As the staffing crisis in Rikers prison continues with a general lack of officers to ensure the safety of the prisoners, a man reportedly died on Friday, March 18, after choking on an orange in an area that was not being patrolled by correctional officers.

Fifty-two-year-old Herman Diaz, who was imprisoned for several charges including robbery and violation of parole, died while choking on a piece of an orange. Inmates attempted to help the man but failed, while an officer in the security booth watched on and did not offer any help, according to the Daily Beast.

Eddie Diaz, Herman’s 57-year-old brother, has spoken to the press about the injustice of his brother’s death, openly wondering if the people who are in charge of the correctional institute care enough about the lives of their prisoners, the New York Daily News reported.

“I want to see the video. I want to know how long did it take for anyone with DOC to get to my brother to help him. Why wasn’t a [correctional officer] there?” he said regarding the situation.

Diaz also complained about the lack of communication between him and the Correctional Department, feeling disrespected that news outlets contacted Diaz about his brother’s death but not the people who were in charge of the prison.

The department has claimed to have notified Diaz of his brother’s death after the incident. On the day itself, Correction Commissioner Louis Molina made a statement regarding the death while refusing to acknowledge the continued staffing crisis of the New York prison.

“Every person matters, and every death is tragic. We are particularly mindful of this today after suffering another terrible loss yesterday. We are heartbroken for this person’s family and loved ones,” he said.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of Mr. Diaz. The fact that there was no B Officer present in that unit is a tragic reminder of the previous commissioner’s grave mistake in not hiring more officers, as we have called for over the past two years,” Benny Boscio of the correctional officers’ union said.

Among the organizations helping the Diaz family is The Legal Aid Society, which has called on the Corrections Department to allow the inmate's kin to access the security footage that shows Herman Diaz choking to death.

“My brother was loved. He wasn’t a guy you just put through the system. He had people who really cared about him,” Eddie Diaz said about his brother. “If there was some foul play, I would like to know about it.”

Herman Diaz, an inmate at Rikers Island who was imprisoned after shoplifting, was killed after he choked on an orange with no officer to help him. This is a representational image. SeongPhil Jang/Unsplash.

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