The vigil for racial and economic justice was held outside the Erie County work-release center.
About 75 people gathered as the sun set Wednesday evening for a vigil in honor of Felix L. Manus, the Erie County work-release inmate who died in June after suffering an asthma attack during a shift.
The group joined together in song outside the Erie County work-release center and prayed for change in the wake of Manus’ death.
“His death was such a tragedy,” Benedictine Sister Anne McCarthy said after the vigil, which was organized by the Benedictines for Peace of Erie, the NAACP, and the Sisters of Mercy. “In many ways, he was caught right at the intersection of racial and economic injustice and poor health care.”
Members of Manus’ family also spoke at the vigil, which lasted about 35 minutes.
“The system may have failed my dad but we may be able, being together, keeping our voice heard, we may be able to stop this from happening to the next person, the next family,” said Bryhanna Manus, Felix Manus’ oldest daughter.
Manus, 48, died June 11 after suffering an asthma attack during a May 30 work-release shift in Edinboro. The Manus family’s lawyer, John Mizner, has charged that county corrections officers delayed emergency medical care to Manus by driving him back to the work-release center in Erie before calling for help.
Two county corrections officers were disciplined in connection with the incident, but the county has not described the discipline they received. Erie County District Attorney Jack Daneri announced Sept. 4 that no criminal charges will be filed in the case.
The Manus family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on July 20. Erie County Coroner Lyell Cook ruled Manus died of natural causes due to complications from asthma.
At the vigil, Manus’ nephew Gary Simpson remembered Manus as a “funny, easygoing guy.”
“It’s just sad that it had to happen the way that it happened,” Simpson said of Manus’ death.
Two Erie police vehicles arrived before the vigil began to ask the crowd to move off the sidewalk directly in front of the work-release center, at 450 E. 16th St., and onto a sidewalk across the street.
The crowd held a silent march past the work-release center at the end of the vigil.
“They may have moved us off that property, but we pay the taxes here,” said Gary Horton, the president of the Erie chapter of the NAACP.
Court records show that Manus was ordered on May 4 to serve three months of work release unless he paid child support he owed.
“For a debt to turn into a death sentence, something is wrong,” Horton said after the vigil.
Original Article by Madeleine O’Neill can be reached at 870-1728 or by email. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNoneill.