A 2nd detainee has died at Rikers this year, officials say

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By Dan Sears

A Rikers Island detainee died Friday night, city officials said.

Manuel Luna, 30, was found unresponsive in his cell at the George R. Vierno Center at 8:47 p.m. on Friday, according to a statement from Department of Correction spokesperson Patrick Rocchio.

Luna received immediate medical care from multiple staff and medical professionals but was ultimately pronounced dead, Rocchio said.

Rocchio added that the department will conduct a full investigation into Luna’s death.

The news marks the second death of a person in the DOC’s custody in 2024; the first was that of Chima Williams, 43, who died on Jan. 4.

Luna’s death is also the second to occur during the tenure of new Correction Commissioner Lynelle Maginley-Liddie, who replaced Louis Molina in December.

“On behalf of the New York City Department of Correction, we extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of the deceased,” Maginley-Liddie said in a statement. “We are conducting a full investigation into this tragic event.”

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Advocates faulted Mayor Eric Adams for not moving faster to close the jail complex, and plan to protest his State of the City address on Wednesday.

“We need to push this mayor to do the right thing because right now he’s on the wrong side of history,” said Darren Mack, co-director of the Freedom Foundation. “He’s dragging his feet or at least not doing anything to address this human rights crisis.”

Rikers currently faces a potential federal takeover due to rising levels of violence and death in the jails, as well as a lack of transparency with the federal monitor tasked with overseeing the complex.

The DOC said it will notify the federal monitor, state attorney general, Department of Investigation, Board of Correction, State Commission of Correction, and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner about the death.

Nine people died in DOC custody last year. Meanwhile, 19 people died in the department’s custody in 2022, the highest number of detainee deaths in a quarter-century.

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Notifying the media about a detainee’s death indicates a shift in policy for the DOC, which said last May that it would no longer inform the media about the deaths of those in its custody.

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