inmates down. Every day we save inmates. Every day we have inmates faking that they’re gonna hang up,” Husamudeen said. “At the end of the day no correction officer stood and watched as this inmate attempted to commit suicide. Never happened for seven minutes.”
When told the incident was captured on video, Husamudeen said, “It is on video and when the video is made public, no one is going to watch four correction officers stand for seven minutes watching an inmate attempt to hang up.”
The union president said the inmate in question was mentally ill and never should have been at Rikers to begin with.
“They did their job and the one who should be suspended or fired is the one who made the decision to put him in a maximum security jail,” Husamudeen said.
The inmate, identified as Nicholas Feliciano, was reportedly jailed on a parole violation. He was found to be unresponsive and is reportedly hospitalized in a medically induced coma. Attorneys representing him agree given his mental health history he should not have been in Rikers.
Mayor Bill de Blasio called the allegations against the officers “deeply troubling.”
In October, the city council approved the mayor’s controversial plan to shut down Rikers Island by 2026 and replace it with smaller and safer jails in four of the five boroughs.