City Jail Captain, Accused of Standing By During Suicide, Was Disciplined For Failing To Intervene In Prior Incident

A city correction officer who faces criminal charges for allegedly failing to stop the suicide of a detainee in a Manhattan jail last fall was also disciplined last year for failing to intervene in a different incident, city records show.

Captain Rebecca Hillman was arraigned on Monday by Manhattan prosecutors who say she is responsible for not intervening in the suicide of Ryan Wilson, a 29-year-old man who died at the Manhattan Detention Complex last November. Department of Correction disciplinary records show the jail supervisor’s alleged conduct in the incident may not have been isolated.

Hillman was lightly disciplined last year for failing to “intervene and prevent” in a staff use of force incident in 2019, according to records publicly released following the repeal of a state law which had previously kept many correctional and police disciplinary records secret.

The Department of Correction did not provide more details on the incident, or what it determined Hillman should have done to prevent it. But as a result of the internal investigation, Hillman entered into a plea agreement with the Department of Correction and lost four vacation or comp days.

Just over six months after that investigation was closed, Hillman allegedly failed to promptly intervene as Wilson, a detainee who reportedly suffered from bipolar disorder, began his suicide attempt.

“That’s a slap on the wrist for a captain to be able to receive just four vacation days,” said Reverend Kevin McCall, a civil rights activist and spokesperson for the Wilson family. “The policy needs to change. Heads need to roll.”

“If she would have been dealt with back then, Ryan Wilson would have been alive today,” he added.

Kenneth Montgomery, Hillman’s attorney, declined to comment for this story.



A photograph of Ryan Wilson
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Ryan Wilson was found dead inside his cell at the Manhattan Detention Complex last November.` Reverend Kevin McCall, spokesman for Wilson family

Hillman is facing charges of criminally negligent homicide and offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree for her alleged inaction during Wilson’s suicide.

According to the Manhattan DA’s office, after Wilson started to hang himself with a noose made from bedsheets, a junior officer called for the man’s cell to be opened so he could be rescued. But Hillman, a supervisor, told concerned inmates nearby that Wilson was “playing” and ordered the officer not to enter his cell, prosecutors allege.

As Wilson continued to hang, Hillman went on her rounds, failing to call for medical assistance until roughly 15 minutes after the young man began dangling from the improvised noose, according to the DA. By the time medical staff arrived, Wilson had passed away, prosecutors said.

Correction authorities suspended Hillman and another correction officer last year after Wilson took his own life.

At an arraignment hearing on Monday, Hillman pleaded not guilty to the charges. She was released, and is due back in court in July.

George Joseph reported this story for the WNYC/Gothamist Race & Justice Unit. If you have a tip, or if you work or have worked in a prosecutor’s office, a law enforcement agency or the courts, email reporter George Joseph at gjosephwnyc@protonmail.com. You can also text him tips via the encrypted phone app Signal, or otherwise, at 929-486-4865.

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