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Surveillance Video Shows Guards Laughing And Waiting 90 Minutes To Call For Help After Trans Inmate's Death

Layleen Polanco, a young transgender woman from New York City was found dead in a cell at Riker's prison on June 7, 2019.

Now, a year later, security footage of that evening reveals prison guards waited an hour and a half following Polanco's seizure to call emergency services.

The video, released by the Polanco family attorney, shows in frightening detail what little regard the Riker's guards had for Polanco's life.

Polanco, a member of the House of Xtravaganza, one of New York's most celebrated drag groups, was arrested when she couldn't pay the $500 bail for a misdemeanor assault in 2019.

The young woman suffered from epilepsy, which law enforcement was aware of. Jail policy stated clearly that Polanco needed to be checked on every 15 minutes.

Unfortunately, during a 45-minute stretch where officers ignored her, Polanco suffered a seizure.

The video released by the family shows a guard checking Polanco's cell at 1:42 PM.

She is not checked again until 2:27 PM.

Finally, at 2:45 PM, two officers knock on Polanco's door.

When she doesn't respond, the casually open the door. Video shows the officers laughing as they turn her over to find her face covered in vomit.

They call her name, but Polanco had already passed.

Polanco's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against New York City and the staff involved with Layleen's death.

Their attorney, David Shanies, said of the video:

"The video is the last piece of the puzzle. It's the last bit of indifference to her life that we saw and recklessness to a person who obviously needed help."

Shanies also commented on the Polanco family's reaction to the shocking footage.

"It was horrifying for the family to see this footage. They were completely unprepared for what they saw."
"They all broke into hysterical crying, understandably. And to this day, Layleen's mother is haunted by the images of the guard laughing at her daughter."

Though a report on the incident claims the correctional officers may face "administrative action," the Bronx District Attorney's Office concluded that neither could be held criminally responsible for Layleen's death.

Beverly Tillery, Executive Director of The New York City Anti-Violence project, claimed the video highlighted the "neglect and humiliation" many transgender individuals suffer at the hands of law enforcement.

Tillery told Buzzfeed:

"Thousands of transgender people are regularly subjected to neglect and violence and stripped of their humanity within our nation's jails and prisons. These acts of state violence have to stop."


Department of Corrections commissioner Cynthia Brann also commented on the incident to NBC News, saying:

"The safety and well-being of people in our custody is our top priority, and we are committed to ensuring that all of our facilities are safe and humane. Even one death in our custody is one too many."

Layleen Polanco's family continues to seek justice for her death.