Rikers Island detainee dies in medical crisis; second reported NYC custody death of 2023

A Rikers Island detainee died of unknown causes following a medical crisis Friday night, marking the jail complex’s second death this year, said a spokesman for the city Correction Department.

Manuel Luna, 30, was found unconscious on a bed frame in his cell at Rikers’ George R. Vierno Center at 8:47 p.m. Friday by a correction captain who was bringing him a mattress, sources told the Daily News.

The captain immediately began chest compressions in an attempt to revive Luna, the sources said. Medical personnel arrived within a few minutes and tried to resuscitate Luna by using four EpiPens, which contain adrenaline.

But the four adrenaline doses could not save Luna, who was declared dead at 9:19 p.m., said the sources.

The Correction Department will investigate Luna’s death, an agency spokesman said.

Luna’s lawyer said he seemed in good health in the hours before his death.

“We spoke to our client yesterday afternoon he sounded well and in good spirits,” said the lawyer, Joseph Caldarera. “Something extreme most have happened in the last 24 hours.”

Caldarera said his office will conduct a rigorous investigation into his client’s death. “Clients are often mishandled and mistreated. It’s a disgrace what goes on over there,” the lawyer said. “A death at Rikers is not a shock to me.”

Luna was in Rikers awaiting trial on robbery charges stemming from a Sept. 24 incident in which he was accused of beating and assaulting a man as he stole an e-bike battery on W. 116th St. near Malcolm X Blvd. in Harlem.

Luna had been in custody since Oct. 5, and was being held on bail of $25,000 cash or $50,000 bond.

A Correction Department spokesman could not say why Luna needed a new mattress in his cell.

Board of Corrections Executive Director Jasmine Georges-Yilla spoke at a Jan. 10 hearing to say the oversight agency had received 59 complaints in November and December from prisoners about shortages of basic items like mattresses, bed linens and sweatshirts.

Luna’s death follows that of Chima Williams, 43, who was playing basketball at Rikers’ Eric M. Taylor Center when he suddenly collapsed on the morning of Jan. 4.

Williams went into cardiac arrest and was treated with an anti-overdose drug and CPR. Despite efforts by correction officers and medical staff, he could not be saved.

A Daily News investigation found that Correctional Health Services staffers have a history of making missteps in handling detainees’ illnesses and mental health issues.

Fatal errors on the part of jail health staff are rarely punished. Just two Correctional Health Services staffers were disciplined in 44 deaths reported in city jails after January 2021.

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