Kalief Browder is dead because of a backpack. At the age of 16, the teenager was arrested because a man accused him of stealing his bag. He was thrown into Rikers, the notoriously abusive New York City jail, where he was incarcerated without trial for three years because his family couldn’t round up $3,000 to pay his bail.
The charges against him were eventually dropped—he had not, after all, been a back-pack thief—and his case revealed the almost unbelievable abuses perpetrated at Riker’s. Thanks to the publicity generated by Browder’s case, Rikers guards are no longer allowed to place 16 and 17 year olds in solitary, a reform instituted by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
But it was too late for Browder, who hung himself with an air-conditioner cord, reportedly telling his mother,“ Ma, I can’t take it anymore,” the night before his suicide. Now, the New York Daily News reports that his 63-year-old mother has literally died of a broken heart. Browder suffered a fatal heart attack, and the family’s lawyer told the Daily News she’d died from stress.
“She was a woman of incredible grace and compassion who tirelessly fought for justice for her son Kalief and who championed the civil rights of others in our city,” the lawyer, Paul Prestia, told the Daily News. “But the stress from this crusade coupled with the strain of the pending lawsuits against the city and the pain from the death were too much to for her to bear. In my opinion she literally died of a broken heart.”
Watch an interview with Venida Browder below: