Name: Esias Johnson.
Died: September 7, 2021.
Age at death: 24.
Cause of death: Death in custody.
Location: New York City, New York, USA.
Esias was born one of six boys in his family. He was very good at schoolwork. In his free time, he volunteered at food pantries and at an organization that helps the blind, and tutored children after school. Esias loved to dance and sing; his favorite musicians were Whitney Houston, Cher, Prince, and Michael Jackson. When he came out as gay, his parents threw him a coming-out party; but the church where he worked as a youth leader expelled him.
As an adult, Esias moved to New York City, drawn by the lights and excitement and hoping for a music career. His mental illness worsened, and his social clumsiness made him come off as creepy to potential dates. He was arrested multiple times, though never convicted of a crime. He received occasional counseling, but no other help.
When he died, he had been arrested on a misdemeanor charge of menacing; police say he slapped a man on the butt on the subway and chased him into a bank with a syringe. $1 bail was all that stood between him and freedom. He tried to pay it with commissary money, and his family repeatedly tried to pay it; but jail staff continually failed to set up his court dates, and Esias stayed in jail.
His body was found in his cell at Rikers Island. Authorities say he must have died of a drug overdose–though toxicology results have yet to come in. Esias’s family believes he died from medical neglect at Rikers; they spoke to other inmates, who reported that Esias had been complaining of stomach pain and asking for medical attention for days, and had been ignored.
Three corrections officers have been suspended. Esias’s family has hired a lawyer to look into conditions at Rikers Island, where Esias became the 9th fatality of 2021.
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