An accused murderer grabbed a pepper spray can off the belt of an unsuspecting correction officer and shot it at other inmates during a melee on Rikers Island.
Darryl Buchanan first aimed the can directly at another detainee Thursday night as the officer appeared to walk away from the chaos in Otis Bantum Correctional Center.
Buchanan then took the pepper spray to an upper tier in the housing unit and began to spray inmates below, according to photos obtained by the Daily News.
One inmate is seen trying to get away as he rubs his eyes.
Buchanan was apprehended by an emergency response team after several minutes, jail insiders say.
“These incidents are indicative of a larger picture that has occurred under the de Blasio administration,” said Mark Cranson, the city’s former acting jail commissioner. “The jails are out of control. And the emphasis is not on security.”
A Correction Department spokeswoman vowed that Buchanan would be rearrested and hit with additional charges. But a spokesman for the Bronx district attorney’s office said the incident remains under investigation and no new charges have been filed.
Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark has vowed to take a tougher stance on inmates who act out. She has created a special unit on Rikers Island to expedite cases.
The NYPD’s cold case squad arrested Buchanan on Nov. 15 and charged him with fatally shooting Orlando Brooks in Harlem on April 27, 2007, records show.
The union representing city correction officers noted that the photos of the pepper spray incident show there were only two officers supervising a group of at least 20 inmates.
The Correction Department maintains that, overall, there’s a roughly 1:1 ratio of inmates to officers. That’s in large part due to increased hiring and a drop in the inmate population, according to jail officials.
“Anyone who still believes in the myth that there is a 1-to-1 inmate ratio to correction officers should pay close attention to these images,” said Elias Husamudeen, president of the Correction Officers Benevolent Association.
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“Correction officers are outnumbered 50-to-1 and sometimes more in New York City’s jail system,” he added, noting an emergency response team was called in to quell the violence.
The use of pepper spray by officers against inmates has more than tripled over the past six years, department records show.
Officers shot pepper spray at inmates 3,207 times in fiscal year 2016, up from 879 recorded in fiscal year 2011, records show.
Jail brass say it is safer, and less harmful, than using batons and other weapons. Under the department’s use-of-force policy, officers are ordered to deploy chemical spray before using body holds, punches or baton blows.
As for the latest violence, the department spokeswoman said statistics show a reduction in serious assaults on staff.
That’s in part due to better staffing and officer training, Correction Department spokeswoman Dina Montes said.
Total assaults on staff declined 1%, to 323 from January to May this year, compared with 325 over that same period last year.
But the department’s statistics have come under question after the Daily News reported last summer that jail bosses have covered up violent incidents by downgrading them to “logbook” entries.
That includes one attack that left a jail captain with blood on his hand.
The city’s Board of Correction also found that there were six assaults by prisoners in a specialized unit for troubled inmates that appeared to be downgraded. Jail insiders say they are repeatedly ordered by bosses to downplay serious violence to create an impression that they have turned things around.
The incidents “did not meet the department’s definition of a ‘reportable incident,’ but nevertheless occurred, and appear to involve assaults on or harm to staff,” the report released in April said.
Correction officials insist all the numbers are accurate. The city’s Department of Investigation is reviewing the allegations.
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