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Flatbush woman didn’t have to die in Central Booking, her family says

Seeking justice: Anita Neal, center, holds photos of her daughter, who she alleges died in jail due to police negligence.

A woman died in a jail cell after suffering for hours while police stood idly by, ignoring her cries for help, her family alleged in a federal lawsuit filed on Monday.

The lawsuit comes three months after the death of Kyam Livingston, a 37-year-old Flatbush woman whose life her family says police guards at Central Booking could easily have saved.

“My daughter cried seven hours, begging for support,” Livingston’s mother Anita Neal said through tears at a press conference on the steps of the Brooklyn federal courthouse on Monday.

Livingston was arrested on a Friday afternoon in late July after getting in an argument with her grandmother over a remote control. The two lived together and Livingston was subject to an order of protection that required her not to drink or quarrel. When police arrived, they found Livingston drunk and cuffed her for violating the order, then handed her over to paramedics who took her to Kings County Hospital for several hours before she was transported to Central Booking on Schermerhorn Street at 10:30 pm, cops said.

Over the course of that night, Livingston suffered and convulsed for hours in a filthy cell, pleading for medical attention while her jailers watched and did nothing, according to the family’s lawyers, who are pushing police to release the surveillance tape that they say will show the 15 women she shared a cell with coming to her aid but ultimately finding themselves powerless to help.

“We are confident we will see cell-mates, the so-called criminals, rendering aid to Kyam Livingston in her final hours and when she needed help the most,” said attorney Jay Schitzman. “And the officers, who were charged with protecting her and caring for her, callously disregarding the situation.”

Livingston was pronounced dead at around seven the next morning and an official autopsy said that alcohol and chronic seizures were to blame. The family disputes those findings because, they say, the autopsy showed little or no alcohol in her system at the time of death and Livingston did not have a history of epilepsy. If those were the true causes, the finding would do nothing to dispel the claim of police negligence, the family’s legal team said.

“Even taking the official autopsy at face value, it still evidences a slow descent over someone’s physical condition where cries for help were ignored for several hours,” he said.

Livingston was never officially charged, though her crime was likely just a misdemeanor, and her mother says that she is suing the cops in hopes that she can spare other parents the same heartache.

“I want some changes done so it happens to no one else,” Neal said. “Because it could have happened to anyone, but it happened to my daughter.”

Police spokeswoman Cheryl Crispin would not say who was on duty at the time of Livingston’s death or comment on how she died.

Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at jlutz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.
Torn up: Kyam Livingston's mother breaks down during a press conference announcing a lawsuit against police for Livingston's jailhouse death.

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