BUFFALO, N.Y. — India Cumming’s mother feels a sense of bittersweet relief.
“This is what I wanted so I was very emotional,” said Tawana Wyatt.
After nearly three years, the state attorney general is going to investigate her daughter’s death while in police custody at the Erie County Holding Center.
The last time she saw her daughter was in court.
“It just so happened she happened to look me in my eye and at that time I knew from her appearance alone that something was definitely wrong,” Wyatt said.
Cummings was 27 at the time of her death. She had been in custody in the downtown Buffalo facility for 16 days before she was transported to a hospital. There, she was declared brain dead. Cummings had been suffering from renal failure.
On Thursday, the attorney general’s office confirmed it would open an investigation into her death, something long called for by protesters and Cummings’ family alike.
“I’m seeking justice for what happened,” Wyatt said. “It’s more than just a lawsuit. I’m seeking change.”
A report from the New York State Commission of Corrections released earlier this year designated Cummings’ death as a homicide. The report also said the staff at the holding center was slow to respond to her medical needs.
As recently as September 7, Attorney General Barbara Underwood said her office did not have standing jurisdiction to take cases that aren’t covered by Executive Order 147, which specifically applies to law enforcement officers. The office reviewed “key materials and evidence” and determined jurisdiction exists.
Amy Spitalnick of the Attorney General's office released this statement:
“After reviewing key materials and evidence, the Attorney General’s Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit has opened an investigation into the death of India Cummings, pursuant to the Attorney General’s authority under Executive Order No. 147. We’re committed to conducting an independent, comprehensive, and fair investigation.”
In order to open this investigation, the AG's office had to be granted a referral from the Commission of Correction under a law that broadens the scope beyond law enforcement officers.
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