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Daily protests at Holding Center memorialize India Cummings death

Mike Desmond

Three years ago, 27-year-old India Cummings was at the Erie County Holding Center facing carjacking and other charges. After more than two weeks in custody, she was taken to two successive hospitals and died on Feb. 21, 2016. To memorialize that anniversary, supporters of Cummings are are holding daily protests outside the Holding Center.

A New York State Commission of Correction report found the ultimate cause of death was "acute renal failure that resulted in a cardiac arrest while at Buffalo General Hospital." Overall, however, the state called it a "homicide due to medical neglect" inside the Holding Center and there are lawsuits in the death.

Supporters of the family and opponents of Sheriff Tim Howard and the Holding Center operations are holding a watch outside the jail marking each day Cummings was inside the facility, through her anniversary date of death.

Heron Simmonds, chair of the Racial Justice Task Force of the Western New York Peace Center, said the goal is to make sure people understand what happened in those days.

"In that time, she didn't get the care she needed," Simmonds said. "Her condition deteriorated and a physically healthy, mentally distressed 27-year-old went from having a broken wrist to leaving this space in 2 1/2 weeks brain dead."

Simmonds said he actually confronted  Howard in an Erie County Hall elevator about Cummings' death and doesn't think the sheriff effectively answered his questions. Howard has maintained no comment because of the lawsuits filed.

Simmonds said the protestors want someone found responsible.

"For this unjust outcome," he said. "If she had gotten anything, any kind of care, any kind of intervention she would still be here. And, yet, she's unfortunately just another statistic, just another of the two dozen people who lost their life here."

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