Following Angel Cordero’s death at the 88th Precinct stationhouse on July 5, his family is grieving and questioning whether police or EMS negligence contributed to his death.
Cordero, 39, was arrested at 3:56 a.m. on July 4 for allegedly stabbing a 48-year-old woman during an argument on the corner of Carlton and Myrtle Avenues, as we reported last week. He died at the precinct stationhouse on Friday of an apparent seizure in a holding pen, police said.
Following the arrest, police took Cordero to Woodhull Medical Center from the stationhouse because he exhibited discomfort, DNAinfo reported.
He was released from the hospital about an hour later, the website reported, and cops brought him back to the precinct and placed him in a holding pen.
Police summoned EMS to aid Cordero, who was in need of medical attention once again, at 1:40 a.m. on Friday, describing him as a “sick patient,” according to Frank Dwyer, an FDNY spokesman.
EMS arrived at 5:30 a.m. Friday, nearly four hours later. By that time, Cordero was dead, Dwyer said.
“We had an extremely high call volume,” Dwyer said, noting that 15 extra ambulances were in service city-wide on July 4 and the morning of July 5. “A sick call is a low-priority call.”
Cordero’s family is wondering why something couldn’t have been done to get him medical attention more quickly.
“If this is because of some sort of negligence, we have to find out,” said Donovan Mendoza, 24, Cordero’s nephew.
The NYPD Internal Affairs office is investigating the case, as is protocol whenever someone dies in police custody, a police source said. During the investigation, a team visits the precinct stationhouse and interviews other prisoners and officers about the circumstances prior to the death, the source said. The team also consults the Medical Examiner’s office about the cause of death, the source said.
The city’s Medical Examiner’s office is awaiting the results of toxicology and tissue tests to determine the official cause of death.
Police came to Mendoza’s Walt Whitman Houses apartment on July 5 t0 inform him about Cordero’s death. Mendoza said an officer told him that following Cordero’s death, all officers at the stationhouse at the time were questioned.
The following day, the family visited Woodhull Medical Center.
“We just wanted to go verify the information that the NYPD had given us,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza said a worker at the hospital reception desk told him neither Cordero, nor John Doe – the name police initially used for Cordero when he refused to give his name upon arrest – was listed as a patient on July 4 or 5. But, Mendoza said, the staff member told him Cordero did check into Woodhull on June 18.
It was not clear why Cordero was not listed in patient information records or why he was admitted in June. A spokeswoman for Woodhull said that under the federal HIPAA laws protecting patient privacy, she is unable to provide information about a specific patient.
The family also visited the Kings County Medical Examiner’s office on Winthrop Street, where they took a cell phone photo of Cordero’s body. In the photo, Cordero’s left eyelid appears red and puffy. Mendoza said that he saw Cordero on Wednesday night, July 3, when his face appeared to be uninjured.
Mendoza said he wants to know what happened “between the time [Cordero] was arrested and time he passed away.”
Mendoza and Cordero’s sister, who flew in from Houston to be with the family, said that Cordero might have abused alcohol. Taylor described her brother as “a loving, kind individual.”
“I could not believe the fact that Angel was dead,” Taylor said. “That was a killer for me. He loved to dance; he loved to sing. He might have had problems, but who doesn’t?”
Cordero, who was unemployed, lived with and cared for his mother in a nearby apartment in the Walt Whitman Houses, Mendoza said. He also had two children, ages 19 and 8.
According to Mendoza, Cordero called the mother of his children, Jenny Negron, from the stationhouse on July 4, saying that he used a nail file to stab the victim, not a Leatherman tool as police reported. Mendoza said Negron did not want to speak to the press.
The alleged victim, who did not want her name used, said that she is recovering from her injuries.
“I had nothing to do with that boy that passed away,” the woman said in a voicemail message left with The Nabe. “He stabbed me and I called the cops. I went to the hospital and that was it. Whatever else happened, happened.” However, she was able to provide an address for Cordero’s family in the Walt Whitman Houses, and a neighbor said that Cordero and the woman had known each other for about 10 years.
“I’m just sorry that [Cordero] passed away in police custody,” the stabbing victim told The Nabe.
Cordero’s family is looking for closure, and to get that, they need answers, his relatives said.
“I’m really disappointed in what happened,” Taylor said. “I feel that Angel may have needed assistance and they were not there to provide the assistance. Because he did not deserve to just die like that in a cell.”
Additional reporting by Emily Field.