A former Department of Correction (DOC) captain assigned to “The Tombs” in Manhattan was convicted of preventing life-saving actions for a person in custody at the notorious jail, prosecutors announced Tuesday.
Brooklyn resident Rebecca Hillman, 40, was found guilty of one count of criminally negligent homicide in connection to the death of Ryan Wilson.
“Rebecca Hillman failed in her duty to provide for the safety of those under her watch as a Captain of the Department of Correction, causing the death of Ryan Wilson through her inexplicable negligence. Incarcerated individuals deserve to have their lives treated with dignity. I cannot imagine the pain that Mr. Wilson’s family and loved ones continue to feel, and I am deeply sorry for their loss,” said District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
Hillman previously served as a Captain in Wilson’s unit at Manhattan Detention Complex (MDC) in November 2020. According to court documents, Hillman planned to have Wilson moved to another housing unit after there was an argument between Wilson and another incarcerated person. Wilson, who was locked in his cell pending the move, made a noose out of a bedsheet and attached it to a light fixture in the cell. Wilson proceeded to call an officer over and then climbed on a stool, threatening to hang himself if Hillman wouldn’t let him out of his cell.
The officer who arrived at Wilson’s cell tried to calm him down and called Hillman to tell her she was needed immediately in the housing unit. However, Hillman went to the control room instead and began filling out paperwork. After 10 minutes, Wilson, with the noose around his neck, moved onto his bed, counted down and jumped off the bed. The officer saw Wilson jump and called for the cell to be opened immediately so he could cut him down.
Hillman then came out of the control room and went to the cell, which was now open, and ordered the same officer — who was holding a tool to cut Wilson down — not to enter and cut Wilson down, saying that he was “playing around.” Hillman reportedly looked in the cell casually and stated that Wilson was faking it because he was still breathing. She ordered the cell door to be closed, leaving Wilson hanging in the locked cell. Hillman then left the area to do her usual work, including completing entries in a log book and walking around the unit.
During the trial, it was proven that 15 minutes after Wilson jumped, Hillman finally gave the order to open his cell and called in a medical team. Officers that were in the area cut Wilson down and began chest compressions after feeling a faint pulse. However, Wilson was already dead by the time the medical team arrived a few minutes later.
The New York City Department of Investigation (DOI) launched an investigation in accordance with its policy to investigate all deaths in correctional facilities, which ultimately led to Hillman’s arrest.
“This captain’s actions were completely unacceptable and will never be tolerated in this department. We remain committed to improving our jails with transparency and accountability, and will pursue termination immediately,” said DOC Commissioner Louis A. Molina.
“Captain Hillman ignored her duty, and the plea of her subordinate officer, to provide immediate assistance to person in custody Ryan Wilson. Her callous inaction delayed emergency life-saving treatment for Wilson, who was dead by suicide by the time the medics arrived. Today’s conviction makes clear that we will vigorously pursue DOC employees of any rank who are responsible for the death of a person in custody in their care. I thank the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for prosecuting this case and giving some measure of justice to Wilson’s family and the Department of Correction for its assistance in this investigation.”
Hillman is set to be sentenced on April 3.
Updated at 10:44 a.m. on March 15, 2023.