After several years of talk about the death of Erie County Holding Center inmate India Cummings, local officials are hoping for definitive answers from a new investigation begun by New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood.
The AG investigation has begun in cooperation with the State Commission of Correction, letting AG staff question both law enforcement and medical personnel at the county lockup. The cause of Cummings' death has never been completely clear, although the commission said in a report that her care was "so grossly incompetent and inadequate as to shock the conscience."
Erie County Legislature Majority Leader April Baskin said the Cummings case has dominated her nine months in the Legislature.
"I have been making calls, taking meetings, sending out e-mails to elected officials about improving our local Holding Center," Baskin said. "It pains me that India Cummings' death had to happen in order for us to begin a process towards change. I support our local law enforcement and I want to point out that there are members of our community that support them as well."
State Sen. Tim Kennedy (D-Buffalo) is looking forward to the AG's investigation.
"Ensuring that an unbiased eye would look at issues that are important to the taxpayers, not just here in Erie County, but across the State of New York," Kennedy said. "An apolitical, non-political eye will take a look at this issue, here in Erie County and then give an unbiased investigation."
Cummings was originally arrested February 1, 2016 and died at Erie County Medical Center February 21, 2016. She had been arrested after an alleged carjacking and police chase, potentially under the influence of synthetic marijuana - although no drug charges appear in police reports shared with WBFO.
WBFO reached out to Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard, but there was no comment. He has has been declining further comment, due to the continuing investigation.