Tuesday, 27 April 2021

New York corrections officer is charged with homicide after she 'ordered staff to ignore prisoner, 29, she knew was hanging himself - then claimed inmate was just "playing" as he died'

 A New York prison guard ordered staff to ignore a prisoner she knew was hanging himself - then claimed the man was 'playing' after he died, police say.

Capt. Rebecca Hillman, 38, appeared in court Monday where she was charged with criminally negligent homicide and offering a false instrument for filing over the suicide of Ryan Wilson last year. 

Wilson, 29, died on November 22 last year in his prison cell at Manhattan Detention Complex, which is known as The Tombs.  

Prison officers were accused of waiting 15 minutes to call for help and to administer aid to the dying man despite seeing him hanging from a noose.    

Hillman had already been suspended without pay along with Correction officer Oscar Rojo over Wilson's death. 

A NYC Department of Correction captain was charged with homicide after she allegedly ordered staff to ignore an inmate she saw committing suicide, telling them he was just 'playing'. Capt. Rebecca Hillman in court above

A NYC Department of Correction captain was charged with homicide after she allegedly ordered staff to ignore an inmate she saw committing suicide, telling them he was just 'playing'. Capt. Rebecca Hillman in court above

Corrections Captain Rebecca Hillman is arraigned in Manhattan Supreme Court Monday

Corrections Captain Rebecca Hillman is arraigned in Manhattan Supreme Court Monday

Hillman appeared in Manhattan Supreme court in handcuffs Monday where she pleaded not guilty to the felony charges.

She tried to hide her face from view with a hood, baseball cap, dark glasses and a mask while traveling to and from the proceedings.  

Hillman had turned herself in to authorities earlier that day after being indicted on the charges. She was released without bail pending her next court date.

If convicted, she faces up to four years in prison. 

Hillman is accused of not taking Wilson's threats to commit suicide seriously and of ordering a more junior staff member to lock his cell door and leave him after seeing him hanging in his cell, reported ABC7


According to prosecutors, Hillman, who was supervising the area at the time, moved Wilson to a new cell and unit on the afternoon of November 22 after he had an argument with another inmate. 

Wilson, whose family says he struggled with mental health problems, fashioned a noose out of a bedsheet and attached it to a light fixture. 

He then told another correction officer - identified as Rojo, per the New York Times - that he would hang himself if Hillman would not let him out of the locked cell, according to court documents.

While this officer allegedly tried to calm Wilson down and called for Hillman to come to the scene, the captain allegedly ignored the request and started filling out paperwork.

After around 10 minutes, Wilson then jumped off his bed hanging himself by the noose attached to his neck, prosecutors said.

Ryan Wilson, 29, (above) died on November 22 last year in his prison cell at Manhattan Detention Complex

Ryan Wilson, 29, (above) died on November 22 last year in his prison cell at Manhattan Detention Complex

Manhattan Detention Complex in NYC is pictured above. It is known as The Tombs

Manhattan Detention Complex in NYC is pictured above. It is known as The Tombs

The officer called for the cell door to be unlocked so they could cut Wilson down, they said.

But Hillman, who arrived outside the cell at this point, allegedly dismissed the seriousness of the incident, saying the 29-year-old was 'playing'. 

Prosecutors said Hillman then allowed the cell door to be opened but ordered the officer not to enter and cut Wilson down, claiming he was 'faking it'.

Hillman then allegedly ordered the cell door shut again and called for non-emergency backup, before leaving the area to carry on with other work.

Wilson was left hanging in his locked cell alone for 15 minutes before the captain finally ordered the cell to be opened and emergency medical assistance to be given, prosecutors said. 

He was finally cut down and was pronounced dead minutes later. 

Following his death, prosecutors said Hillman filed a false report about the incident claiming she had 'immediately' ordered the cell door to be opened and Wilson to be cut down.

Hillman, 38, appeared in court Monday (above) where she was charged with criminally negligent homicide and offering a false instrument for filing

Hillman, 38, appeared in court Monday (above) where she was charged with criminally negligent homicide and offering a false instrument for filing

Hillman tried to hide her face from view with a hood, baseball cap, dark glasses and a mask while traveling to and from the proceedings

Hillman tried to hide her face from view with a hood, baseball cap, dark glasses and a mask while traveling to and from the proceedings

Hillman center in the dark hood, mask, glasses and cap. If convicted, she faces up to four years in prison

Hillman center in the dark hood, mask, glasses and cap. If convicted, she faces up to four years in prison

Corrections Captain Rebecca Hillman arraigned in Supreme Court
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She also claimed she had first moved Wilson to the new unit at his own request, according to the court documents.     

