‘My son died an innocent man’: Family of Rikers Island inmate sues city on first anniversary of his death in solitary confinement

Brandon Rodriguez died a year ago Wednesday while being held in solitary confinement on Rikers Island. Now, his family is seeking justice through a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of New York.

The parents of the late 25-year-old arrived outside of City Hall on Aug. 10 in tears, the death of their son remained fresh on their minds 365 days later. Family members and supporters from #HALTsolitary looked to mark the grim anniversary by holding a vigil for the man who lost his life in solitary confinement.

According to the family’s attorney William Wagstaff, Brandon Rodriguez was placed in custody on Aug. 5, 2021, and entered Rikers Island with the Department of Correction aware that he suffered from depression, bipolar disorder, and multiple sclerosis. However, Wagstaff argued DOC did nothing to prevent Rodriguez from taking his own life inside a shower cage.

Loved ones wept as Wagstaff recounted how Rodriguez was reportedly beaten by fellow inmates, in which he suffered an orbital fracture. Rodriguez allegedly even attempted to request help from staff.

Rodriguez’s mother, Tamara Carter, gushed with pain as she spoke about her son’s death. Photo by Dean Moses
Rodriguez’s best friend was overcome with emotion. Photo by Dean Moses

Those at the vigil clung to white balloons and held photos of Rodriguez while sharing memories of him, yet they couldn’t help but burst with sorrow and weep at a loss that still stings them to their very marrow.

Rodriguez’s mother, Tamara Carter, gushed with pain as she spoke about her son’s death.

“Today marks one year that my baby was taken from me. He was beaten twice and then tortured in solitary confinement. My family and I will never be the same again. The hurt that I see in my kid’s eyes, his father’s eyes is something I don’t know how to deal with. I’m the mom, the wife–I fix everything. This I can’t fix, and it kills me,” Carter said through a stream of tears. “The last thing I have to say: My son died an innocent man.”

The family also announced they will be filing a lawsuit against the city for Rodriguez’s death in an attempt to hold the Corrections Department and elected officials accountable for what many see as an inability to house detainees safely. Eleven people have died in city jails in 2022 alone.

The vigil. Photo by Dean Moses
Tears flooded. Photo by Dean Moses

“The remaining eight or nine hours of his life surveillance show Brandon having not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven, not eight conversations with Department of Correction staff, captains, officers. I don’t believe he was talking about the Yankees. I don’t believe he was talking about the Giants. You can only presume that he was conveying to all of these officers, the same thing that he conveyed to the mental health professionals that failed to do anything and give him the adequate medication and recommend that he’d be put in protective housing. Once the officer that was supposed to be patrolling the area left the area, Brandon took his life,” Wagstaff said. 

The attorney also denounced the city for failing to notify the family of his passing, stating that his mother discovered the horrifying news while scrolling through Facebook, something he believes is shameful. Attendees concluded the vigil by releasing the balloons into the sky.

In response to this lawsuit, the City Law Department provided the following statement:

“Any death in custody is tragic. We will review the case,” a Law Department spokesman said. 


William Wagstaf. Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses