Rebecca Hillman is charged with criminally negligent homicide and offering a false instrument for filing in the suicide of 29-year-old Ryan Wilson, who died after Hillman allegedly left him alone and unaided for 15 minutes despite being aware he was hanging himself in his cell.
"As alleged in the indictment, the death of Ryan Wilson wasn't just a tragedy, it was a crime," Manhattan District Attorney Cy 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. This callous disregard for Mr. Wilson's safety resulted in an irreversible loss to his family and friends, and must be held criminally accountable. I thank the Department of Investigation for its close partnership with our Office and collaboration in this matter."
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Hillman was a DOC captain in the unit where Wilson was assigned housing, and the following details are the allegations listed in court documents and statements made on the record.
On the afternoon of November 22, 2020, Hillman decided to have Wilson moved to another housing unit after an argument with another inmate.
Wilson, who remained locked in his cell pending the move, fashioned a noose out of a bedsheet and attached it to a light fixture. After calling an officer over, Wilson climbed on a stool, put the noose around his neck, and threatened to hang himself if Hillman would not come and let him out of his cell.
The officer attempted to calm Wilson and called Hillman to inform her that she was needed immediately in the housing unit.
Instead, it is alleged that Hillman went into the control room and began filling out paperwork.
After waiting for approximately 10 minutes, Wilson moved onto his bed, his neck in the noose, and began a countdown. He then jumped off the bed, and the officer, who was outside the cell talking to Wilson, called for the cell to be opened immediately so he could cut him down.
A few moments later, Hillman emerged from the control room, while the cell door remained shut, and told the other inmates that Wilson was fine and was "playing."
Hillman then signaled to the officer in the control room to open the cell. When the door opened one minute later, Hillman ordered the officer not to enter and said that Wilson was faking it because he was still breathing.
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At this point, Hillman called for non-emergency backup and ordered the door closed while Wilson remained hanging inside of the locked cell. Hillman then left the area to go on her usual rounds.
About 15 minutes after Wilson jumped, Hillman finally gave the order to open the cell again and called for a medical team.
Officers in the area cut Wilson down, felt a faint pulse, and began chest compressions. When medical personnel arrived a few minutes later, Wilson was already dead.
After the incident, Hillman filed an official report that falsely stated Wilson had asked to be moved to another unit, and that she had the cell door re-opened and had Wilson cut down "immediately" after the cell door was closed.
The Department of Investigation launched an investigation in accordance with its policy to investigate all deaths in correctional facilities.
"This is the step in right direction," community activist Reverend Kevin McCall said. "We celebrated last week for George Floyd, now we celebrate this week for Ryan Wilson."
Family members say Wilson had been released from Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining last summer and struggled to make ends meet.
"He didn't have the patience to wait for something to come along," Wilson's sister, Elayna Manson, told Eyewitness News last year. "He was released during COVID, and the pressure was on him to make something happen."
He was arrested for robbery in October and remained at the jail until his death in November.
"What supervision did he have while he had his mental issues?" Manson said. "He was supposed to be under watch and he wasn't."
Hillman has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of the case.
Officials say the appropriate disciplinary action will be taken, including termination, if it is warranted by the outcome of the investigation.
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