- The officer failed to do required rounds and check inside each cell with a flashlight for over three hours before the 27-year-old was found unresponsive and declared dead in a mental health observation unit at the Eric M. Taylor Center.
A preliminary report by the New York City Board of Correction has revealed that a correction officer did not properly check the jail unit where Manish Kunwar “died of a suspected drug overdose,” in October, the Daily News reported. “The officer didn’t do required rounds and check inside each cell with a flashlight over three hours” before the 27-year-old native of Nepal was found unresponsive and declared dead in a mental health observation unit at the Eric M. Taylor Center, the report added.
Records also show there was no suicide prevention aide on the observation unit when Kunwar died, the Daily News said, explaining that “a suicide prevention aide is a detainee responsible for checking the unit’s cells.” And “because there was no such aide, the unit’s floor officer was supposed to tour every 15 minutes,” the report noted.
Following his death, the officer was suspended, and a correction captain was placed on desk duty. According to the report, “Board of Correction investigators could not determine the last time the unit was searched, and a logbook did not show any searches from July 1 up to the day Kunwar died.” The city medical examiner’s office has yet to issue a cause of death.
Officers found Kunwar at 5:37 a.m. when they arrived to distribute breakfast and knocked on his cell door, the report said.” They could not see inside the cell because Kunwar had placed a sheet over a window,” the report added, When officers opened the cell door, they found him lying face up on his bed unresponsive.
“Medical staff arrived within five minutes and gave him four doses of Narcan, but it was too late,” the report said, adding that he was “pronounced dead at 6:20 a.m., but he likely had died much earlier.” When they flipped him over, “fluid and blood poured from his mouth onto the bed and floor of the cell,” the report said. A search of his housing area conducted 12 hours after his death found no contraband, the report added. A detainee told the Board of Correction investigators that “the last time Kunwar was seen alive outside his cell was before the 9 p.m. lock-in on Oct. 4.”
Kunwar’s death was the ninth one in New York City Department of Correction custody this year. The New York Times reported that Kunwar died “a few hours before hours a federal official appointed to monitor Rikers issued his latest scathing report about the dangerous dysfunction that persists there.” The Times said the monitor, Steve J. Martin, wrote that the Rikers complex was “characterized by a pervasive, imminent risk of harm” to those in custody, and to jail employees and that the “alarming conditions” appeared to have deteriorated since August.
Kunwar was arraigned on Sept. 27, and was in custody at Rikers for just seven days, his attorney Jane Remler of the Legal Aid Society, told the Gothamist. He was extradited from Delaware to face two bail-jumping charges, one charge of robbery and one charge of grand larceny. Before that, he had spent five months in a psychiatric facility in Baltimore. News reports describe him as being homeless and mentally ill.
He moved to the U.S. from Nepal in 2016 after winning a diversity visa, his cousin Saru Ban of Texas told the New York Daily News. The Diversity Visa is a program in which the U.S. makes 50,000 visas a year available in a lottery. Since then he “seems to have lived the life of a wanderer,” she said, adding that she last saw him in 2018 at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
According to the Gothamist, he was arrested initially in June 2022 “for robbery in Queens and accused of taking $1,200 from a man at knifepoint.” He did not show up for court and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He then did not appear for a subsequent court date. Citing sources, the Gothamist report said “he had a relapse of a substance abuse condition and wound up in a Baltimore psychiatric facility for five months and then somehow in Delaware..” There, he called 911 “because he was suicidal, and authorities took him into custody.” He was then extradited to Queens and charged on Sept. 27 with robbery, bail jumping, and grand larceny charges.