Agitated and hallucinating from alcohol and heroin withdrawal, inmate Angel Ramirez took a swing at a jail guard and missed.
What followed, according to investigative documents obtained by The Associated Press, was a quick punch back from the guard that put Ramirez on the floor. Then he was dragged away, beyond the view of security cameras, and three other guards were called in. Inmates later told investigators they heard screaming and the sickening crack of nightsticks against bone.
Ramirez, 50, died of numerous blunt-impact injuries that included a ruptured spleen, shattered ribs and a stomach filled with blood. When a jail investigator interviewed the guards — eight months later — they insisted Ramirez was struck only once and only in self-defense.
That July 2011 case is among three deaths in New York City's jails over the past five years in which inmates were alleged to have been fatally beaten by guards. Yet in none of those cases was anyone ever charged with a crime.
"It's outrageous," said Ramirez family attorney Scott Rynecki, who is suing the city and provided the investigative document to the AP. "You have to have a better system in place."
The lack of accountability in the city's jail system was singled out time and again in a scathing federal review issued this month.