NYC corrections officer attacked in Manhattan court holding cell
The CO suffered a broken eye socket and other injuries; the CO union continues to argue against a bill to ban solitary confinement in the city's jails
By Graham Rayman
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — A city correction officer suffered a broken eye socket and other injuries when a detainee attacked him in a Manhattan court holding area — an incident that the correction officers union says argues against a City Council bill to ban solitary confinement in the jails.
Ethien Melendez, 36, was in a holding cell on Tuesday when correction officers opened its door to let several people in. Melendez punched one of the officers several times in the face, breaking one of his eye sockets, prosecutors say.
During his arraignment Wednesday on an assault charge, Melendez sported a black eye. His lawyer said he was defending himself after being assaulted by correction officers.
A crowd of correction officers looked on in Manhattan Criminal Court as a judge ordered Melendez held on $200,000 bail. He was at Rikers Island on a pending parole violation, city records indicate.
Melendez’s alleged attack followed one Monday in which an officer was slashed about a dozen times by a detainee in a protective custody unit in the Anna M. Kross Center at Rikers, officials said.
The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association seized on the incidents in its battle against a Council bill introduced by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams that would ban solitary confinement in the jails. The bill has backing from a veto-proof Council majority, but is opposed by Mayor Adams and Correction Commissioner Louis Molina.
“One of our officers was almost killed,” said Benny Boscio, president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, referring to the attack Monday in which the Rikers officer was repeatedly stabbed in the head, neck and ear.
“This is why we need protections. This is our reality,” Boscio said.
Boscio said the proposed solitary confinement ban would result in situations akin to “a rapist going back on the streets four hours” after committing their crime. He said 1,500 correction officers have been attacked since January.
“This is why we have increasing sick rates,” Boscio added, referring to the high number of correction officers who have called in sick over the past 2½ years.
Williams pushed back in a statement Wednesday. “The danger and harm that corrections officers face, the pain and suffering many have endured, are real — the claims and arguments being used by [the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association] are not,” he said in a statement.
“A bill to finally ban solitary, which is torture, in New York City, a bill which has not even been enacted yet, is clearly not causing the current crisis conditions on Rikers. This is misinformation spread in the hopes of propagating misconceptions about the bill and preserving a dangerous status quo on Rikers.”
Williams noted that on Monday, detainee Gilberto Garcia became the 18th person to die from an injury or illness suffered in city custody, more than in any year since 2013.
”I’m not interested in personal attacks, I’m interested in progress,” Williams said.
Victor Pate of the #HALTsolitary campaign said, “It is nonsensical to claim that Intro. No. 549 is causing violence in the jails before it has even passed — all of the violence that is currently happening in the jails is happening now without this bill.
“And this administration’s doubling down on the use of solitary confinement and isolation in various forms is exacerbating violence while also causing devastating harm.”
It is unclear when the bill will come to the Council floor for a vote.
When officers were attacked in the second half of 2021, Boscio often criticized then-Correction Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi for not keeping them safe. Boscio hasn’t directed any criticism for officer attacks this year toward the current commissioner, Molina.
Meanwhile, the man accused of stabbing the Rikers correction officer Monday, Dennis Applewhite, was arraigned in Bronx Criminal Court on Tuesday night. A judge set bail at $250,000 cash or $750,000 bond.
Prosecutors alleged Applewhite used an 8-inch piece of sharpened metal to stab the 28-year-old officer 12 to 15 times.
Applewhite was charged with attempted murder and assault.
He was arrested in February on charges that he shot and killed his pregnant ex-girlfriend in the Vladeck Houses on the Lower East Side on Nov. 11.
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