A man who had been held at the Rikers Island jail complex since July died Friday on the same day a judge had granted him emergency release after he contracted the coronavirus, his attorney said.

Victor Mercado, 64, had underlying health conditions. He was overweight, had circulation problems in his legs and spent the majority of his time since his arrest in the Rikers infirmary, where he contracted the virus, Mercado’s attorney James A. Kilduff told The Washington Post.

“My thought was, he is in the infirmary, that is good because they will take care of whatever ailment he has,” Kilduff said. He thought Mercado would be safer at the infirmary than staying with the general population.

“Turned out it was the worst place he could have been,” Kilduff said, adding that Mercado’s health problems made him especially susceptible to the coronavirus and its disease, covid-19, that may have killed him.

The New York City Department of Correction confirmed to The Post that Mercado died about 12:40 p.m. at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens on Friday. The cause of death appears to be “medical in nature” but has yet to be confirmed by the chief medical examiner, a department representative said.

In a statement, Department of Correction Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi said that he was “heartbroken” over Mercado’s death, and that city officials “are working quickly to identify the cause of death.” The department is “more committed than ever to improve safety across the jail system for staff and detainees,” he said.

Mercado was arrested in July on charges of illegal possession of a firearm and drugs the police found in a parked vehicle, which Mercado said belong to his partner. He was held at Rikers Island in lieu of $100,000 bail, Kilduff said.

On Sept. 29, Kilduff asked the judge to lower Mercado’s bail, arguing that his family could not afford it. He also noted his client’s health and age. The judge, whose name was not publicly available, rejected the request, and Mercado remained in the infirmary.

Kilduff learned Wednesday night that his client had contracted the coronavirus. Mercado’s condition worsened, and he was transferred to Elmhurst Hospital on Thursday, Kilduff said.

“He was nervous and scared; he didn’t sound good,” Kilduff said. “He said to me, 'Jim, I am not doing well. Try to get me out of here.’ ”

On Friday, the Bronx District Attorney’s Office agreed to request emergency release. By noon, the judge had granted Mercado conditional release.

But it was too late.

Shortly after the hearing, Kilduff heard from Mercado’s brother that he had died.

“This is tragic, and it could have been avoided, had he been permitted to continue with his process outside of prison,” Kilduff said.

Mercado’s death — he’s the 13th person to die in custody in New York City’s jail system this year — underscores the deepening crisis that plagues the prison: including severe staffing shortages, with the pandemic causing hundreds of officers to be on sick leave, according to the Associated Press; and a spike in violent incidents and reports of lawlessness in some units, according to the New York Times.

Inmates’ advocates and city officials have said the prison is beleaguered, and they have noted decades of neglect that have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am not going to deny that there are serious problems here,” Schiraldi said in a news conference last month, saying he would improve jail safety and security.

Last year, the chief doctor at Rikers Island warned law enforcement officials of the rapid spread of the coronavirus and urged prosecutors to release vulnerable inmates to avoid a “public health disaster.”

When asked about safety protocols and measures to prevent the virus from spreading in city jails, a New York City Department of Correction representative told The Post that the department “continues to urge all staff and people in custody to get vaccinated, and we make the vaccine accessible and available to all who want it.”

The department noted other prevention measures such as social distancing protocols, a new intake center, efforts to reduce the number of people in custody, improved cleaning policies and staff mask requirements.

On Oct. 8, 610 people in custody had been confirmed to have the coronavirus, according to New York City Board of Correction data, a slight increase from 589 about a week before.

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