Distressing Rikers Island surveillance video provided by the lawyers for the family of a Brooklyn man who died in custody appears to show guards ignoring him all night as he stumbles, carries a plastic bag full of his own vomit, and collapses to the floor. A lawsuit filed on behalf of Linda Mercado, sister of the late Carlos Mercado, claims that, starting shortly after his August 22nd, 2013 arrest in Brooklyn on heroin-selling charges till he lapsed into a diabetic coma two mornings later, he pleaded to at least 28 different police and corrections officers and Rikers medical personnel for treatment of his diabetes, but received none.
The video seems to back this up, as does a state report cited by the New York Times. Fellow inmates joined Mercado's entreaties for his care, according to the lawsuit, but when a guard finally requested medical help after a night of distress, a nurse said he didn't need immediate medical attention, the Times reported.
The Daily News summarized the night's events, drawing from court documents:
[Corrections officer] Eric Jacobs stepped over Mercado...twice and never helped him, papers filed in Linda’s lawsuit in Manhattan Federal Court show. […] Jacobs told investigators Mercado “must have given some indication that he was alright,” though he admitted not recalling the inmate saying so.
“As far as contacting medical staff, CO Jacobs stated: ‘If I didn't do it, I didn't do it,’” documents read.
Other guards suspected Mercado — who grew up in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn — was just “dope sick” and not dying, documents indicate.
Inmate Heriberto Bermudez said one correction officer ordered Mercado to get up and take methadone.
“Well if he don't get up when I call him, he ain't gonna get his methadone,” Bermudez recalled the guard saying.
Mercado, according to the News, had been denied diabetes treatment once before at Rikers in 2007 and ultimately had to be removed to Elmhurst Hospital Center. This time of course, he died. The city medical examiner found the cause of death was complications of his diabetes. He was 45.
Linda Mercado sued in June 2014, accusing the city and disgraced healthcare contractor Corizon of depriving her brother of his civil rights, failing to properly train and supervise the workers involved, medical malpractice, negligence, and wrongful death. In a response filed with Manhattan's federal court in March, the city's lawyer Zachary Carter wrote that Carlos "and/or" Linda Mercado "voluntarily performed and engaged in the alleged activity and assumed the risk of the injuries and/or damages claimed," and that they "failed to take all proper, appropriate and reasonable steps to assure [Carlos's] safety." Carter also claimed that Linda Mercado shouldn't technically be able to sue.
Both sides met to discuss a settlement last month. Another settlement conference is set for November 13th.