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Rikers Island detainee collapses, dies during basketball game in the first 2024 jail death

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By: Erin White via 1010 WINS/Audacy

A detainee on Rikers Island died on Thursday after collapsing during a basketball game, marking the first New York City jail death of 2024, officials said.

The Department of Correction said that Chima Williams, 43, died at the Eric M. Taylor Center at about 9:45 a.m.

Williams was shooting hoops with a group of detainees for about an hour when he collapsed, the DOC said.

He received immediate medical care from staff and medical professionals, but was pronounced dead, officials said.

Sources told the New York Daily News that Williams went into cardiac arrest and was given CPR and an anti-overdose drug; however, he could not be saved.

The death is not being considered a suicide or the result of violence, sources told the Daily News.

The DOC said that the department will conduct a full investigation, and cooperate with all outside investigative entities.

“On behalf of the New York City Department of Correction, we extend our deepest condolences to Mr. Williams’ loved ones. We are conducting a full investigation into this tragic event,” DOC Commissioner Lynelle Maginley-Liddie said.

Maginley-Liddie was appointed Commissioner in December amid litigation attempting to strip the Adams administration of control of Rikers Island and bring in federal control.

Nine people died in DOC custody in 2023, and 19 died in custody in 2022.

The Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice – a nonprofit organization based in Hartford, CT – sent a press release on Thursday acknowledging Williams’ death, calling for a federal takeover of Rikers Island and advocating for its eventual closure.

“We’re not even through the first week of the new year and here’s another death at Rikers,” Lead Organizer of the Katal Center Melanie Dominguez said. “Since [Mayor Eric Adams took] office, the jail population has been on the rise, violence in the jails is out of control, the death toll continues to climb, and the city is no longer on track to shut Rikers. This is an absolute scandal.”

These points were echoed by the Freedom Agenda, a New York City-based organization focused on “decarceration,” in a statement posted on X.

“We need to stop sending people to Rikers to die right now. We need the Mayor to make real, substantial investments in housing, mental health treatment, and other services to support people in our communities,” Freedom Agenda Co-Director Darren Mack said.

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