Kyam Livingston's mother, Anita Neal, weeps as she looks at photos of her daughter, who died in police custody three months ago at the age of 37. Credit: Bess Adler
Brooklyn mother of two Kyam Livingston, 37, died in police custody three months ago while awaiting arraignment for nearly 24 hours in Brooklyn Central Booking.
Now her family is demanding answers from the NYPD about what happened while she was in their care. The family's attorneys say multiple witnesses have said Livingston was in pain for as many as seven hours, pleading with police officials for help and medical treatment before she died.
"Her cellmates — so-called criminals — were rendering aid" while police did nothing, attorney Jay Schwitzman said.
Livingston was arrested July 20 about 1:51 a.m. after getting into an argument with her 79-year-old grandmother.
The family's attorney said the dispute was not violent, but that there was a customized order of protection prohibiting alcohol or fighting in the home. Livingston went to take a shower, the attorney said, and when she got out, police officers were in her home.
According to police reports, after she was arrested, Livingston was first taken to Kings County Hospital for "apparent intoxication."
She was brought to Brooklyn Central Booking at 10:30 a.m. to be arraigned. At 6:40 a.m. the next day, according to police reports, she was taken by emergency medical personnel to Brooklyn Hospital for "apparent seizures." Police said she was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital at 6:58 a.m.
But the family says an eyewitness who was a registered nurse told them Livingston was dead in Central Booking for 20 minutes before emergency medical personnel arrived.
Councilman Jumaane Williams apparently rearranged his schedule to stand beside Livingston's family at the press conference. The councilman was visibly frustrated, saying he didn't understand why so little attention was being paid to her death.
"I didn't even hear about this story until several weeks ago when someone told me about it," Williams said.
It appeared that Mayor Michael Bloomberg had also not heard about the family's lawsuit and their demands for the names of the police officers at Central Booking at the time of Livingston's death, and the video footage from the cell where she was being held.
"We don't know anything about it," the mayor said at a press conference earlier in the day, standing beside a shrugging Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
A spokesperson from the city's law department said they had not yet formally been served a copy of the lawsuit.
Williams noted that he has experienced being arrested in New York City, both as a civilian and a councilmember.
"As a regular resident of New York City, it's a terrible thing," he said.
Williams and Livingston's family are all pushing for reform to Brooklyn Central Booking, so that people arrested on low-level charges like illegal street vending aren't held alongside people arrested on charges of rape and murder.
They want systemic change — but they also want personal answers as to what happened to their loved one, and why her cries for help would have gone unanswered for so many hours, as witnesses have reportedly alleged.
"She didn't deserve this," wept Livingston's mother, Anita Neal. "I would still be with my daughter today if she had gotten attention. They let her beg for seven hours."
Anna Sanders contributed reporting to this article.