NYC: Suit Claims That Inmate Died After Rikers Refused Asthma Treatment

When jail staff neglects to help an elderly asthmatic man fighting for his life in a Rikers Island jail. His fellow inmates are inspired to take action.

According to a lawsuit submit by Herminio Villanueva’s sister. Two detainees picked up the 61-year-old man and carried him to the entrance of the Robert N. Davoren Center’s medical center at Rikers. The jailhouse security system captured the detainees’ attempt to save a life on camera.

But the clinic refused to accept them.

Villanueva was returned to his Davoren Center housing unit by the inmates. Where it is another 16 minutes before medical assistance arrives.

Villanueva, who severe bronchial asthma at the time, beyond help. On June 21, 2020, just over a month after imprison for failing to inform parole officers of his address. He passed away shortly after being brought back. Between his housing unit and the clinic’s entrance.

His wife, Eva Villanueva, reportedly told the Daily News, “It is terrible what they did to him.” She claims that correctional police “didn’t treat him like you would a dog.” They allow him to die.

What he was doesn’t matter. I do miss him and used to enjoy his humor. He used to play with my granddaughter quite a bit. Everyone is missing him.

When Villanueva arrived at Rikers after his arrest on March 2, 2020. Correction department personnel were aware of his condition, the lawsuit claims. They determined that he required medical housing, according to court documents.

However, Villanueva is kept in the general population. Where he had several severe asthma attacks.

The lawsuit, submitted last week in Manhattan Federal Court by Villanueva’s sister, Eva Villanueva, lists all the lost opportunities to save Villanueva’s life.

The city will respond during litigation, the city’s spokesman for the law department said in a statement when asked for comment.

When Villanueva arrived at Rikers, he places in a dorm with about 50 other prisoners. Villanueva served time for a sex offense conviction a decade earlier and on parole since 1989.

Health officials and the city’s Board of Correction pressured the Correction Department to release medically vulnerable detainees two weeks after his arrival, roughly the first COVID case was discovered in the jails. Villanueva wasn’t one of those who were let go.

In contrast, he was diagnosed with COVID on April 3, 2020, and his family’s lawsuit does not specify which hospital he was admitted to or how long he stayed there.

On May 9, he was taken to Bellevue Hospital to receive treatment for a recent asthma attack and other conditions. Even though Correction Department medical staff were aware of his serious medical issues, he stayed there for four days before being sent back to the general population at Rikers, the lawsuit claims.

According to the lawsuit, Villanueva experienced another severe asthma attack on May 24 and returned to the hospital on June 3 due to breathing difficulties. On June 4, he returned to Rikers and was once more assigned to the general population.

The lawsuit claims that Villanueva was kept in a general unit without access to medical personnel who could have saved his life. “Villanueva’s pain and eventual death were avoidable and unnecessary.”

A detainee informed an officer that Villanueva was having breathing difficulties on June 19. According to the lawsuit, he was in severe medical distress the following day, June 20.

After being brought to the clinic, he was returned an hour later.

On June 21, 2020, in the early hours, Villanueva once more suffered a severe asthma attack. According to photos included with the lawsuit, other detainees visited his bed to see how he was doing.
Although a corrections officer could tell he was in trouble, no medical personnel were dispatched. According to the lawsuit, They were told by a detainee, “He shouldn’t be here.”

According to the lawsuit, a second officer did make a medical call. After waiting ten minutes for assistance, two inmates, Villanueva, was picked up and carried to the clinic door, which was caught on camera at 7:38 a.m. In his sister’s lawsuit, there are images from the security cameras.

According to the lawsuit, an officer at the clinic turned them away and instructed them to carry Villanueva back to the housing unit. He was placed on a bed and comforted by inmates there.

According to the lawsuit, the two officers present did not attempt CPR or make any other attempts to revive Villanueva. Medical personnel finally arrived after sixteen minutes. At 8:10 a.m., Villanueva was pronounced dead.

According to the city medical examiner, he died from acute bronchial asthma.

In the lawsuit, his sister is represented by attorney Katherine Rosenfeld, whose firm, Emery Celli. The elderly man, Mr. Villanueva, who had severe medical issues, “was overlooked and passed over right up until his last breaths, when he was struggling to breathe,” she said.

In Villanueva’s case, the lawsuit claims the city Board of Correction’s preliminary investigation identified “several issues for investigation,” including the Correction Department’s choices regarding where he was housed and how it handled his medical needs.

The “Less Is The state passed more” law in the two years following Villanueva’s demise, which most likely would have prevented him from ever being imprisoned for a minor parole violation in the first place.
Villanueva was one of the 11 inmates who died in jail in 2020. Raymond Rivera was the second, and a second lawsuit was just recently filed about his passing.

Like Villanueva, Rivera had severe medical conditions. Still, after being apprehended in 2019 for stealing shampoo from a Family Dollar store, he was sentenced to jail for a relatively minor parole violation, which involved leaving a drug treatment facility without telling his parole officer.

Rivera, 55, had spent months in Rikers. A judge mandated his release with credit for time served in February 2020.

Anthony Zrake, a parole judge, stated that Mr. Rivera accepted responsibility and has been detained by pleading guilty here. for over six months already.” “Parole supervision can effectively address Mr. Rivera’s program needs in the community.”
However, the lawsuit alleges that the Correction Department botched the release and kept him behind bars despite the judge’s directive.

According to the lawsuit brought by his longtime partner Nancy Poux, Rivera was incarcerated for five additional weeks before passing away in Bellevue Hospital.

Rivera called 311 several times and repeatedly complained to Correction Department staff about being wrongfully imprisoned, but he ignored it.

He also disclosed to the medical staff that he was feeling sick.

On March 21, he had to be moved to a DOC hospital. He seemed weak and dehydrated.

After that, he moved to Bellevue. Where they discover COVID and throat cancer. Poux attempts to visit him but he is turned away.

Rivera, who suffering from cancer and is now in critical condition. He transferred to a regular hospital room three floors below on April 3, 2020. Where he passed away the following day.

Rosenfeld, who also represents the family of Raymond Rivera, stated that Herminio Villanueva and Rivera imprison on Rikers Island in 2020 for minor, nonviolent parole violations.

Because Rikers Island is a failing, lawless jail that cannot provide the most basic care and custody to those imprisoned there, they both died cruel and lonely deaths that year, 78 days apart.

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