The family of Segundo Guallpa, a detained person at Rikers Island who died in City custody, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of New York and several Department of Corrections (DOC) officers for $25 million.
The Guallpa family has filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of New York on Nov. 2 against the City of New York as well as against the corrections officers that the family allege were negligent in acting to interfere and offer aid to Guallpa before he died.
Civil rights attorneys Joel Wertheimer and Ali Najmi, who are representing the Guallpa family, filed a 28-page federal complaint that alleges wrongful death due to DOC failure and negligence as well as the deprivation of Guallpa’s civil rights.
“The City of New York, its Department of Correction, its employees, and its leadership have failed, admittedly, to properly staff and prevent self-harm at Rikers Island” attorneys Wertheimer and Najmi said in the complaint.
On Aug. 29, 2021, some video surveillance footage captured images of Guallpa acting distressed, and later etching what would later be revealed to be his suicide note on the walls of his cell.
No guard saw this note or Guallpa writing it, although the note itself was several hundred characters long and most likely took a few hours to carve into the wall.
The federal complaint details what the attorneys and Guallpa’s family say is gross negligence and failures on the part of DOC employees, who were supposed to conduct regular and required rounds to verify signs of life of detainees. The suit also alleges that DOC staff falsified records to say that these rounds were completed, although they were not.
“This case involves the failure of DOC employees to perform routine duties, and the creation of falsified records to cover up their conduct,” said Wertheimer and Najmi in a statement Tuesday. “There is a deliberate indifference to the mental and physical health needs of inmates inside Rikers Island. Segundo Guallpa should still be alive but for the recklessness of the Department of Corrections and the deliberate indifference of the City of New York to those in its custody.”
DOC employees are required to report whether detainees are in need of care from mental health professionals, but in the case of Guallpa’s death failed to do so.
Guallpa was one of 15 individuals to die in custody at Rikers Island in 2021, while 18 people have died so far this year. In the three years prior, only three non-natural deaths were recorded in all City Jail facilities.
Guallpa is survived by his wife, Luz Guaman, and four children Marco Guallpa, Edwin Guallpa, Francisco Guallpa and Alexiss Guallpa who all reside in Queens, NY.
amNewYork Metro is awaiting comment from the Department of Corrections to this report.