Family of Rikers Island Inmate Who Committed Suicide Files $25 Million Lawsuit Against the City of New York and Corrections Officers


November 3, 2022

The family of Segundo Guallpa, a Queens resident and native of Ecuador who died by suicide at Rikers Island on August 29, 2021, has filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against the City of New York and several Correction Officers. Mr. Guallpa is survived by his wife, Luz Guaman, and four children Marco Guallpa, Edwin Guallpa, Francisco Guallpa, and Alexiss Guallpa and reside in Queens, NY.

Attorneys for the family, Joel Wertheimer and Ali Najmi, filed a 28-page complaint in federal court alleging the deprivation of Mr. Guallpa’s civil rights, and his wrongful death due to the negligence and failure of the Department of Corrections of the City of New York. “The City of New York, its Department of Correction, its employees, and its leadership have failed, admittedly, to properly staff and prevent self-harm at Rikers Island” stated attorneys Wertheimer and Najmi in the complaint. 

Suicide note written on the wall

The complaint details gross failures on the part of Department of Corrections (DOC) employees including failure to conduct required rounds to verify signs of life and the falsification of DOC records by staff who stated they had completed rounds when they did not. DOC employees failed to have Mr. Guallpa treated by mental health professionals despite obvious signs he needed help. 

On August 29, 2021, video surveillance footage showed Mr. Guallpa pacing inside his cell, running his hands over his head, moving his mouth, as if he were speaking to himself, and waving his arms. He paced inside his cell multiple times. Later that evening, Mr. Guallpa etched a suicide note into the wall of his jail cell. No guard saw the note which likely took hours to carve and was nearly 500 characters etched into the wall in Spanish. 

“This case involves the failure of DOC employees to perform routine duties, and the creation of falsified records to cover up their conduct. There is a deliberate indifference to the mental and physical health needs of inmates inside Rikers Island. Segundo Guallpa should still be alive but for the recklessness of the Department of Corrections and the deliberate indifference of the City of New York to those in its custody,” stated attorneys Wertheimer and Najmi. 

Mr. Guallpa was one of fifteen people incarcerated at Rikers Island who died in 2021. In 2022, eighteen people have died at Rikers Island to date. In the three years prior there had been just three non-natural deaths in New York City Correction facilities. 

Attorneys Joel Wertheimer and Ali Najmi are civil rights attorneys admitted to practice law in New York with offices located in downtown Manhattan.

Attached is a photograph of Segundo Guallpa’s suicide note in Spanish which was etched into the wall of his Rikers Island cell and the full legal complaint filed in court. 

“Ali Najmi did excellent work reducing my case to a minimum, helping me avoid jail time as well as giving me the opportunity to have another chance to live a law abiding life. I had quite a heavy case and Ali succeeded in defending me.”

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