Rikers Island inmate's 'hot cell' death ruled homicide

NEW YORK (AP) — Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new task force Monday to overhaul how New York City's corrections system treats the mentally ill — both in jail and out — following the grisly deaths of two inmates with psychological problems.

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

NEW YORK — The death of a seriously mentally ill and diabetic inmate who sexually mutilated himself after seven days in a New York City jail cell has been ruled a homicide, the city medical examiner’s office said Monday.

Spokeswoman Julie Bolcer said the cause of 39-year-old Bradley Ballard’s September 2013 death on Rikers Island was diabetic ketoacidosis with a contributing factor of genital ischemia. Diabetic ketoacidosis occurs when people don’t have enough insulin and the liver breaks down fat instead, which can be fatal. Ischemia occurs when tissues don’t get enough oxygen and die.

Ballard, who family members said had been diagnosed as schizophrenic, was discovered lying in his own feces in a cell with a rubber band tied around his scrotum. He had been confined to his cell in a mental observation unit at Rikers for seven days for making a lewd gesture at a female guard, according to interviews and documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Documents obtained by the AP show Ballard was not given his medication for much of the time he spent locked in his cell in a mental observation unit. The documents show he was checked on dozens of times by correction officers but never taken out of his cell until he was found unresponsive.

The Department of Correction, citing a pending and ongoing investigation, declined to comment. The Bronx District Attorney’s Office didn’t immediately comment.

Curtis Griffin, Ballard’s stepfather, said, “It’s hard to believe that things got this bad. You can’t cover these things up. Bradley is not the only one. If they don’t know what their job is they shouldn’t be there.”

Ballard’s death and the death of another inmate who died in an overheated cell have prompted a city lawmaker to schedule an oversight hearing. On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new task force that would overhaul how the corrections system treats the mentally ill.

—Copyright 2014 Associated Press