Family of India Cummings files lawsuit targeting 72 sheriff deputies

Feb 5, 2019

The family of India Cummings has filed a new lawsuit against 72 sheriff's deputies at the Erie County Holding Center.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court. According to the Buffalo News, it accuses 72 deputies at the Holding Center of "criminalizing Cummings' mental illness" for allegedly failing to provide her with proper care.

The lawsuit points to all deputies on duty while she was being held, but it specifically names three people. The Buffalo News says those deputies filed more charges against her at the jail.   

Outside Erie County Holding Center, Delaware Ave., Buffalo, NY.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

Cummings, 27, died in February of 2016 inside the county jail, nearly 20 days after she was arrested for allegedly hijacking a car in Lackawanna.

“Who all of a sudden, steals a car and has this sort of erratic behavior and is very combative? That should have alerted someone to take her to ECMC for a mental health evaluation,” remarked India Walton.

Walton is a nurse who works as a community organization with Open Buffalo who has been vocal about the case

India Cummings.
Credit FACEBOOK / India Cummings of Rochester in a graduation photo at Wilson High School in Rochester NY. The NYS Commission of Correction declared her death a homicide due to medical neglect.

“In my opinion, I think her first stop should have been at ECMC for evaluation,” said Walton 

The initially police call put out to her home was for a mental health-related emergency. Cummings was behaving erratically and some claim she was allegedly using synthetic marijuana. Her family has said she had no history of mental illness. 

Last July, the New York State Commission of Correction Medical Review Board found the medical and mental health care provided to her while incarcerated was “grossly incompetent” and “inadequate” and was neglected. The state board ruled her death a homicide. A report found she died of acute renal failure.

The woman's family is already suing Erie County, the Sheriff, the Erie County Holding Center and the Lackawanna Police Department. WBFO News reached out to the county for a response, but they told us due to “pending or ongoing litigation” they cannot comment.

The WNY Peace Center is holding daily vigils outside the Holding Center on Delaware Avenue. The group is being joined by Brothers Doing Better, Buffalo Anti-Racism Coalition and Save the Kids. The organizations say Cummings' “crisis was criminalized.” 

Past protests outside Erie County Holding Center.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Mike Desmond

“We are holding space daily in front of the Erie County Holding Center to call attention to India’s absence. We will hold vigils each day, coinciding with the days in 2016 that Ms. Cummings was in the custody of Erie County authorities,” stated the organizations in a news release.   

The daily vigils will run until February 21, the date which Cummings died in 2016 inside the jail. Vigil times will vary. On Tuesday it will be held from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.