DOC captain, NYC hit with wrongful death suit over inmate suicide
The sister of an inmate who hanged himself last year in a Manhattan jail cell has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and a jail guard captain saying the man’s death could’ve been prevented, new court papers show.
Elayna Manson accuses Capt. Rebecca Hillman and other officers of not following proper protocol, resulting in her brother Ryan Wilson’s suicide on Nov. 22 at the Manhattan Detention Complex, according to Manson’s Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit.
The suit, filed Tuesday, alleges that Hillman was on notice about Wilson’s suicide threat.
“We would rather have our brother here with us today,” Manson said in a statement to The Post. Still, “We want everything that our family is entitled to. We still want Rebecca Hillman to face jail time.”
Hillman was arrested on April 26 for allegedly ordering her subordinates not to help the 29-year-old inmate — who was in jail on a parole violation and robbery charges. After, Hillman also allegedly filed an official report falsely claiming she told the officers to intervene, prosecutors allege.
“Defendants facilitated Ryan Wilson’s death and failed to follow procedures when dealing with with suicidal prisoners and failed to prevent the unnecessary death of Ryan Wilson, even though they had an opportunity to do so,” the lawsuit charges.
“After defendants allowed Mr. Wilson to kill himself, they attempted to cover it up by filing false official reports and impeding official investigations into the incident.”
Wilson made a noose out of bed sheets, tying it to a light in the cell. He then placed the noose around his neck and called an officer over, threatening to kill himself if the officer didn’t let him out, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office alleged.
The officer reported Wilson’s threats to Hillman who took no action, according to a criminal complaint.
Then, Wilson started a count down before hanging himself, prompting the officer to yell for the cell to be unlocked so they could cut him down. Then moments later Hillman came out and told other inmates that Wilson was OK and was “playing,” prosecutors alleged.
Hillman ordered the cell to be opened but told the officer not to go inside because Wilson was faking it and still breathing. Hillman then called for non-emergency back up, closed the cell door and resumed her rounds, prosecutors claimed.
It wasn’t until 15 minutes later that Hillman finally ordered a medical team to come, but by that time, Wilson was dead, officials said.
Hillman’s report in the aftermath falsely claimed that she had the cell door opened and cut down Wilson immediately, authorities alleged.
Because of Wilson’s death, Manson has endured “pain and suffering” and the “loss of companionship,” the suit claims.
Manson is seeking unspecified damages.
“Ryan Wilson’s life was lost in the City’s custody when those in power chose to let him die,” Manson’s lawyer John Elefterakis told The Post by email. “This senseless loss of life will forever be felt by his family and serves as a painful reminder of the institutional injustices suffered by those who can least protect themselves.”
Hillman pleaded not guilty to charges of criminally negligent homicide and offering a false instrument for filing. She was released without bail.
She is currently on modified duty, according to the Department of Correction.
The Department of Correction deferred comment on the suit to the Law Department.
“This is a tragic case. We will work to achieve a just outcome,” city Law Department spokesman Nicholas Paolucci told The Post.
“We will review the criminal case and all the facts necessary to determine whether these civil claims have merit.”
Kenneth Montgomery, Hillman’s attorney in her criminal case, declined to comment.