'I'm scared': Family of Rikers inmate demands answers over suicide attempt

QUEENS (WABC) -- The family of a Rikers Island inmate who tried to take his own life while guards allegedly watched announced two lawsuits against New York City Monday.

Four correction officers were suspended for failing to immediately intervene in Nicholas Feliciano's suicide attempt, but no criminal charges were ever filed.

"Instead, Nicholas decided to try to take his life by hanging himself from a pipe in the jail cell," grandmother Madeline Feliciano said.

RELATED | 'I'm scared': Family of Rikers inmate demands answers over suicide attempt

She says her grandson dangled from that pipe for seven minutes and suffered brain damage from lack of oxygen.

"The idea that you can have multiple officers watch someone attempt to kill themselves, for seven minutes, refer to it as a manipulative gesture and not attempt to help that person is a travesty," attorney David Rankin said. "And this family needs justice."

It was the day before Thanksgiving last year when Nicholas Feliciano was taken to Rikers for violating parole on an old robbery charge. A fight broke out, and Feliciano was isolated in a holding pen.

That's when guards looked on but did not enter the cell to stop Feliciano.

As a defense, his family says guards claimed the 18-year-old was attempting to manipulate them.

"The security guards referred to it as a manipulative gesture," Rankin said. "The idea that someone is attempting to take their own life, and the security guard, instead of seeing that as a cry for help, sees it as them attempting to be manipulated. Unconscionable."

Last year, then-corrections union President Elias Husamudeen said there was much more to the story.

"At no time did my correction officers stand for seven minutes watching an inmate attempt to kill himself," he said.

The Bronx district attorney is now investigating, but Feliciano's family says they have suffered enough.

"I am here today seeking justice for my grandson," Madeline Feliciano said. "These officers need to be held accountable."

RELATED | 4 Rikers Island corrections officers suspended after inmate attempts suicide

The Department of Corrections and the union involved have not responded to requests for comment.

It will likely be next year before the matter is resolved, but critics are pointing to it as yet another violent example of why Rikers Island should be closed as soon as possible.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or worried about a friend or loved one, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text TALK to 741-741 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org for free confidential emotional support 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Even if it feels like it, you are not alone.

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