On November 10th, 2015, 49-year-old Samuel Reyes was arrested in the Bronx on the suspicion that he'd been involved in an armed robbery. He was taken to the NYPD's 49th precinct stationhouse in Morris Park and placed in one of two holding cells directly across from the front desk. The next evening, he was found unresponsive and hanging from a bar in that holding cell, apparently having used a piece of cloth from his robe to hang himself. He was pronounced brain dead at the hospital, and, two days later, had passed away.

Since then, Reyes's family has struggled to get answers from the NYPD about the details of his death, and after months of frustration, they are now suing the NYPD, Commissioner Bratton, and a number of individual officers from the 49th precinct stationhouse, arguing that they could have prevented Reyes's death and should have been more cooperative with the family in the aftermath.

According to the suit, filed yesterday in federal court, Reyes's holding cell was about 25 feet away from the front desk in the police station, within the direct line of vision of the NYPD officer who was tasked with keeping an eye on individuals detained in those cells—but when he was found dead on the evening of November 11th, that officer was nowhere to be found, the suit alleges.

Reyes was then cut down from the bar from which he was found hanging and transported to Jacobi Medical Center, where he was placed on life support, but remained in NYPD custody. The officers present shackled and handcuffed him to the bed, according to the suit, which notes that "he was not in any conceivable manner or fashion a threat to flee or a threat to do harm to himself or to anyone else." Those officers also allegedly limited Reyes's family's access to his hospital room.

By that point, his family had retained attorneys, who were stunned to see that Reyes was restrained and told the officers present that it was "not only an affront to the Reyes family members, it was barbaric, shocking and an affront to the very humanity of Samuel Reyes and to his family members," as was the limitation the NYPD placed on his family's access to the room. Still, Reyes remained handcuffed and shackled until he died two days later.

Within days of his death, the sergeant who'd allegedly shirked his or her responsibility of watching and monitoring Reyes's holding cell had been placed on modified duty by NYPD Commissioner Bratton, who told reporters that the sergeant was indeed supposed to have been working the front desk at the time of Reyes's death.

"We also have an obligation when they're in our custody for their well being, so I'm very concerned, naturally, that somebody was able to hang himself in one of our cells, a cell that was in view in front of the front desk," Bratton said several days after Reyes's death.

But the suit argues that the fact that someone in a holding cell could hang himself without anyone at the precinct noticing "is more than 'concerning.' Rather, it is sort of shocking! Actually, it is not sort of shocking. It is shocking!" Attorneys for Reyes's family also condemn the treatment that the family, and specifically Reyes's mother, has received from the NYPD since November: they call it "disgraceful and shocking," and say that "the lack of information and the delay in concluding the investigation is very, very problematic and troubling."

They've submitted a Freedom of Information Law request on behalf of the Reyes family, asking for all information that the NYPD has about Reyes's death. However, the suit states that they've been told they can't receive any of that information, including the name of the sergeant placed on modified duty, because the investigation is pending. They were similarly provided with little information when they FOILed the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which looked into a complaint filed by one of Reyes's family members following his death, the suit claims.

Reyes's family has also asked Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office to investigate Reyes's death, per Governor Cuomo's executive order from last summer that appointed Schneiderman as a Special Prosecutor for police-related civilian deaths. They were told the matter didn't fall under Schneiderman's jurisdiction, according to the suit, but that perplexed the family's attorneys, who knew that Schneiderman's office had undertaken a similar investigation the death of Raynette Turner, who died in a holding cell in Mount Vernon last August (though Schneiderman wound up determining that the police were not culpable in that case).

Schneiderman's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Reyes's family's request.

"They said it doesn't really fall into their jurisdiction, but we think it absolutely does fall into the jurisdiction," said Jenny Marashi, one of the attorneys for the Reyes family. "They, under that executive order, are supposed to investigate...otherwise it's sort of like being on a cruise ship and someone dying on the ship, and the person who does the investigation is the cruise ship company."

The family is now turning to civil litigation. According to their attorneys, they're looking to get information from the investigation into his death; monetary damages for the role they allege the city played in his death; and policy changes, both in terms of the NYPD's procedures for monitoring people in holding cells and in terms of providing information to families after such a death.

Reyes's apparent suicide was one of several similar cases in a relatively short timeframe: between May 2015 and February 2016, three people hanged themselves in city holding cells. And the country as a whole has seen an uptick in holding cell deaths: since 2000, over 4,000 people have died while detained in local jails, and the suicide rate increased 23% between 2009 and 2013.

"Jail suicides are something that happen not super frequently, but rather frequently," Marashi said. "There's supposed to be procedures in place to prevent that from happening. Here, it's not really clear what the policies were."

In the case of Sandra Bland, who police said died while in their custody in a Texas jail, her family members publicly questioned the assumption that her death was a suicide, while suing authorities and alleging wrongful death. Similarly, Reyes's family has questioned the official cause of his death, stating that "he would never take his life," though this suit does not explicitly contest that his death was a suicide.

Still, Marashi said, "until we have the report of the investigation, I won't rest completely assured."

The NYPD deferred comment on the Reyes family's suit to the city's Law Department, who said only that it will review the complaint.