Haleem Johnson, a 38-year-old man, died in the NYPD’s Midtown South precinct on April 1st, 2023. According to Gothamist, Johnson was arrested at around 2 pm on the afternoon of March 31st following reports of a domestic violence incident involving himself and his girlfriend, Aqaw Bior. Johnson and Bior were both taken into custody and placed in different holding cells, in the same building when the former started complaining about chest pains. Bior’s holding cell was across the hall from Johnson as he complained of chest pains, claiming that he was experiencing difficulty breathing. Bior alleges that she heard Johnson audibly calling out that he was feeling pain. She also claims to have asked the police officers present if Johnson was okay but says the officers continued with their own business.
“Do you know how many times I asked, ‘Is Haleem OK?’” said Bior. “They were like, ‘We’re a little busy right now,’ eating McDonald’s.”
According to the NYPD, Johnson was found in the cell unconscious and unresponsive. Bior stood and witnessed as her boyfriend was carried out of the station on a stretcher. Johnson was transported to Mount Sinai West Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Bior said that Johnson suffered from high blood pressure and did not have his medication with him as he was in the holding cell. Johnson’s death, and the fact that it occurred while he was in police custody, will be investigated by the NYPD’s Force Investigation Division. At the time of writing, the NYPD had refused to share the details surrounding Johnson’s death openly. The cause of his death is reportedly still under investigation by the city’s medical examiner.
Johnson’s funeral was on Friday, April 14th. While his family and friends lamented his death, they also celebrated his life. Family and friends highlighted how he enjoyed giving them surprise visits. They also called for justice. Johnson’s aunt, Towanda Johnson, blamed the precinct for her nephew’s death. “They let him die,” she said. According to Gothamist, Johnson’s friend Lamont Redish promised not to rest until he saw justice for his friend. Redish’s call for justice inspired responses of “no justice, no peace,” from those in attendance at the funeral.