A Honduran man, distraught after being separated from his wife and child after crossing the United States-Mexico border, committed suicide in a Texas jail cell, according to Border Patrol agents and a sheriff’s incident report.
Marco Antonio Muñoz, 39, was found unresponsive in a padded cell on May 13, two days after U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents detained him for crossing the border, according to Starr County Sheriff’s records obtained by The Washington Post.
According to an incident report obtained by The Associated Press, Muñoz became combative during his booking process. He was placed in the cell and monitored every 30 minutes. But on the morning of May 13, Muñoz was reportedly found with a sweater wrapped around his neck.
Muñoz, his wife and 3-year-old son entered the U.S. on May 12 at Granjeno, Texas, according to CBP agents who spoke to The Post. Upon detention, Muñoz said he wanted to apply for asylum. But Muñoz became distressed when he learned that he would be separated from his family.
“The guy lost his shit,” a CBP agent told The Post. “They had to use physical force to take the child out of his hands.”
Muñoz was placed in the Starr County Jail in Rio Grande City, which offered a more secure detention setting than the CBP processing station at McAllen, Texas. The following morning, a guard found Muñoz unresponsive in the center of his cell, a small pool of blood next to his nose.
Muñoz’s death comes amid an increase in Central American arrivals at the border—more than 50,000 immigrants were detained at the U.S.-Mexico border in May—and tightening immigration restrictions highlighted by the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, which separates families at the border and issues criminal charges against parents, including asylum seekers.
Last week, a senior government official told Reuters that nearly 1,800 immigrant families were separated at the border between October 2016 and February 2017. The Trump administration official said that separations had increased sharply since implementation of the zero tolerance policy in early May.