City investigating suspicious death of 5-year-old Jamaica boy

City investigating suspicious death of 5-year-old Jamaica boy
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By Mark Hallum

The city Department of Investigation is conducting a probe of the Administration for Children’s Services involvement with 5-year-old Michael Guzman, who died in Jamaica Sunday, to determine whether his death could have been prevented. The family had been visited by ACS a number of times prior to the child’s death.

Guzman was pronounced dead after cops from 103rd Precinct responded to a call at his Jamaica home and found the boy unresponsive.

The DOI is requesting records of ACS’s involvement with the Guzmans from the state Office of Children and Family Services, the agency which oversees the city agency and forwards complaints of abuse to the ACS.

“DOI’s examination will track the other cases we have opened involving children who have died and were known to ACS, including Jaden Jordan and Zymere Perkins. Reports on these children and at least five others are expected to be completed in the near future,” DOI Commissioner Mark Peters said. “These investigations will build on the findings we have already published regarding failures by ACS in its investigatory and foster care oversight and will focus on the actions of ACS staff, what real-time actions they took in response, and persistent vulnerabilities within ACS that DOI’s investigations continue to expose.”

Police and EMS responders arrived at the home at 109th Avenue near Inwood Street at around 4 p.m. to find the boy inside unresponsive, according to NYPD. He was then taken to Jamaica Hospital, where he was officially pronounced dead. According to the New York Post, multiple domestic disturbance complaints had been made at the address.

The cause of the child’s death was under investigation by NYPD, which was questioning the family, but the medical examiner will determine the cause, according to police.

ACS could not publicly confirm whether there was a history of abuse in the household or the number of complaints, but a spokesman said, “According to the medical examiner, preliminary review shows there were no acute injuries discovered. ACS and the NYPD are actively investigating the circumstances of this incident.”

The medical examiner’s office confirmed there were no signs of acute injury, but said it was investigating further into the cause of death and would release the results following proper procedure.

City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) has been in contact with the ACS, according to a spokeswoman from his office, and may be speaking at an oversight hearing when the results from the medical examiner are released.

“While we grieve at the loss of young Michael and pray that comfort and solace may touch his loved ones, his death has left many questions unanswered. I do not know all the facts surrounding his death, but it is my intention to get those answers,” Wills said. “The glaring frequency at which the agency charged with protecting those most vulnerable, our children, interacted with Michael and his caregivers leaves much to interpretation.”

Jaden Jordan was a 3-year-old from Brooklyn who allegedly died at the hands of his mother’s boyfriend in December. Jordan’s death came just two days after the city had investigators respond to a report of abuse. But an erroneous address led three investigators to the wrong home.

Zymere Perkins was a Harlem 6-year-old who allegedly died at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend in September. Seven ACS workers have been demoted and suspended for lack of supervision and communication failures as a result of the Perkins case, while ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrion has resigned.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.