New York City jail guard arrested after being accused of watching inmate hang himself in cell

The guard claimed the inmate was "playing," prosecutors said.

April 27, 2021, 12:01 AM

A New York City Department of Correction captain is behind bars and charged with negligent homicide after she allegedly watched an inmate kill himself and did nothing, a district attorney said.

Rebecca Hillman, 38, was charged with negligent homicide in connection with the Nov. 20, 2020, suicide of Ryan Wilson at the Manhattan Detention Complex, colloquially known as The Tombs.

Faced with a life-or-death choice, Hillman, an eight-year veteran of the department, showed a "callous disregard" for life and allowed the man to hang himself, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said Monday in announcing the criminal charges.

According to the indictment, Hillman stopped officers from saving Wilson as he hung himself with his bedsheet inside his cell.

"The death of Ryan Wilson wasn't just a tragedy -- it was a crime," Vance said. "Our investigation shows that Captain Hillman ordered her subordinates not to take potentially life-saving measures to help Mr. Wilson, and failed to call for medical assistance expediently."

According to the indictment, Hillman decided to have Wilson transferred to another cell after he had an argument with another inmate.

While awaiting the move, Wilson fashioned a noose out of a bedsheet and attached it to a light fixture inside his cell.

New York City Department of Correction captain Rebecca Hillman surrendered to authorities on April 26, 2021, for her alleged role in the suicide of Manhattan Detention Complex inmate Ryan Wilson.

After calling an officer over, Wilson threatened to hang himself if Hillman refused to let him out of his cell, the indictment said.

According to prosecutors, Hillman was called but did not come right away, and instead stopped into an office to fill out paperwork.

Ten minutes later, Wilson jumped from his bed, according to the indictment.

The officer who had been talking to Wilson called for Wilson's cell to be opened but Hillman allegedly said Wilson was fine and "playing," according to the indictment.

The cell was opened a minute later but Hillman allegedly ordered the officer to remain outside, saying Wilson was faking it because he was still breathing, prosecutors said.

She called for non-emergency backup and ordered the door closed while Wilson remained hanging inside his locked cell, but by the time medical personal arrived, Wilson was dead, the indictment said.

"This callous disregard for Mr. Wilson's safety resulted in an irreversible loss to his family and friends, and must be held criminally accountable," Vance said.

Hillman pleaded not guilty and was remanded to custody. Her attorney didn't immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

A spokesman for the New York City Department of Correction said Hillman has been suspended without pay and is under an internal investigation over the incident.

ABC News' Ivan Pereira contributed to this report.