MANHATTAN — Prosecutors charged a Department of Correction captain Monday in the Manhattan jail cell death of a 29-year-old man.
Captain Rebecca Hillman, 38, allegedly issued orders that prevented officers from saving Ryan Wilson’s life at the Manhattan Detention Complex, officials said. She also allegedly made false statements in her written account of Wilson’s death.
“As alleged in the indictment, the death of Ryan Wilson wasn’t just a tragedy — it was a crime,” District Attorney Cyrus Vance said. “Our investigation shows that Captain Hillman ordered her subordinates not to take potentially life-saving measures to help Mr. Wilson, and failed to call for medical assistance expediently.”
Wilson suffered from mental illness, according to his family. He served seven years in prison and was released at the start of the pandemic, but he didn’t have any resources to aid in his transition.
He was arrested again in October of 2020 for robbery and ended up in the Manhattan Detention Complex.
On Nov. 22, 2020, Hillman had Wilson moved to another housing unit after he argued with an inmate, according to court documents. Wilson made a noose from a sheet and called over an officer.
He put the noose on and threatened to kill himself if Hillman refused to let him out of the cell.
The officer called Hillman, telling her she was needed immediately, and tried to calm Wilson down. Instead of responding, Hillman allegedly went to the control room and filled out paperwork.
About 10 minutes later, Wilson began a countdown and jumped.
The officer who’d been trying to calm Wilson down called for the cell to be opened immediately, prosecutors said. Hillman came out of the control room and allegedly told other inmates that Wilson was just “playing.”
She signaled for the cell to be opened, but ordered the officer not to enter, according to the indictment. Hillman allegedly said Wilson was faking out and was still breathing. She called for non-emergency backup and ordered the cell closed.
Hillman left the cell and went on her usual rounds.
Wilson was left hanging from the noose.
About 15 minutes after he jumped, Hillman ordered the cell to be opened again and called for a medical team. Officers cut Wilson down, felt a faint pulse and started chest compressions.
Wilson was dead when medical personnel arrived a few minutes later.
“This callous disregard for Mr. Wilson’s safety resulted in an irreversible loss to his family and friends, and must be held criminally accountable,” Vance said.
Hillman was charged with criminally negligent homicide and offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree. She was suspended without pay, officials said.
Her lawyer said she is a “hardworking mother and employee who did her best in a very difficult job that is defined by trauma and tragedy” and that they “look forward to defending the serious charges against her.”
Hillman pleaded not guilty at an arraignment Monday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.