A Bronx man who died in an upstate prison and was buried by the state Corrections Department without notice to his family was driven to suicide by corrections officers, a fellow inmate and the family’s attorney tell NY1.
Lonnie Hamilton, 22, hanged himself inside his cell at the state prison in Marcy on March 18.
NY1 previously reported that family members did not learn of his death until May 6, after they became concerned that they could not reach him. His family searched a Department of Corrections website and saw his name listed as deceased.
The family’s attorney, Zachary Giampa, now says Hamilton had been placed on suicide watch two days before his death because he had threatened to kill himself.
While Hamilton was on suicide watch, corrections officers harassed him -- stripping him of his clothes, spraying him with a fire extinguisher and taunting him, according to the former fellow inmate, who said he was in solitary confinement with Hamilton.
He asked that his name be withheld by NY1.
"I woke up to him screaming, yelling like, ‘Why y'all wetting my cell? Why y'all wetting my cell?’ And they sprayed the fire extinguisher in there and turned the AC on. So I get on my gate and I see them walking out like through the other side of the door through the crack of the door and then like he like, ‘Y'all wetting my cell?’’’ the former inmate said.
“Now he's calling to speak to the lieutenant or somebody. … The police was like, ‘Save your breath, ain't you about to kill yourself?’ They kept telling him like, 'Ain't you gonna kill yourself?' And they like talking about his sisters and family and stuff like that."
The former inmate said he decided to come forward after news reports that Hamilton’s family was not told about Hamilton’s death for nearly two months.
Hamilton was taking four different antidepressant medications at the time of his death, Giampa said.
Hamilton's father, also named Lonnie Hamilton, says that after hearing the former inmate's account, he believes it was no accident the Corrections Department did not notify his family about his son's death.
"To me it seems like they didn't call us in the beginning on purpose. To me it makes sense that they tried to cover it," he said.
The former inmate says Corrections kept Hamilton in solitary confinement too long, and denied him recreation, showers and food. He spoke up on behalf of Hamilton, to no avail, he said: "I'm like, why are y'all denying his food. They told me to mind my business."
The Corrections Department declined to comment on the new allegations, citing what it called an ongoing investigation.