The New York Times has obtained harrowing new jail footage of the final hours of diabetic Rikers Island inmate Carlos Mercado, who died because correctional officers had taken away his insulin.
Mercado, 45, was arrested in August 2013 for attempting to sell a small amount of heroin to an undercover officer. He died in in jail at Rikers Island 15 hours later, as corrections officers ignored his pleas for help and his quickly worsening symptoms.
The video shows Mercado collapse face-first when officers open the cell door. Rather than check his condition, officers step over and around his prone body. Later, he weaves around the jail, vomiting repeatedly and carrying a plastic bag of his own vomit.
Internal investigations found that Mercado repeatedly asked for a doctor and told the officers he was diabetic. According to the Department of Corrections report, officers dismissed his pleas, saying he was just withdrawing from drugs.
NYTLogo_gray#888888Edit descriptiongraphics8.nytimes.comMercado’s symptoms were somehow ignored even after New York paid out $17.5 million five years ago for denying insulin to another diabetic man, Jose Vargas. Vargas was kept in a holding cell for about 60 hours and went into a coma. He now has permanent brain damage and is confined to a wheelchair. When asked during the trial what he looked forward to, Vargas answered, “Nothing. I just sit there all day in the chair,” his lawyer told the New York Post.
The NYPD consistently poses a life-threatening danger to diabetics. Another diabetic man was arrested for putting his feet up on the subway while he injected insulin into his thigh. He nearly died during his 30-hour stint in a holding cell and was in the hospital for two days after being released.
Even Shepard Fairey, the celebrated street artist behind the iconic Obama “Hope” poster, has come close to dying in a New York jail because guards withheld insulin. “After two days without insulin, I started throwing up something that looked like radiator fluid,” he told Slamm Magazine in 2000. He now has a tattoo of the word “diabetic” because of the number of times he’s gotten sick after jailers have taken away his insulin.