New footage showing the final moments of a transgender woman at Rikers Island has been released and it’s wholly disheartening. As previously reported Layleen Polanco also known as Layleen Xtravaganza, died June 7, 2019 in her cell at the Rose M. Singer women’s facility of a reported epileptic seizure. Originally details surrounding her death were skimpy and guards reported that efforts to revive her were unsuccessful.
Last week, the New York City Department of Investigation and the Bronx District Attorney’s Office concluded that staff members at Rikers Island’s staffers were not criminally responsible for Polanco’s death reports NBC News. Still, inside that report they admit that they left Polanco alone for up to 47 minutes around the time of her death, “a violation of corrections policy requiring checks on prisoners in solitary confinement every 15 minutes.”
They maintain that they thought the woman who’d been placed in punitive confinement for assaulting an officer, was sleeping.
Now, ten hours of footage has been released by Polanco’s family attorney David Shanies and it plays out Polanco’s final moments. At one point it shows Rikers Island staffers laughing seemingly as the “sleeping” woman remains in duress.
“The video is the last piece of the puzzle,” says Shanies to NBC News. “It’s the last bit of indifference to her life that we saw and recklessness to a person who obviously needed help.”
The attorney is representing Polanco’s family in a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of New York and several Rikers staffers. While the guards are still adamantly pushing that “thought she was sleeping line”, Shanies says the video proves otherwise.
“You could see on the video that multiple officers are staring into Layleen’s cell knocking, waiting, calling other people over to look,” he said to NBC News. “At certain points, people spend five to 10 minutes just staring through the window, into the cell. It’s not something that you do for somebody who you think is asleep.”
Polanco’s friends, family, and activists are calling for justice for the 27-year-old woman.
A Black Trans Lives Matter rally in Brooklyn brought up 15,000 people this weekend. The rally came amid the deaths of Riah Milton, Dominique Fells, and Tony McDade who was gunned down by Tallahassee police.