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Death of 7th Rikers Island detainee Curtis Davis renews calls for federal takeover

Family of Rikers inmate who died wants answers
Family of Rikers inmate who died wants answers 02:15

NEW YORK -- The family of a Rikers Island inmate wants answers after their relative was found unresponsive in a jail cell Sunday and later died.

CBS New York investigative reporter Tim McNicholas has learned three jail employees are facing discipline.

Just outside City Hall, protesters read the names of people who have died in the custody of the Department of Correction.

One name is especially important to Dennis Mellerson -- Curtis Davis.

"That was my cousin," Mellerson said. "He loved his children. He loved his family ... We really want to know what happened to Curtis."

Jail staff found Davis unresponsive in his cell Sunday morning. He'd been at Rikers since early June, after prosecutors said he slashed a man with a knife.

CBS New York has now learned the Department of Correction has suspended an assistant deputy warden and two officers who are accused of not properly touring the jail Sunday morning.

"I'd like the Department of Correction, the Department of Investigation and the state Attorney General's office to get involved with this," Mellerson said.

The seven inmate deaths so far this year are prompting protesters to call for an end to Rikers.

Rally at City Hall after 7th Rikers detainee dies 02:15

People who gathered Tuesday said the city should be stripped of its control over the jails. 

"It was very dangerous. I remember, 16 years old, I got jumped like two times by 20 people, people try to cut me, stab me," said Nathaniel Evans, of the Freedom Agenda.

A federal judge will soon consider whether an outside authority, known as a receiver, will take over the jails.

Last week, however, DOC Commissioner Louis Molina told CBS New York the jails should stay in the city's control.

"I understand for many that their patience is wearing thin. But I think I would say there has to be an appreciation for the level of stabilization we were able to do in the last 19 months," he said. 

Earlier this month, the DOC suspended four employees in relation to another Rikers death.

As for Davis? Mellerson says his cousin intended to fight the charges against him in court, but now he'll never get that chance.

"We're feeling really upset, and we're feeling troubled," Mellerson said.

Just last week, United States Attorney Damian Williams released a statement expressing his support for a receivership. He says he doesn't want to wait any longer for substantial progress.

Molina, on the other hand, says violence is down in the jails and staff members are showing up to work more often. 

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