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Kyam Livingston’s family files wrongful death suit

Craig D. Frazier | 11/28/2013, 6 a.m.
Kyam Livingston's mother, Anita Neal seeking answers for her daughter's death. Photo by Khorri Atkinson

This week, Kyam Livingston’s family was joined by elected officials and community leaders to announce the filing of a federal lawsuit. Livingston, a 37-year-old mother, died in the custody of the Corrections Department in Brooklyn three months ago.

Livingston was arrested on July 20 around 1:51 a.m. after getting into an argument with her 79-year-old grandmother. There was a customized order of protection prohibiting alcohol or fighting in the home. Police say Livingston was taken to Kings County Hospital before being taken to Brooklyn Central Booking and was intoxicated the night she died.

No amount of money will bring my daughter back,” said Anita Neal, Livingston’s mother.  “I want answers. I want the video so everyone can see how they killed her.  I want all the officers responsible to be charged.”

Her family demands answers from the NYPD as to what happened. Livingston’s family members and supporters launched a petition campaign targeting Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes. They demand the names of the officers responsible for Livingston’s death and better conditions at Brooklyn Central Booking.

We want a full investigation into the practices and procedures of Brooklyn Central Booking,” said Alex Livingston, Kyam Livingston’s son. “My mother needed medical attention. The NYPD was supposed to take her to the EMS station when she asked. Instead, they left her begging for help for hours until she died.”

According to the family’s attorneys, multiple witnesses said Kyam Livingston was in pain for as many as seven hours, pleading with police officials for help and medical treatment before she died.

Fellow inmate Aleah Holland, a registered nurse, stated that the police at Central Booking ignored Kyam Livingston’s complaints of stomach pains and diarrhea. She and other inmates banged on the bars calling for help. “They [the cops], said, ‘Shut up before we lose your paperwork and you won’t be seen by the judge,’” she said in a statement.

Ms. Livingston’s death was avoidable, and this will be brought to light in the course of the case.  The bitter irony is that in order to bring the lawsuit, our clients were forced to answer questions about Kyam and themselves while the city still won’t answer our inquiries about why steps were not taken to avoid Kyam’s suffering and this unspeakable tragedy,” said Elliot Taub, one of the family’s lawyers.

Supporters say that conditions in Brooklyn Central Booking are inhumane. “New York City’s arraignment holding cells resemble a medieval dungeon,” said Jay Schwitzman, president of the Kings County Criminal Bar Association. “Low-level offenders are placed with violent felons in small cells that have no bed, one open toilet, rodents, roaches and extremely unsanitary conditions.  They are also denied medication and proper medical attention.”

It’s more than likely that this lawsuit will never fill the family’s void left by Kyam’s death, but it could answer questions that might give them closure.

“Kyam Livingston senselessly died in police custody after being subjected to inhumane conditions in Central Booking,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. “She should be alive today, and this lawsuit will help the family get clarity as to how this tragedy came to occur.”

The city medical examiner has ruled that the controversial death was of “natural” causes due to an alcoholic seizure. A spokeswoman for the Brooklyn district attorney’s office said prosecutors are reviewing the medical examiner’s findings. By the time the AmNews went to press, no one from the NYPD was available for comment.