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said Wilson's death 'wasn't just a tragedy, it was a crime' accusing Hillman of 'callous disregard for Mr. Wilson's safety.'

'Our investigation shows that Captain Hillman ordered her subordinates not to take potentially life-saving measures to help Mr. Wilson, and failed to call for medical assistance expediently,' he said.

Community activist Reverend Kevin McCall called the charges a 'step in the right direction' for Wilson's family as he called for the captain to also be fired.  

'We're not satisfied, because this correction officer, this captain who took an oath to protect the inmates and provide safety for the inmates is still working for the Correction Department,' McCall said. 

Wilson's sister Elayna Manson said: 'We know this doesn't bring Ryan back, but it's the beginning of justice for us.'  

Wilson, who had bipolar disorder, had been released from Sing Sing Correctional Facility last summer, his family said.

He was then arrested on robbery charges on October 27.  

Wilson's sister Elayna Mason left at Monday's court appearance. Hillman is accused of not taking Wilson's threats to commit suicide seriously and of ordering a more junior staff member to lock his cell door and leave him after seeing him hanging in his cell

Wilson's sister Elayna Mason left at Monday's court appearance. Hillman is accused of not taking Wilson's threats to commit suicide seriously and of ordering a more junior staff member to lock his cell door and leave him after seeing him hanging in his cell

Wilson's sister Elayna Manson said: 'We know this doesn't bring Ryan back, but it's the beginning of justice for us'

Wilson's sister Elayna Manson said: 'We know this doesn't bring Ryan back, but it's the beginning of justice for us'

Hillman in court where she pleaded not guilty to the felony charges brought against her

Hillman in court where she pleaded not guilty to the felony charges brought against her

Hillman (center) had turned herself in to authorities earlier that day after being indicted on the charges

Hillman (center) had turned herself in to authorities earlier that day after being indicted on the charges

In November a Manhattan District Attorney's Office spokesperson said a $1 parole hold on an open misdemeanor case was 'the only thing' keeping him locked up. 

They said he had otherwise been approved for release.   

Manson spoke out prior to Monday's court hearing, saying her brother 'should've been under watch.

'The extra care my brother needed because of his mental illness, he didn't get that. That wasn't provided for him at all... It's frustrating, it's hurtful. They should lose their jobs.' 

Rojo has not been charged over Wilson's death.

Following Rojo's suspension a GoFundMe was set up to fundraise for the suspended correction officer. 

It read: 'This fundraiser is for our brother Officer Rojo who is currently suspended for unfortunate circumstances! He is a standup officer who always does his job and needs our help in this difficult time.'

Ryan Wilson, 29, seen here with his sister Elayna Manson, suffered from bipolar disorder

Ryan Wilson, 29, seen here with his sister Elayna Manson, suffered from bipolar disorder 

Wilson had been arrested on robbery charges on October 27
In November a Manhattan District Attorney's Office spokesperson said a $1 parole hold on an open misdemeanor case was 'the only thing' keeping him locked up

Wilson had been arrested on robbery charges on October 27. In November a Manhattan District Attorney's Office spokesperson said a $1 parole hold on an open misdemeanor case was 'the only thing' keeping him locked up otherwise he would have been approved for release

Black Lives Matter protesters demonstrated outside the detention center following Wilson's death with Hawk Newsome telling the crowd: 'An officer saw him hanging, informed his captain and they dismissed this man hanging in the cell as a joke.

'They said that he was just playing around.' 

Correction Department officials also launched an investigation into Wilson's death. 

Wilson's death came around one year after a similar incident was reported on Rikers Island in 2019. 

Inmate Nicholas Feliciano attempted to commit suicide by hanging himself with a piece of clothing in his cell while prison guards allegedly watched and did nothing for seven minutes.

Five correction officers and one captain were suspended over the incident but no charges have been brought.  

Feliciano survived the suicide attempt.


Correction Officer Oscar Rojo, pictured, was also suspended after the death of Ryan Wilson

Correction Officer Oscar Rojo, pictured, was also suspended after the death of Ryan Wilson 

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