A person who was being held in Department of Correction custody died on Friday, the agency said, marking the 11th Rikers-related death this year.
The person was pronounced dead at the Anna M. Kross Center on Rikers Island around 10:13 a.m., the DOC said in a press release, without providing any additional information.
The DOC didn’t immediately release the person’s name or age, but the Legal Aid Society on Friday identified him as Michael Lopez, 34, and said its attorneys had been representing him.
What You Need To Know
- A person who was being held in Department of Correction custody died on Friday, the agency said, marking the 11th Rikers-related death this year
- The Legal Aid Society on Friday identified him as Michael Lopez, 34, and said its attorneys had been representing him
- Earlier this week, 31-year-old Elijah Muhammad died at the George R. Vierno Center on Rikers Island, the department said
“Michael Lopez was caged at Rikers Island over crimes of poverty. He was held in an observation unit charged with ensuring his safety, yet he was still deprived of the services that he needed and deserved,” the organization said in a statement. “Had Mr. Lopez been spared detention, he would have been connected to programming, and he would be alive today.”
“While these issues are addressed in the court system, Mayor [Eric] Adams and [DOC] Commissioner [Louis] Molina must declare their own jail system patently unsafe and join our call for the wholesale decarceration of these facilities,” it added. “Our hearts ache for Mr. Lopez’ family, friends and community, and the countless other New Yorkers who have been touched by the tragic and completely avoidable deaths.”
Joseph Russo, the head of the union representing assistant deputy wardens, deputy wardens and deputy wardens in command, told NY1 Lopez was being held in a mental observation area at the Anna M. Kross Center at the time of his death.
A correction officer delivering medication to detainees in the area found Lopez unresponsive around 9:30 a.m., Russo said. The officer performed CPR on Lopez, but could not revive him, he added.
Lopez was arrested on May 18, and had been scheduled to appear in court on Monday, July 18, DOC records show.
In his own statement, Molina said his department was “extremely saddened by yet another death in custody.”
“No one should have to experience the loss of a loved one while incarcerated and we are doing everything in our power to keep people safe and prevent further losses,” Molina said. “Any death in custody is intolerable and we are investigating both of the deaths that occurred this week aggressively.”
While the DOC on Friday said 10 people had died in custody this year, Friday’s fatality marked the 11th Rikers-related death of 2022.
A Rikers Island detainee who died in June attempted suicide while custody, then passed away after a judge granted him compassionate release. The DOC did not include that man’s death in its fatality count.
Earlier this week, 31-year-old Elijah Muhammad died at the George R. Vierno Center on Rikers Island. A correction officer was fired in connection with Muhammad’s death, Molina said, without providing details about the officer’s termination.
Last year, 16 people passed away in the city’s jail system, including 25-year-old Brandon Rodriguez, who died by suicide.
In a recent interview, Rodriguez’ mother, Tamara Carter, told NY1 she believed her son was “broken by being in there.”
“If he got the mental health [support] that he needed in there from the medical staff, maybe he’d still be alive today,” Carter said.