Border Patrol authorities say a thunderstorm knocked out their video recording equipment at a Texas processing facility in August, leaving a two-week gap in records including a key period when an illegal immigrant fell ill while in custody and later died.
The Mexican man was arrested on Aug. 24 and was originally held as a suspected migrant smuggler, Customs and Border Protection said.
An investigator decided to release him and he should have been returned to Mexico. But, because of bungled communications, he was never released and languished in a Border Patrol holding cell on Aug. 25 when he began to complain of pains, according to CBP.
After a day of check-ins with medical personnel, he was taken to a local hospital where he was diagnosed with severe sepsis with shock. His condition worsened and he was taken to a hospital in San Antonio. He died on Aug. 28.
Investigators from CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility were called in to investigate and as they tried to track down the timeline of events they discovered there was no video recording from that time.
The Carrizo Springs Border Patrol Station said a thunderstorm knocked out power and while they restored the system, it must have stopped recording.
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“Carrizo Springs Station management indicated they were unaware the DVR system was not recording until video was requested by OPR special agents, as live streaming video was still operational,” CBP said in its statement on the incident.
The man, whose name wasn’t revealed, was apprehended as part of a group of three migrants, all from Mexico.
The other two were quickly expelled under the pandemic Title 42 policy, but the third was detained on suspicion of being a smuggler. A Homeland Security Investigations agent asked two Border Patrol agents to interview the man.
They finished their interview at 3:50 p.m. on Aug. 24, and one agent sent an email saying they were done. But the email wasn’t relayed to the agents working at the holding facility and the man was still held.
The next day a supervisory agent wondered why the man was still in custody and flagged him for release but the evening shift supervisor says that message was never related.
Throughout the day the man, a diabetic, complained of pains and was treated for elevated glucose and leg pain. He also had a welt that he said was due to contact with cactus spines.
At 3 a.m. on Aug. 26 a physician’s assistant said the man’s condition was bad enough that he needed to go to a hospital, CBP said in the statement.
OPR agents said the facility failed to track migrants in its custody, which apparently left the man languishing well after he should have been released.
CBP said it has taken “corrective action” by adding a like to its intake sheet where agents can mark down a time of release for those subject to Title 42.
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at email@example.com.
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