New York City jails have reported their 13th death of a person in custody this year, marking an especially deadly year for the city's system while renewing calls for reforms.
Victor Mercado, 64, from the Bronx, became ill with the coronavirus last week while being held on bail at the Rikers Island jail complex. He died on Friday, according to The New York Times.
Mercado's lawyer, James Kilduff, told the New York Times that his client had been held at the facility on weapons charges since the summer because he was unable to pay $100,000 bail. He called for the bail to be lowered last month due to Mercado's health.
“I explained the family had limited resources, and they left the bail conditions as it was,” Kilduff said on Friday, according to the Times. “It could have been avoided. This is a tragedy.”
Mercado was reportedly being held in the jail infirmary due to his health problems and was transferred to the hospital on Thursday because of complications with COVID-19.
A judge granted Mercado conditional release on Friday due to his health, but he died an hour later, the Times reported.
Mercado’s brother, Ray Rivera, 65, told the Times that his family is deeply hurt by Mercado’s death.
“We didn’t want him to die in there,” Rivera said. “I’m crushed.”
Correction Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi said in a statement that he was “heartbroken” about Mercado's death.
“Our department is more committed than ever to improve safety across the jail system for staff and detainees,” Schiraldi said, according to the Times.
On social media, a number of people expressed outrage over Mercado’s death.
$100,000 bail for a 64 year old man in a wheelchair charged with alleged gun possession and now he’s dead.— Zephyr Teachout (@ZephyrTeachout) October 16, 2021
What do you say to his family?
Rikers is a humanitarian disaster and everyone involved in this choice—the DA, the judge, those who are silent—are part of this tragedy. https://t.co/OqqKfvwj6p
This is inhuman https://t.co/WqragPY8wL— J. Smith-Cameron (@j_smithcameron) October 16, 2021