NEW YORK – A captain in New York City’s jail has been indicted following allegations that she ignored an inmate who hanged himself and refused to allow corrections officers into the cell to try to save his life.
Rebecca Hillman, 38, of Brooklyn, is charged with criminally negligent homicide and offering a false instrument for filing, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. She turned herself in Monday.
Ryan Wilson, 29, also of Brooklyn, died Nov. 22 in a cell at the Manhattan Detention Complex, known as “the Tombs.” Security cameras caught his death on video.
“As alleged in the indictment, the death of Ryan Wilson wasn’t just a tragedy — it was a crime,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a statement. “Our investigation shows that Capt. Hillman ordered her subordinates not to take potentially life-saving measures to help Mr. Wilson and failed to call for medical assistance expediently.
“This callous disregard for Mr. Wilson’s safety resulted in an irreversible loss to his family and friends, and (she) must be held criminally accountable.”
Hillman’s attorney, Kenneth Montgomery, said in a statement that his client is a “hardworking mother and employee who did her best in a very difficult job that is defined by trauma and tragedy,” and that they “look forward to defending the serious charges against her,” according to The Associated Press.
CBS New York reported that Hillman’s colleagues testified against her in front of the grand jury.
Wilson’s sister was in court Monday for Hillman’s arraignment, where she heard details of her brother’s last moments.
“My stomach was churning,” Elayna Manson told the news station. “I was heartbroken.”
According to Vance’s office, Hillman was in charge of the unit in which Wilson was being held last November when Wilson and another inmate got into an argument. Hillman decided to transfer Wilson to another unit.
“Mr. Wilson, who remained locked in his cell pending the move, fashioned a noose out of a bedsheet and attached it to a light fixture,” a news release stated. “After calling an officer over, Mr. Wilson climbed on a stool, put the noose around his neck and threatened to hang himself if Hillman would not come and let him out of his cell.”
The officer, identified by The New York Times as Officer Oscar Rojo, tried to calm Wilson down. He also called Hillman and told her she was needed immediately in the housing unit.
Instead of going where she was needed, Hillman went into the control room, where she started filling out paperwork, prosecutors allege.
After 10 minutes of waiting for the captain to show up, Wilson grew more upset and climbed from the stool onto his bed.
His neck still in the noose, he began a countdown and, when he got to the end of the countdown, he jumped.
“The officer who was outside the cell talking to Mr. Wilson called for the cell to be opened immediately so he could cut him down,” the news release stated. “A few moments later, Hillman emerged from the control room, while the cell door remained shut, and told the other inmates that Mr. Wilson was fine and was ‘playing.’”
Hillman signaled to another officer in the control room to open the door, which was opened a minute later, prosecutors said. She would not allow Rojo to tend to Wilson, who was still hanging.
“Hillman ordered the officer not to enter and said that Mr. Wilson was faking it because he was still breathing,” Vance’s release stated. “At this point, Hillman called for nonemergency backup and ordered the door closed while Mr. Wilson remained hanging inside of the locked cell.”
She then left the housing unit to go on her usual rounds, authorities allege.
Hillman waited until 15 minutes after Wilson jumped to order his cell opened and call for a medical team. The officers who cut him down could feel a faint pulse, so they began chest compressions.
By the time the medical team arrived, Wilson was dead.
Hillman’s official report of the incident vastly downplayed what took place, according to prosecutors. In the report, she wrote that Wilson had requested the pending move to a separate unit.
She also falsely claimed she had Wilson’s cell door opened, and had officers cut him down, “immediately,” authorities said.
Hillman and Rojo were suspended shortly after Wilson’s death, according to the Times. Rojo has not been charged with a crime.
Wilson’s family said he had a history of mental illness, including schizophrenia. ABC7 in New York reported that he was released on parole last summer from Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining.
“He was released during COVID, and the pressure was on him to make something happen,” Wilson’s sister, Elayna Manson, told the news station last year. “He didn’t have the patience to wait for something to come along.”
Unable to find work, Wilson found himself in a homeless shelter, which made his mental health worse, the Times reported. Manson said she tried to help her brother by giving him cash and encouragement.
Wilson was arrested in October on a robbery charge after attempting to secure money for food, the newspaper reported. He had been in jail for about a month before his death.
Being back behind bars exacerbated his depression, according to his family. The family said that jail staff, who were aware of his history, should have had him under closer supervision.
“Your job was to make sure everyone was safe, to protect the people,” Manson said, according to the Times. “I wish you would have done your job and my brother would have still been here. What made her not intervene?”
Wilson’s attorney, Ben Pinczewski, said despite the city jail’s informal nickname, it’s not meant to be a place where inmates die.
“It’s not supposed to be a tomb, it’s supposed to be a jail,” Pinczewski said.
How to find Country Legends
Download the FREE Country Legends 97.1 app now!
Celebrities react to death of singer-actor Aaron Carter
Eagles on Tour
Help a Deserving Family Get a New Roof for Free!
Bucs WR Antonio Brown off team after discarding jersey, exiting field
‘Friends’ Actor Matthew Perry Dead at 54