One former and two current guards at Rikers Island have been charged in the December 2012 death of a pre-trial detainee at New York City’s island prison.
The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office said former Rikers Island correction officer Brian Coll and current officer Byron Taylor were arrested on Wednesday on charges relating to the untimely death of Ronald Spear. Anthony Torres, another officer, had earlier pleaded guilty to charges on Tuesday.
Spear, 52, died on December 19, 2012 when an early-morning attempt to visit the on-duty doctor at Rikers for ongoing kidney trouble turned into an altercation with Officer Coll. Spear’s autopsy report showed that he had likely been kicked repeatedly in the head while lying on the floor. In the wake of Spear’s death, Coll, Torres, and Taylor claimed Spear had attacked Coll with a cane — a claim prosecutors say was false. Coll has been charged with depriving Spears of his rights, and all three face charges for obstructing justice.
These charges come on the heels of the death of Kalief Browder, 22, who committed suicide on Saturday after spending three years in Rikers Island as a pre-trial detainee, nearly two of them in solitary confinement. Browder told a writer for the New Yorker that he was repeatedly beaten both by corrections officers and fellow inmates while detained. Browder was sent to Rikers Island when he was just 16 years old.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara spoke on the charges at a noon press conference, saying that “Rikers inmates, though walled off from the rest of society, are not walled off from the protections of our Constitution.”