On Feb. 1, India Cummings, originally of Rochester, N.Y., living in nearby Lackawana, was walking around begging for a ride back to her hometown from passers by. She eventually called the police out of desperation. When police arrived, she reportedly stole a vehicle and fled the scene. Her family believes she was having a medical breakdown.
Cummings was taken into custody and held at Erie County Holding Facility facing charges of grand theft auto. She went into the jail physically healthy. Her mother, Tawana Wyatt, traveled from Rochester to ECHF (an hour and a half drive) frequently and started being told that her daughter was refusing her visits.
On Feb. 17, Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard states a “medical event happened.” Cummings was transferred to Buffalo General Hospital, but it was too late. According to Matt Albert, her lawyer, she was suffering from “a broken arm, broken ribs, severe dehydration, a blood clot in her leg that would have required the amputation of her leg, and her kidneys were failing. She was brain dead and in cardiac arrest.” On Feb. 21, Cummings succumbed to her injuries and died. The Erie County Medical Examiner has conducted an autopsy, but has yet to release the results.
This event comes after a string of suspicious deaths of people of color held in detention facilities, including the mysterious deaths of Victor White in March 2014, Philip White in March 2015, Freddie Gray in April 2015 and Sandra Bland in July 2015. In February 2015, an abuse-laden, off-the-books interrogation site was uncovered in Chicago resulting in public outcry.
The death of India Cummings has not come without anger and resistance from the people. Multiple rallies and marches have been held in both Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y. demanding Justice for India. Only by struggling in the streets in a spirit of resistance will the police who victimize those in their custody be brought to justice. The struggle against a system that allows the police to murder with impunity is a struggle for radical change of the system in favor of a system that demands accountability from those in power.