Back-to-Back deaths on Rikers Island raise more concerns

Two Rikers inmates have died within a matter of days

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According to the Daily News, one Rikers Island jail inmate recently died in an incident involving his head being trapped in a handcuff slot, and another committed suicide.

“The first inmate, Tomas Carlo, 48, was found unresponsive at around 6:15 p.m. March 2 in a clinic area of the Anna M. Kross Center with his head stuck in the cuff port — a small metal door built into a larger jailhouse door where inmates slide their hands through so that correction officers can securely shackle them,” a Daily News source said.

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NEW YORK, NY – MAY 17: A view of the entrance to the Rikers Island prison complex. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Before he was utlimately pronounced dead, Carlo had been on life support at Elmhurst Hospital, where he’d been rushed. The exact conditions that lead to Carlo’s death are still unknown and being investigated by agency officials, according to the Daily News sources.

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“A second inmate, Javier Velasco, was found Friday in his cell at the Anna M. Kross Center with a linen wrapped around his neck just after 5 a.m. in an apparent suicide,” per an internal incident report procured by the Daily News.

The Daily News reported that Velasco was discovered by two officers around 5:15 a.m., three days after Carlo’s death. Medics arrived on the scene not more than 5 minutes after they were called, but Velasco was pronounced dead within the hour.

“Any death in custody is profoundly saddening, and our condolences are with the families of these men,” Rikers deputy commissioner of public information, Peter Thorne, said, per the Daily News. “The safety and wellbeing of those placed in our custody is our number one priority, and full investigations are underway into these incidents.”

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Carlo was accused of having assaulted a Lincoln Hospital employee. The victim of the attack was left with permanent damage to their eye. Court records show Velasco’s charges included “endangering the welfare of a child, criminal contempt, aggravated harassment, and menacing, court records show.”

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NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 05: Rikers Island jail complex stands under a blanket of snow on January 5, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Under frigid temperatures, New York City dug out from the “Bomb Cyclone.” (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

This news comes at an inconvenient time for Rikers. The infamous jail has recently been scrutinized for two other troubling incidents involving two mistaken releases. Rikers unintentionally released an alleged murderer, Christopher Buggs, on March 9th due to a clerical error. Buggs was “accused of killing 55-year-old Ernest Brownlee outside a bodega in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn” and is still at large.

Rikers also released alleged attempted murderer, Nikim Meekins, thanks to a similar error. “Meekins, 22, was arrested March 10 in connection with two incidents. The most serious one on Nov. 3 involved a nonfatal shooting in which he was charged with attempted murder and was supposed to be held on $100,000 bail.” Meekins has since turned himself back in.

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