On Nov. 15, 2019, a police investigation was opened into the death of a nursing home resident from Brooklyn, NY. The Brooklyn nursing home homicide investigation has garnered the attention of the New York State Department of Health since the department is charged with overseeing nursing home accountability practices.
According to current reports about the Brooklyn nursing home homicide, supplemented by anonymous sources gathered by the New York Daily News, on Aug. 10, 2019, first responders were summoned to the Crown Heights Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation. Their patient was 74-year-old Eitel Vargas who allegedly got into an argument with his roommate over a pair of pants. Witnesses report seeing the two pulling on the pants like a tug of war. Vargas’ roommate was then seen to strike Vargas on the head multiple times, at which time the two were immediately separated and the call was made.
Vargas was quickly taken to Interfaith Medical Center, then transferred to Kings County Hospital for further treatment. Eitel Vargas passed away three days later from a pre-existing heart condition. The medical examiner who opened the Brooklyn nursing home homicide investigation announced on Nov. 14, 2019, that the assault that lead to Vargas’ hospitalization was responsible for exacerbating Vargas’ condition leading to his heart condition becoming fatal.
According to an NYPD spokesperson, the Brooklyn nursing home homicide is receiving the police’s full attention and noted that no individual at Crown Heights nursing home attempted to inform the NYPD about the assault or events that led to Vargas’ death.
The police were not the only party that was interested to learn of Crown Heights’ failure to report. When asked for comment on the Brooklyn nursing home homicide, Department of Health spokesman, Jeffrey Hammond told reporters that “upon learning of this incident we immediately opened an investigation.” Hammond also told reporters that due to the ongoing investigation, the department could not comment further at the time.
The Brooklyn nursing home homicide could be a damning omission for Crown Heights if they did not properly report the matter to the police. Under federal law, nursing homes have a mandatory duty to report all incidents of assault or sexual abuse that occurs, as well as identifying residents who may abuse other residents. Failing either of these tenents could be grounds for neglect charges.
Richard Brum, attorney for the Crown Heights Center, released a statement that the facility was “cooperating fully with authorities” and had allegedly been doing so since “we first reported this incident when it occurred in August.”
Despite the claims of Crown Heights, neither the police nor the family of Eitel Vargas claims they were informed of the assault. At this time, Vargas’ roommate still lives at the nursing home and has not been criminally charged, staffers said.
For more information about nursing home neglect and how it can affect residents, visit the National Association of Nursing Home Attorneys’ Neglect Page.